Swollen Legs and Feet ! Could it be something serious ?

kidney disease
Edema, swelling in legs

Many of us have swollen limbs, especially legs , ankles, feet which feel soft and cushiony due to water retention.

More often swollen legs and feet can be due to inactivity, sitting and standing at one position without moving.

This pulls the fluid down towards lower limbs, making them swell.

The swelling due to water retention is called edema.

However swollen legs and feet are often a sign of serious health problems such as kidney disease, cardio vascular problems or heart disease, liver disease, hormones being taken during HRT, deep vein thrombosis and sometimes even medication for diabetes and anti depressants.

Chronic pulmonary embolism may also lead to thromboembolism where a blood clot may travel to other parts of the body.

Incase the blood clot travels to the brain, it could lead to partial paralysis and even a stroke. Blood thinners may be advised to reduce risk of clotting.
As a 1st check, your doctor may prescribe diuretics and ask you to cut down on salt.

Then a few diagnostic tests such KFT( Kidney Function test), LFT( Liver function test), Echo, ECG may be advised.

Do watch out for signs like pain in one limb, heat generated in one limb, loss of consciousness, shortness of breath, fast or rapid heart beat and rush to the doctor as you may be experiencing thromboembolism.

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Stop that Kidney Damage !

The kidneys are two fist shaped organs and they are located on each side of the spine.
Kidneys play an important role in our body functioning. They act as filters, flush out toxins from the body and maintain the acid, alkaline balance in the body. Kidney trouble leads to water retention, swelling, oedema and affects quality of life.

Kidney Disease
Kidney Damage

It is very difficult to detect kidney damage till the last stage as kidneys can continue to function well even when they are 80% damaged, which leads to discovery when the patient has reached end stage kidney disease post which dialysis followed by kidney transplant is the only option

Are there any habits that damage the kidneys every day?

Even though we barely realise it, some of our daily habits contribute to kidney damage. Below is a list of some common habits, taking care of which can help us, prevent the damage to our kidneys.

Being a Pill Popper : Popping medicines without prescription or medicine abuse is dangerous for the kidney and can lead to a condition called rhabdomyolysis which is defined as a breakdown of muscle tissues that releases a damaging protein into the bloodstream – causing it to be transported to the kidneys and in turn, damaging the kidneys causing a need for dialysis.

Drinking too much Soda : 2 cans a day is too much ?According to a study presented in the kidney week in 2013, two cans of soda are enough to cause damage to your kidneys. Researchers from a leading university in Japan divided participants into three groups- one that drinks a can of soda a day, one that drinks two cans of soda a day, and one that does not drink soda. The results were startling – by the end of three years, more than 10% people from the second group developed a disease called proteinuria – a disease that may lead to End Stage Kidney disease.

Eating too much salt : Loading up on too much salt in our diet leads to excess of sodium in our body. Sodium is one of the most abundant elements on earth and is one of the main constituents of salt. However, in high amounts sodium causes kidney damage. This is because kidneys cannot eliminate excess fluid and sodium from the body. The built up sodium and fluid causes high blood pressure which in turn reduces kidney function.

Protein overload : Although protein intake is a must as proteins are the building blocks, a very high protein diet may cause a decline in kidney function in people especially with declining kidney function or kidney disease as the body may not be able to eliminate all the waste products of protein metabolism.

Not drinking enough water : Not drinking enough water also leads to kidney damage. Drinking enough water not only prevents kidney stones but also urinary tract infection because kidney stones are prevented from sticking to together in the presence of hydration while water helps dissolve the antibiotics used to treat UTI’s which makes it more effective in treatment. It also helps the kidneys flush out more toxins and infection causing bacteria by producing more urine.

Not exercising enough : Lack of exercise, promotes kidney damage while exercising increases mobility and circulation in the body causing more absorption and reabsorption by the kidneys; thus, increasing renal function.

Smoking : It promotes kidney damage because increases blood pressure, reduces blood flow to the kidneys, narrows the blood vessels in the kidneys by doubling the endothelium cells in the vessels, and accelerates loss of kidney function. According to statistics, smoking is a cause that can lead to end stage renal disease.

Lack of Magnesium in our diet: High magnesium levels in the body help prevent kidney stones, by preventing the formation of calcium oxalate. This is because kidney stones are formed by the binding of calcium onto oxalate; however, high levels of magnesium cause it to compete with calcium and bind to the oxalate instead – preventing the same.

Not getting enough sleep : Researchers from Brigham and the women’s hospital in Boston evaluated thousands of women and concluded that lack of sleep has a direct correlation with declining kidney function. It has also been suggested that less sleep changes the physiology of the kidney causing kidney damage.

Drinking too much Coffee : Caffeine is a stimulant which increases blood pressure causing more pressure on the kidneys. According to a study in 2002, long term caffeine consumption resulted in kidney failure in obese and diabetics – causing people to conclude that caffeine results in kidney damage.

Holding your pee for too long also affects the kidneys and leads to kidney damage.

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Kidney Transplant vs Dialysis ! Which is a better option ?

Kidney Transplant vs Dialysis, Kidney Transplant In IndiaIt is often assumed that kidney transplantation is the last resort for CKD patients or patients suffering from Chronic Kidney Disease.

However research shows that patients with kidney transplant often live 10-15 years longer than those on hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis

If you are suffering from chronic kidney disease and are on dialysis or  if your doctor is considering dialysis, considering a preemptive or early kidney transplant , depending upon your individual situation could offer many benefits and drastically improve quality of life with a more active lifestyle.

Most patients on dialysis think they can live forever. Most patients on dialysis live upto 5 years however patients who receive a kidney transplant typically live longer than those who stay on dialysis.  The transplanted kidney usually functions immediately and functions effectively for 12-20 years from a living donor.

A deceased donor kidney functions from 8 to 12 years.

Kidney Transplant survival rates are 90% at 5 years from a deceased donors and at 96% at 5 years.

Many Kidney Transplant patients live between 15-20 years post transplant from a living donor.

On the other hand, Dialysis works only upto 10% the efficiency of a living kidney and hence can cause serious complications. 

  • Anemia
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Heart Disease
  • Nerve Damage
  • Infection

Patients on dialysis have restricted lifestyles, suffer from fatigue and unpredictable ups and downs and as a result, the average life expectancy for a patient on dialysis is generally five years.

On the other hand,  kidney transplant patients live much longer.

Patients who get a kidney transplant before dialysis starts live an average of 10 to 15 years longer than if they stayed on dialysis. 

 The younger the patient, the more is the benefit from a transplant. However, even adults as old as 75  are able to extend lifespan by  an average of four- five  more years post  transplant than if they had stayed on dialysis.

New kidneys  work much longer in patients transplanted before they start dialysis. Spending a long time on dialysis before transplantation may also compromise the life of the new kidney graft once transplant occurs.

Patients who have been on dialysis for 6 months or so  do much better than those on dialysis for 2 or more years. Patients who receive their  new kidney when their health is generally good,  have better kidney function and hence better health and increased life expectancy.

However, getting a transplant is still a better option even if the patient has been ondialysis waiting for a donor kidney due to health complications arising due todialysis.

Even though kidney transplant is major surgery, in comparison to dialysis,  it offers an opportunity for a increased life expectancy and a healthier, active, less restricted life style.

Kidney transplant in India is offered by some of the best hospitals at reasonable costs compared to the west and even Africa and middle east.

General cost estimates vary from US$ 14000 to US$ 16000 depending upon whether the  transplant is  a robotic surgery or otherwise.

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What causes CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease)

The two main causes are diabetes and high blood pressure.

In India , the incidence of diabetes and high blood pressure is going up and thus kidney disease is on the rise. The key to preventing kidney disease in these conditions is to have meticulous control over blood sugar and blood pressure.

Other conditions that affect the kidneys are:

Glomerulonephritis, a group of disease that causes inflammation and damage to the kidneys
Inherited diseases (that run in the family)
Lupus and other auto immune diseases
Kidney stones
Chronic kidney infections
Drugs like painkillers and some antibiotics

What is Chronic Kidney Disease?

Chronic Kidney Disease:

Chronic Kidney Disease means permanent kidney damage which has been present for at least 3 months and is progressive in nature.

As the disease progress ,toxins and waste products builds up in the blood and cause complications like uncontrolled blood pressure, low haemoglobin levels,weak bones, poor nutrition health and nerve damage.

Chronic Kidney Disease is also a risk factor for the heart disease and increases chances for the heart attack. It is most commonly caused by diabetes and high blood pressure , which have been inadequately treated over a long period of time.

Early detection and treatment can help in slowing the progression of renal disease and prolong the time of dialysis.

Kidney disease if untreated , eventually leads to kidney failure, and then dialysis or kidney transplant remain the only therapeutic option.

What are the function of kidneys?

functions of kidney, kidney functionsApart from removing waste, toxins and fluid from your body, the kidneys perform these other vital functions

  • Regulate body water , sodium , potassium , phosphorus and calcium.
  • Release hormones which:
  1. Regulate blood pressure
  2. Make hemoglobin in the bone marrow
  3. Help in the absorption of calcium and contribute to bone health.

Kidney Transplant, High Blood Pressure and Kidneys

Kidney Transplant cost in India,Kidney transplantOur kidneys are responsible for filtering excess fluid and waste from the body and this depend upon healthy blood vessels.

 Having high blood pressure can damage the blood vessels leading to and out of the kidneys.
Diabetes along with hypertension worsens the damage.
Very often Hypertension leads to Nephropathy or  several types of kidney disease.
Kidney  Failure
Hypertension over a period of time, can damage both the large arteries leading to kidneys and the smaller blood vessels too. As a result your kidneys cannot filter by products leading to accumulation of toxins , damage and subsequent failure.
 As a result you may need dialysis followed by Kidney Transplantation.
Kidney Scarring
Scarring of the kidneys is caused by damage to small clusters of blood vessels which help filter blood from the kidneys.
Scarring once it starts is irreversible.
The kidneys shrink and finally the patient  may need dialysis followed by a kidney transplant.
Aneurysm of the kidney artery
A bulge in the wall of the artery is called aneurysm. An aneurysm in the kidney artery is called renal artery aneurysm.
Atherosclerosis can weaken and damage the arterial wall. Over a period of time, high blood pressure can lead to a bulge or aneurysm which can leak leading to internal bleeding which can be life threatening.
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Causes of Kidney Cancer, Obesity, Kidney Failure

Though the real causes of kidney cancer is unknown, certain factors has been noted to increase the risk of the disease.

  • Obesity– Being obsessed may cause hormonal imbalance which could lead to increase risk of renal cancer.
  • Smoking-Smokers have high risk of kidney cancer than non smokers. Being Male. Male stand more chance of kidney cancer than female.
  • Genetic Condition– People with Von Hippel Lindau VHL disease or renal carcinoma are subject to kidney cancer.
  • Kidney Failure-People with advanced kidney disease who are subject to dialysis treatment also stand a chance of renal malignancy.
  • Drugs– Long term use of certain drugs can also lead to kidney cancer.
  • Being Black– Kidney cancer is common among blacks than the whites.
  • Family History-This is also a factor to consider as there are several medical history proving so.

Next Article : Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Cancer