The American Kidney Fund estimates that 9 out of 10 people with stage 3 kidney failure die. And according to their statistics, kidney failure is the 9th leading cause of the death in the United States. The good news is that kidney disease can be diagnosed early and treated properly. If you notice the symptoms early on, you can easily prevent further development and evolution of the disease.
There are a number of conditions that cause kidney failure. The two biggest are high blood pressure and diabetes. Our kidneys work all the time to eliminate toxins and waste from our body. And when they’re not properly working, they’ll send you signals that something is wrong and you need to change your lifestyle.
Five stages of kidney failure
As mentioned previously, patients with stage 3 kidney failure usually die. To improve the quality of care for people with kidney disease, physicians have created a guideline. The guideline was created in coordination with the National Kidney Foundation. They divided kidney disease into five stages. If you start treating the disease in the early stages, the chances for survival are higher.
The foundation uses glomerular filtration rate (GFR) as the best measure of kidney function, and it’s the number that doctors use to determine the stage of kidney failure. GFR is basically a mathematical formula that takes age, race, gender, and serum creatinine into consideration. With a simple blood test, a physician can determine the serum creatinine level, which is the waste product from muscle activity. When your kidneys are working properly, they eliminate creatinine from the body. Blood levels rise as the kidneys fail to do their job.
Here are the five stages of kidney failure:
- Stage 1 GFR > 90mL/min
- Stage 2 GFR = 60-89 mL/min
- Stage 3A GFR 45-59 mL/min
- Stage 3B GFR 30-44 mL/min
- Stage 4 GFR = 15-29 mL/min
- Stage 5 GFR <15 mL/min
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the early signals your body sends you. If you manage to identify these signals, you can treat your kidney failure early on.
Odd urine odor
There are a number of factors that determine the odor of your urine. They include diet, physical activity, and level of hydration. However, when your kidneys are not working properly, your urine will have an odd odor, resembling a fishy or a sweet smell. If your urine has an odd odor, visit a physician.
It’s not just the odor that gives kidney failure away. The color of your urine is another factor you need to look at. When you are healthy and the kidneys are working properly, your urine is a pale, yellow color. If you up your hydration levels, your urine will be lighter. However, in people with kidney failure, the urine is a brown, black, orange, or sometimes even red color (the red is because of blood in the urine). A change in color is a serious condition. And if you notice blood in your urine, visit a physician immediately.
The more water you drink, the more you will urinate. However, while going to the bathroom more often is normal if you drink a lot of water, sometimes it’s a sign of kidney failure. Kidney problems can produce both an excess and a shortage of urine. When there is a shortage of urine, the condition is known as oliguria. An excess of urine is a condition known as polyuria. If you notice sudden changes in frequency, check with a physician.
Visible changes in urine
As you might have noticed, many of the symptoms of kidney damage are linked to your urine (the kidneys produce the urine). Some of the visible changes include pus or froth in your urine, and if you notice either of those, it’s time to check with a professional.
The bad news is abdominal pain is a symptom in many health issues. Kidney problems are just one of them. However, abdominal pain linked with kidney problems is specific. In most cases, you’ll feel the pain around the edges of your abdomen and the back. If the pain is localized in that area, check with a physician.
Swelling and nausea
Last, but not least, when your kidneys are not working properly, you might experience water retention. It’s just your body’s natural way to react. As a result, you may experience nausea, swelling, and shortness of breath. All of that is because your respiratory system is working under a greater burden.
What makes the kidneys such vital organs
With so much talk of kidney toxicity, let’s talk a bit why the kidneys are so important. They’re one of the vital organs. A pair of small, bean-shaped organs, the kidneys are located on either side of the spine, just below the lower ribs.
The kidneys filter by-products and toxins from the blood. They’re also responsible for maintaining a balance of fluids and electrolytes. Here is a quick breakdown of all of the functions of the kidneys.
- Excrete by-products with water to make urine
- Eliminate excess body water
- Reabsorb useful chemicals
- Allow waste to pass freely into the bladder as urine
- Allow you to consume a variety of foods without fear of toxic by-products
- Regulate the amount of water in the body
- Regulate the amount of various substances in the body
- Enable blood filtration through the kidneys