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Kidney Disease FAQ

3D Illustration of Human Kidneys

March 12, 2019

According to the National Kidney Foundation, kidney disease causes more deaths than breast cancer or prostate cancer. One in 3 Americans is at risk for developing kidney disease. It currently affects about 30 million people in the United States, and approximately 90% of those with kidney disease don’t know they have it. Drexel nephrologist Jesse Goldman, MD, answers some questions about this common disease, including preventative measures, testing and treatment. Dr. Goldman is director of the Drexel Comprehensive Hypertension Center, and director of peritoneal dialysis at Hahnemann University Hospital. He is board certified in nephrology and internal medicine.

What is kidney disease?

Kidney disease means that your kidneys are damaged and don't properly filter toxins out of your blood the way that they normally do. Most kidney diseases are called “chronic” because the damage develops slowly over a period of time. When kidneys are damaged, usually by scarring, waste products can’t be adequately eliminated and therefore build up in the body. When significant amounts of waste products accumulate in a person’s body, it may make them ill.

Are there preventative measures that people can take to reduce their risks for kidney disease?

There are many different causes of kidney disease, so there are only a few preventable measures that apply to all kidney patients. Since diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of kidney disease in the world, ensuring that your blood pressure and blood sugar level are under control decreases ongoing kidney risk. Importantly, using NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Advil, Naprosyn, and Motrin) for pain regularly should be avoided. Over prolonged use these medications may cause and worsen kidney function.

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Make an Appointment

To schedule an appointment with Drexel Nephrology please call 215.762.2688 (Center City) or 215.236.4600 (Fairmount).

What symptoms should people look out for? When should someone get tested for kidney disease?

Kidney disease, like hypertension, is usually silent until it is very advanced. This means that having your doctor, or health provider, check both blood and urine tests is really the only way to find early kidney disease. After the initial check, if everything is good, then repeat testing every two years at a minimum. This is a good screen for kidney damage. If evidence of damage is found, then testing should be more frequent.

Does kidney disease affect other parts of the body?

Yes, when kidneys are damaged and toxins accumulate, all parts of the body can be affected. People with kidney disease are at increased risk for heart disease. Also, kidney disease can cause anemia (low blood count), fatigue, leg swelling, poor appetite and weight loss. Lastly, kidney disease can weaken bones by interfering with vitamin D levels. If the kidney failure results in fluid accumulation in the body, this may lead to high blood pressure, shortness of breath or even stroke.

How is kidney disease treated?

Since there are so many causes of kidney disease, there are also many treatments. Controlling blood pressure to a target of 120/80 always helps. Avoid medications that injure kidneys like ibuprofen or Naprosyn. Additionally, specific changes in diet and medications to treat acidic blood and anemia help slow the progress of kidney damage. When kidney disease is so severe that it endangers a person’s life, kidney doctors start dialysis.

What causes kidney failure? What is a person’s treatment options then?

Kidney failure occurs when both kidneys become so damaged that the body's daily waste products buildup to a level that endangers a person's life. There are several options for treatment. The first option is to use machines (dialysis) to do the job for the kidneys and remove the waste. Most dialysis patients come to a center three times a week to filter toxins out of their blood. The second option is to receive a kidney transplant, either from a living person or a recently deceased person. This gift of life is able to get a person off dialysis. This can even occur before dialysis is necessary, if the patient has gotten on a transplant list early enough. The third option is a difficult one, but some older and debilitated people decide to do the best they can without dialysis and let nature take its course.

Related Physician

Jesse M. Goldman, MD

Jesse M. Goldman, MD
Practice: Drexel Nephrology
Specialties: Nephrology; Hypertension

The information on these pages is provided for general information only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment, or as a substitute for consultation with a physician or health care professional. If you have specific questions or concerns about your health, you should consult your health care professional.

The images being used are for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted is a model.

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