Top 5 Kidney-Related Myths and MisconceptionsOverlooked, overworked and misunderstood. Your wife? No, actually, it’s your kidneys we’re talking about. They’re on call 24/7 filtering toxins from your body, regulating fluids and blood pressure. Yet, most people don’t know where they are, let alone what they or what the warnings signs and risk factors are for kidney disease. Dr. Leslie Spry, National Kidney Foundation spokesperson, sets the record straight on some common kidney-related misconceptions.
1. I have back pain so it must be my kidneys. Pain in the back may come from kidney disease if you have infection or blockage of the kidneys. Other forms of kidney disease rarely cause pain in the back. The most common cause of back pain is disease of the muscles or spine and not kidney disease. The kidney can only feel pain if the covering of the kidney (called the capsule) is stretched. This means swelling of the kidney from either infection or blockage of urine flow (such as a kidney stone) will result in pain that typically radiates from the flank and may come around the side to cause pain down into the groin area.
2. I don’t have any trouble passing my urine so my kidneys must be fine. Even patients who are on dialysis make urine most every day. Damaged kidneys will continue to make urine even if they no longer properly clean your blood. Kidney disease can be completely without symptoms. The only way you can tell if you have kidney disease is to have blood and urine testing as recommended by the National Kidney Foundation.
3. As I age, it is normal for my blood pressure to be higher. While it is true that blood pressure gradually increases with age, many elderly patients still have a normal blood pressure. Normal blood pressure is still 120/80 at any age and if your blood pressure is elevated, you should be evaluated by your physician. Studies have continued to show a benefit of treating even very elderly patients for high blood pressure. High blood pressure is the second most common cause of kidney disease and is the most common cause of kidney disease in the elderly.
4. I can feel my blood sugar and regulate it on the basis of how I feel. Unfortunately, the longer you have diabetes the less likely this is true. Diabetes is the most common cause of kidney disease and patients with chronic kidney disease develop two complications related to diabetes. They are less likely to notice changes in blood sugar the way they used to. This is because diabetes gradually injures the body nerves in exactly the same way as it does the kidney. Hence your ability to “feel” your blood sugar is lost as one develops progressive kidney disease. Second, the kidney helps to break down insulin in the body. As kidney function is lost, insulin tends to last longer in the body. Loss of kidney function can result in very low blood sugars for prolonged periods of time as the insulin lasts longer and longer in the body.
5. If my blood pressure is normal, I don’t need to take my blood pressure pills. Patients with kidney disease need to maintain a normal blood pressure and the use of specific blood pressure agents such as ACE-inhibitors and ARB agents help to protect the kidney against damage. So, in addition to maintaining control of the blood pressure, these agents are kidney-protective and should be taken as prescribed by your doctor.