Kidney Disease FAQs
Reviewed by Charles P. Davis, MD, PhD
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Q:The only purpose of the kidneys is to filter blood. True or False?
A:False. The kidneys, two organs located on either side of your spine just above the waist, perform several life-sustaining roles. They cleanse your blood by removing waste and excess fluids, help maintain the balance of salt and minerals in your blood, and help regulate blood pressure.
Q:Urine is made in the kidneys. True or False?
A:True. The kidneys are sophisticated reprocessing machines. Every day, a person's kidneys process about 200 quarts of blood to sift out about two quarts of waste products and excess water. The wastes and extra water become urine, which flows from the kidneys to the bladder through tubes called ureters. The bladder stores urine until releasing it through urination.
Q:What is the medical term that refers to the function of the kidneys?
A:Renal. The word "renal" refers to the kidneys. The terms "renal function" and "kidney function" mean the same thing. Health professionals use the term "renal function" to talk about how efficiently the kidneys filter blood. People with two healthy kidneys have 100 percent of their kidney function.
Q:What are common non-specific symptoms of chronic kidney disease?
A:Increased urination at night, loss of appetite and swelling of hands and feet. Kidney disease may include these non-specific symptoms: Increased urination at night, passing only small amounts of urine, swelling, particularly of the hands and feet; puffiness around the eyes; unpleasant taste in the mouth and urine-like odor to the breath; persistent fatigue or shortness of breath; loss of appetite; increase in blood pressure; pale skin; excessively dry, itchy skin. In children: increased fatigue and sleepiness, decrease in appetite, and poor growth.
Q:A person can have chronic kidney disease without symptoms. True or False?
A:True. People can have kidney disease for 30 years or more without any symptoms. Chronic kidney disease may seem to have come on suddenly. But it has been occurring little by little for many years as a result of damage to the kidneys. One way to check for chronic kidney disease, also termed renal insufficiency, is to follow the creatinine level by a simple blood test over time.
Q:Which kidney disease is known to be inherited?
A:Polycystic kidney disease. Polycystic kidney disease is an inherited renal disorder characterized by the presence of multiple cysts in both kidneys (bilateral renal cysts). Normal kidney tissue is replaced by fluid-filled sacs or cysts of varying sizes that become larger as the disease progresses.
Q:Hemodialysis is the only treatment for kidney failure. True or False?
A:False. There are three options when treating kidney failure: hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and kidney transplant; although usually hemodialysis is done before the other two options are options for the patient.
Q:What is the name of a doctor who specializes in kidney diseases?
A:Nephrologist. A doctor who specializes in kidney disease is called a nephrologist.
Q:How many stages of kidney disease are there?
A:Five. Chronic kidney disease is divided into five stages based on increased severity. - Stage 1: Slight kidney damage with normal or increased filtration - Stage 2: Mild decrease in kidney function - Stage 3: Moderate decrease in kidney function - Stage 4: Severe decrease in kidney function - Stage 5: Kidney failure
Q:People on dialysis should maintain diets high in what?
A:Protein. Most people on dialysis are encouraged to eat as much high-quality protein as they can. High-quality proteins come from meat, fish, poultry, and eggs (especially egg whites). For many patients, this can present a big change because people with kidney disease that do not yet require dialysis are supposed to eat reduced amounts of protein.
Q:People on dialysis should eat reduced amounts of potassium. True or False?
A:True. Potassium is a mineral. For people on dialysis, eating too much potassium can be very dangerous to the heart and may cause death. People on dialysis should avoid foods like avocados, bananas, kiwis, and dried fruit, which are very high in potassium.
Q:Patients on dialysis can replenish lost nutrients with over-the-counter vitamins. True or False?
A:False. Patients on dialysis may be missing out on important vitamins and minerals because certain foods must be avoided.
Q:Why should patients with kidney diseases manage fluid intake?
A:People with kidney diseases have to control thirst and fluid intake, including fluid that comes from fruits and vegetables. This is because extra fluid can cause weight gain and edema (swelling), and can raise blood pressure causing heart trouble. Because of these risks, sodium should also be greatly reduced or avoided.
Q:Too much phosphorous can cause itchy skin for patients on dialysis. True or False?
A:True. Too much phosphorus may lead to itchy skin. Even worse, too much phosphorus in the blood depletes calcium from bones, which can cause weak bones that are likely to fracture.
Q:In the U.S. what is the leading cause of kidney failure?
A:Diabetes. Diabetes is the most common cause of kidney failure, accounting for nearly 44 percent of new cases. From the U.S. Renal Data System, kidney failure is caused by these diseases and conditions (in order): 1. Diabetes 2. High blood pressure 3. Glomerulonephritis 4. Cystic diseases 5. Urologic diseases 6. Other causes
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