Kidney Failure: Risk factors and Prevention

One out of every 3 black person is at risk of kidney disease. You might be asking why that is? This is because the African and African American population have higher rates of risk factors for kidney disease, and it’s not just that, about 90 percent of people who have kidney disease do not know they have it! Lack of access to frequent medical check-ups makes the frequency of kidney failure amongst the black population continue to skyrocket.

What is Kidney Failure?

This is the gradual loss of function of a person’s kidney. It occurs when the kidney gradually begins to lose its ability to remove toxic waste products and excess water from the blood. This results in the dangerous accumulation of these toxic waste products in the body

What are the risk factors for Kidney Failure?

Diabetes

Uncontrolled diabetes is a major risk factor for kidney failure. This is because the higher level of blood sugar can result in injuries to small blood vessels in the kidney. Continuous injuries to the kidney will result in kidney failure. Diabetes is very common in the black population and obesity is a major risk factor for Type 2 diabetes.

Hypertension

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can also cause damage to the blood vessels in the kidney. This occurs when the vessels begin to harden or weaken. Just like with diabetes, this continuous injury to the kidney will result in kidney failure. Hypertension is also very much more common in the black population

Diabetes + Hypertension

From what has been explained above, it is clear to see that having both Hypertension and Diabetes at the same time is amongst the top risk factors for Kidney Failure. This is because the two conditions aggressively worsen the kidney damage and makes it more difficult for the kidneys to remove waste products from the body.

Drugs

You should note that beyond a specific dose, all drugs are poisons. This is not to say drug use should be avoided but that indiscriminate use of drugs can cause damage to the kidneys. Certain drug classes more commonly cause kidney damage. They include:

  1. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), these are common over-the-counter pain medications e.g. Diclofenac, Ibuprofen, Piroxicam (Felvin)
  2. Antibiotics e.g. Amoxicillin, Ampicillin
  3. Antihypertensive drugs: Diuretics such as hydrochlorothiazide (Hydrex), ACE Inhibitors such as Lisinopril
  4. Laxatives (commonly prescribed for diarrhea treatment)
  5. Supplements
  6. Herbal tonics

Alcohol

Regular heavy drinking of alcohol has been found to double the chances of having kidney failure. This is because alcohol distorts the ability of the kidneys to remove excess water from the blood by causing dehydration. Alcohol is also a toxic substance that has to continually get filtered by the kidneys thereby worsening its damage to the organ. It should also be noted that alcohol drinking is a risk factor for both hypertension and diabetes.

Other risk factors

Family history i.e. having a family member that has or has had kidney disease is also a risk factor. Obesity, smoking and old age can also be risk factors for kidney disease.

How to prevent Kidney Failure

Maintenance of a healthy blood pressure and blood sugar level

Diabetes and Hypertension will both cause damage to the kidneys. If you have been diagnosed of any of these conditions, it is important to comply with the dosage instructions from your physician for proper regulation. Lifestyle modifications that can help to achieve regulated blood pressure and sugar levels are also important.

Lifestyle modifications

Obesity is a major cause of diabetes and kidney failure hence weight loss and frequent exercise are very important. Also, cessation of smoking and reduction of alcohol consumption are essential lifestyle changes in the prevention of kidney failure.

Proper use of medications

Indiscriminate use of drugs can cause severe harm to the kidneys and should be avoided. Ensure to have a prescription from your physician before getting antibiotics (event though antibiotics are prescription medications, people are still able to obtain them over-the-counter in some drug stores in Nigeria). Seek advice from your pharmacist before using drugs if you have any type of chronic condition. You should also not be using medications based on your feelings, past experience or hearsay. Appropriate diagnosis should be ensure before buying and using drugs.

Regular medical check-ups

As mentioned above, most people do not know they have kidney disease until it worsen into End Stage Kidney Failure (ESKF). It is important to get regular tests especially if you have been diagnosed of hypertension, diabetes or both. These tests could range from blood tests to urine tests to kidney function tests such as Albumin to Creatinine Ratio (ACR) and Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR).

Feel free to ask questions or find out more information in the comments section.

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