Taking Charge of Your Health

Women & Chronic Kidney Disease

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

Your kidneys are essential to how your body functions. They are responsible for filtering your blood and removing waste from the body. But what happens when they are damaged or stop working the way they are supposed to?

Ultimately, you risk developing serious, life-changing health conditions like chronic kidney disease. “Chronic kidney disease includes conditions that damage kidneys and decrease their ability to eliminate waste products from the body,” says Snigdha Reddy, M.D., a nephrologist (kidney specialist) for Henry Ford Health System.

Chronic kidney disease affects one in ten adults. In women, over 195 million cases have been reported worldwide, and it’s the eighth leading cause of death in women.

Having a family history of kidney disease in your family can put you at a higher risk, so being aware of your health history is important. Even your heritage (primarily African, Asian or Native American) can be a factor.

People who are affected by kidney disease are at an increased risk for hypertension and heart-related issues such as heart attacks or stroke. There are several health conditions known to cause or lead to a possible case of kidney disease, including:

Are Women More Likely to Get Chronic Kidney Disease?

Some estimates show a higher incidence of chronic kidney disease in women, compared with men, globally. Dr. Reddy says the biggest reason is limited awareness and access to proper care around the world. “Low awareness of the disease itself may lead to delay in diagnosing chronic kidney disease,” she says.

Women are also more likely to develop kidney disease because conditions such as lupus and kidney infection are more common in women.

If you are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, it is a great time to talk to your doctor about any kidney issues and the possible need to test for them. Having chronic kidney disease can make it harder to get pregnant and cause high-risk pregnancies.

What Symptoms Could Signal a Kidney Issue?

Unfortunately, most symptoms associated with chronic kidney disease do not occur until the disease is quite advanced. If you are experiencing fatigue, poor appetite, swelling feet, or puffiness around the eyes, consider getting tested for the disease. “Early detection and treatment is the best way to prevent it from getting worse,” says Reddy. “When kidney disease progresses, it may lead to kidney failure.”

Kidney disease can be detected in a couple different ways. The first is a urine test that checks for the presence of the albumin protein. Too much of this protein can indicate possible signs of kidney damage. The second, uses your age, race, gender and a blood test to check creatinine levels (a waste product). This test can measure kidney function or determine your stage of kidney disease.

How is Chronic Kidney Disease Treated?

Even though there is no definite cure for kidney disease, there are several measures available to slow the progression of your condition to kidney failure. If you are diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, the best treatment is to live a healthy lifestyle by eating well and getting plenty of exercise. Dialysis is another treatment option if your condition prevents your body from removing access wastes and fluids.

“This can be done either by machine (hemodialysis) or using fluid in the abdomen (peritoneal dialysis),” says Dr. Reddy. “Kidney transplantation is the other treatment option for kidney failure.”

How Can You Keep Your Kidneys Healthy?

The best way to prevent chronic kidney disease is use common sense about your health. If you have a pre-existing health condition like high blood pressure or high blood sugar, take steps to lower it. You should also continue (if you aren’t already) to exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of water.

By taking care of your kidneys and sharing what you know about chronic kidney disease, you help other women live the healthiest lives they can.

To find a doctor at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

Dr. Snigdha Reddy sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center – Columbus.

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