2009-02-27 / Columnists

SJEH Wellness Corner

Are You At Risk For Kidney Disease, The Silent Killer?

If you are coughing, sniffling, and have a sore throat, you probably think you are suffering from a cold or the flu. But do you know when you might have Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)? asks the National Kidney Foundation.

"Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is often called 'the silent disease,'" says the director of the Marjorie Basser Hemodialysis Center at St. John's Episcopal Hospital, Rajbir Chopra, MD.

"Potentially fatal, chronic kidney disease frequently isn't detected until it has reached the later stages," adds Dr. Chopra, who is board certified in nephrology.

March is National Kidney Month. The National Kidney Foundation offers the following checklist to help you assess your risk of chronic kidney disease. If you check off any of them you may be at risk for CKD.
• You have diabetes.
• You have high blood pressure or
heart disease.
• You have a family history of chronic
kidney disease.
• You are 60-years-of-age or older.
• Your ethnic background is African-
American, Hispanic, Asian or Pacific
Islander.

"Kidneys perform functions vital to good health," says Dr. Chopra.

"They filter and release wastes and excess fluids from your body as urine and help regulate your body's fluid level and important minerals in your blood such as sodium, potassium, phosphorus and calcium among many other functions. Chronic kidney disease can lead to significant imbalances in your health," he adds.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, one in nine Americans has CKD, but many are unaware of it.

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the leading causes of CKD.

Diabetes increases pressure inside the kidney's filters. Over time, this pressure damages the filters, which then leak protein into the urine.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, if left untreated, can lead to CKD, heart attacks and strokes.

African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans are at increased risk for kidney disease. This is because diabetes is more common in these ethnic groups than in the population at large. The incidence of high blood pressure is also higher among African Americans. Genetics may also be a factor that explains why the risk of kidney disease is higher among these ethnic groups.
Other symptoms of CKD include:
• fatigue, a loss of energy
• poor appetite
• difficulty sleeping
• dry, itchy skin
• muscle cramping at night
• swollen feet and ankles
• puffiness around the eyes, particularly
in the morning
• the need to urinate more often, especially
at night
• unexpected weight loss or gain

If you think you may have kidney disease, please consult your doctor immediately and ask for blood and urine tests that can determine how your kidneys are functioning. If left unchecked, CKD can have serious health implications including cardiovascular disease, among other serious health problems, as well as kidney failure.

For a referral to a kidney specialist or nephrologist you may call the St. John's Physician Referral Line at 1- 877-SJEH-DOC (or 1-877-753-4362.)

For an appointment to tour the Marjorie Basser Hemodialysis Center please call 718-869-7637.

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