Every Year, the second Thursday in March is World Kidney Day. The importance of our Kidneys are often overlooked but they do play a vital role in our overall health and, when damaged, waste products build up in the body. Kidneys work by cleaning waste from our blood, forming urine by cleaning excess water out of the bloodstream, and maintaining the balance of body fluids. A failing kidney may cause ankle swelling, trouble sleeping, shortness of breath, vomiting, and feelings of fatigue – this is why it is life threatening when your kidneys stop working.

Some of the most important functions of the kidney includes:
• Makes Vitamin D which is needed for bone health,
• Makes Erythropoietin, prompting red blood cell creation in the body,
• Helps to control blood pressure by making Renin,
• Aids to remove waste from your blood after digestion, muscle activity, or exposure to chemicals or medications,
• Keeps a balance of potassium, sodium, and phosphorus in your blood.

If patients’ kidneys stop working properly for more than three months, doctors will usually diagnose them with chronic kidney disease. The early stages of kidney disease are the easiest to try and treat, but the problem is that symptoms often do not show up early on. Type 1 and 2 Diabetes are the most common causes of kidney failure as high blood sugar levels damage your kidneys over a long period of time. High blood pressure also poses a risk to the kidneys as it causes damage to the blood vessels, including those that supply the kidneys directly. Kidneys that suddenly stop working, or fail to work at the body’s required rate, is diagnosed by doctors as acute kidney injury or acute renal failure.

Some of the causes of this are as follows:
• Not enough blood flow to the kidneys,
• Urine back-up in the kidneys,
• Damage that has occurred directly to the kidneys.

These kinds of damage can occur in the following ways:
• An accident that has caused major blood loss,
• Sepsis,
• Certain types of medication or toxins,
• Pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia or eclampsia,
• An enlarged prostrate which may block urine flow,
• Dehydration that has caused tissue damage or breakdowns which send too much protein into your bloodstream.

In the early stages medication may be prescribed in the following ways:
• IV fluids to balance the amount of fluids in the blood,
• Medication to control potassium levels,
• Dialysis to remove blood toxins,
• Kidney transplant in severe cases.

Other causes of kidney failure:
• Lupus – kidney disease caused by Lupus is known as Lupus Nephritis,
• A Urinary Tract Infection called Pyelonephritis,
• Viral illnesses such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B & C,
• Polycystic kidney disease,
• Inflammation of the Glomeruli – filters in the kidney, which can be caused by strep infection.

Ways to keep your kidneys healthy:
• Stay hydrated, but do not overdo it – And average of 6 glasses of water per day is recommended,
• Regular exercise – Do not overdo this either because over-exertion may lead to muscle tissue breakdown that may cause kidney damage as mentioned above,
• Quit smoking – Smoking damages blood vessels which decreases blood flow to the kidneys,
• Eat healthy foods – As mentioned above, high blood pressure which can be caused by unhealthy eating habits may lead to kidney disease,
• If you are at risk from any of the factors above, go for regular kidney screenings at your doctor,
• Practice caution when it comes to herbal supplements and vitamins – Excessive use may lead to kidney damage,
• Do not overdo over-the-counter medication – Products like Ibuprofen or Naproxen could also lead to kidney damage.