National Kidney Month Highlights the Importance of Prevention
LAKEWOOD, NJ, FEBRUARY 26, 2008 — Occasionally, when it comes to your health, it’s what you don’t know that can hurt you. March is National Kidney Month and according to the National Kidney Foundation, approximately four percent of the entire U.S. population is currently at risk for kidney disease – and are completely unaware that they are in any danger.
A recent national survey reported that 11 million Americans have elevated levels of creatinine in their bloodstream. Creatinine is a waste product, produced from the natural activity of our muscles, that is usually filtered out of the blood by the kidneys. When kidney function slows, the level of creatinine in the blood begins to rise.
“Just a small rise in creatinine can be an early sign of kidney disease. It is an indicator occurring at a stage when treatment could help prevent kidney disease from advancing to a more serious problem,” says Jose Iglesias, D.O., a Nephrologist with Ocean Renal Associates on staff at Kimball Medical Center in Lakewood.
“When kidney disease progresses unchecked, the majority of kidney function is lost, and patients eventually require dialysis treatment or a kidney transplant in order to survive,” he adds.
According to Dr. Iglesias, the kidneys act as the body’s filtration system, removing harmful waste products from the blood. They also balance the body’s fluids, release hormones that regulate blood pressure, control the production of red blood cells, and even produce a form of vitamin D that helps strengthen bones.
Kidney disease, he notes, can go undetected for many years, but over time, reduced kidney function can cause weakness, fatigue, a loss of appetite and affect mental functioning. Additional symptoms can include muscle cramps, frequent, burning or difficult urination – particularly at night, puffiness around the eyes, and swelling of the hands and feet. “Patients with kidney disease are also at a higher risk for coronary artery disease, also known as heart disease,” adds Dr. Iglesias.
“Unfortunately, because there are often no symptoms at all, many people are unaware that they are losing kidney function until the disease has advanced,” he says. “That’s why awareness of your risk for kidney disease is key.” People at greatest risk for kidney disease are those who have diabetes, high blood pressure, the elderly, and those with a family history of kidney failure. In addition, African-Americans, American Indians, Asian and Pacific Islanders and Hispanics are particularly vulnerable to kidney disease.
“It’s important to have your doctor check your kidney function at your regular physical examination,” he adds. “Particularly for those at a higher risk for kidney disease.”
In addition to checking creatinine levels, according to Dr. Iglesias, other indicators of kidney disease that should be checked include blood urea nitrogen (BUN) levels and protein levels in the urine. “It’s also important to have your blood pressure and blood sugar levels checked regularly as well, because of the strong link between kidney disease, hypertension and diabetes,” he adds.
“Early detection is the key to preventing kidney disease from progressing to an advanced stage,” he says. In its early stages, kidney disease can be treated with dietary modifications – reducing the intake of salt and proteins, and medication to help slow the loss of kidney function.
In order to minimize your risk of kidney disease, Dr. Iglesias recommends watching your weight, getting enough exercise, limiting your salt and alcohol intake, and quitting smoking. “Patients whose kidneys are already under stress, should also avoid taking large quantities of painkillers such as naproxen and ibuprofen, which can accelerate the damage,” he cautions.
If you experience any of the symptoms of kidney disease, or are at risk for the disease, see your doctor and ask about diagnostic tests for kidney health. To contact Dr. Jose Iglesias or another Nephrologist on staff at Kimball Medical Center please call 1-888-724-7123.
Kimball Medical Center is an affiliate of the Saint Barnabas Health Care System, the largest integrated health care delivery system in New Jersey. Located in Lakewood, Kimball Medical Center is a fully accredited, 350-bed facility offering the most advanced, ultra-modern diagnostic and treatment services. Kimball offers comprehensive rehabilitative services featuring The Balance Center and an advanced sports medicine program. Kimball is also the recipient of the Magnet Award for nursing excellence. The Center for Healthy Living at Kimball offers a wide variety of programs and services for area families, children and seniors, including community education programs, support groups and school based initiatives.
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