Kidneys are responsible for purifying our blood and removing the toxins from our body in the form of urine. Located near the lower back area, they are present on either side of the body. If one kidney fails due to some reasons, the other can take over the detoxifying functions and the person can survive for many years on that basis of that one kidney alone. However, it is important to maintain good kidney health as poor kidney function can lead to various health complications.
Poor Kidney Function – Signs
Due to many reasons, kidneys can get affected negatively and lose their blood purifying functions. They cannot filter out the waste and the toxins stay in the system causing many complications. Permanent kidney failure is one of them and it can be life-threatening. Unfortunately, poor kidney function or kidney malfunction is not obvious in the initial stages. Let us look at some of the signs of poor kidney function and find out more about them.
- Reduced Urine Output
One of the first obvious signs of some kind of kidney malfunction is a reduced urine output.
- Blood in the Urine
Having blood in the urine is a significant pointer towards the health of your kidneys. While it does not necessarily mean that the kidneys are malfunctioning, it can mean that there are some problems that could lead to more serious damage to the organs.
- Protein in the Urine
Another common sign of kidney malfunction is the presence of protein in the urine. Healthy kidneys throw out the waste materials like excess minerals and keep important nutrients like protein within the body. When the kidney filters are damaged, they allow the protein in the blood to leak into the urine. Early intervention can prevent further damage.
- Presence of Kidney Stones
Kidney stones can cause kidney malfunction. If they are small in size, they are harmless. But the larger ones can move into the urinary tract and cause blockage, leading to complications. Kidney stones are caused by the buildup of certain minerals in the body in the absence of enough fluid to pass them out through the urine. They are a common problem in those who don’t drink enough water.
- Kidney Infection
Sometimes, urinary tract infections can lead to kidney infections. Common symptoms include vomiting, pain the lower back or sides, and fever. Women tend to suffer from these kinds of infections due to their susceptibility towards UTIs and it leads to poor kidney function and can cause permanent kidney damage.
- Swelling in the Body
When the kidneys get affected, they do not detoxify the system properly. This leads to an extra buildup of fluid in the legs and feet. The person suffers from swelling of legs and ankles. The hands may also swell up. A puffy face is also a common sight.
- Unexplained Fatigue
Kidneys are responsible for making EPO, erythropoietin, which instructs the body to make RBCs (red blood cells). When the kidneys get affected, they make less EPO leading to a reduction in RBCs in the body. This affects the amount of oxygen in the body and one feels tired very quickly.
- Shortness of Breath
This happens as there is a reduced supply of the oxygen-carrying red blood cells and this can lead to anemia. Also, sometimes when the kidneys get affected, there is a buildup of fluid in the lungs.
Since kidney malfunction can cause anemia, it can lead to a short supply of oxygen to the brain. The person can feel dizzy and weak because of that.
- Trouble Thinking Clearly
This is again due to the brain not getting enough oxygen because of anemia. The person begins to suffer from memory problems and has trouble concentrating.
When the brain does not get enough oxygen, it can lead to seizures. Since the amount of red blood cells gets affected when the kidneys malfunction and they are the vehicles for transporting oxygen, seizures are a definite possibility. Some people may even go into a coma if the condition is left untreated.
- Acute Kidney Injury
When the damage to the kidneys is sudden, it can lead to Acute Kidney Injury. The kidneys stop working in a matter of a few days to a few hours. If left untreated, it is a life-threatening problem. This can happen due to an infection, an injury or even because of some medicines.
- Kidney Pain
Another sign of poor kidney function or kidney malfunction is the pain the lower back and on the sides of the body as it may or may not signify pain in the kidneys.
- Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a viral infection affecting the liver. Both the liver and the kidney are connected as they both help in detoxification of the blood. Many times, liver diseases like hepatitis C can affect the kidneys and cause damage to them.
- Abnormal Urine
Foamy, bubbly urine that is brown, red or purple in color is another sign that something is not right with the kidneys. The person may feel abdominal pressure while passing the urine. One may feel like passing urine but nothing might happen.
- Bad Breath
Those who suffer from kidney damage suffer from bad breath due to the buildup of wastes in the body. The foul smell is due to the presence of ammonia. The person even suffers from loss of appetite as the food doesn’t taste nice. This is because of wastes in the body that affect how the body perceives the taste of food.
Causes of Kidney Malfunction
A sudden loss of blood flow to these vital organs can lead to kidney failure. Some conditions which can cause that are:
- Heart attack
- Heart disease
- Liver failure
- Severe burns
- Allergic Reaction
- Sepsis or some such severe infection
- High blood pressure
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- A blood clot in or around the kidneys
- Vasculitis- inflammation of blood vessels
- Lupus- an auto-immune disease
- Certain types of cancers like multiple myeloma
- Chemotherapy drugs
- Uncontrolled diabetes
Preventing Poor Kidney Function or Kidney Damage
There are many things we can do to avoid harm to our kidneys.
- Never do self-medication. Even when taking medicines, it is best to follow the doses that are prescribed. Taking doses that are too high can cause irreversible damage to the kidneys.
- Avoid unnecessary exposure to household chemicals. Pesticides, floor cleaners etc. must be used only if necessary.
- Kidney and urinary tract infections can lead to kidney failure if left untreated. Follow the doctor’s orders and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Take care of your kidneys by following a healthy lifestyle, drinking enough water and getting immediate treatment if you suspect that something is wrong. Do not overdose on medicines and keep a track of any out of ordinary activity with respect to urination in your body. Most kidney problems can be treated and in acute cases options of dialysis, surgery or kidney transplant are possible.