Diseases of the Renal System

The proper functioning of your kidneys and renal system are vital to your health. Without filtering blood, waste products accumulate and electrolyte levels become imbalanced, which can be deadly. 

Renal Failure

Renal failure, also called kidney failure, occurs when the kidneys fail to filter waste products out of the blood, essentially poisoning the body.  A blood test can diagnose kidney failure by detecting the presence of excessive creatinine, a marker of how well the kidneys are filtering blood from the glomerulus to the tubule each minute.

Causes: Injury to the kidneys, drug overdose, interrupted blood supply during surgery, diabetes, high blood pressure, and genetic susceptibility, particularly in African Americans, are all causes of kidney failure.

Symptoms: Some symptoms of renal failure are a reduced volume of liquid during urination, blood in the urine, and anemia. Other symptoms are non-specific and include fatigue, nausea and vomiting. Frequently, you may not have any symptoms until late stages of kidney failure.

Treatment: Sometimes kidneys can heal themselves after an injury. If kidneys cannot recover, dialysis is required to filter the blood. Kidney transplantation is an option if a proper donor can be found.

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) is a genetic disorder that causes large, fluid-filled cysts to grow in the kidneys. Over time, the cysts replace the healthy tissue and patients may eventually require dialysis or a kidney transplant. PKD is the most common genetic disease that affects 12,500,000 people worldwide. It can be life-threatening. 

Causes: A genetic disorder caused by mutations in three different genes.

Symptoms: Kidney pain, blood in the urine, frequent urinary tract infections, and high blood pressure are all symptoms of PKD.

Treatments: High blood pressure is treated to help delay the deterioration of the kidneys. Other treatments include pain management, antibiotics for infections, dialysis, and kidney transplant. 

Diabetes Insipidus

Diabetes insipidus occurs when there is a problem with the body’s production of, or sensitivity to, antidiuretic hormone (aka: vasopressin). This results in copious amounts of urine to be produced because the normal action of antidiuretic hormone is to prevent urine formation by facilitating the reabsorption of water in the later portions of the nephron.

Causes: Damage to the hypothalamus or pituitary gland, certain medications, kidney diseases or genetic mutations of water channels.

Symptoms: Excessive production of urine and thirst.

Treatments: The treatment for diabetes insipidus depends on the cause. If there is an underlying cause, then it should be treated (tumor removal, switching medications, etc.).  Other treatments include administering vasopressin, anti-inflammatory medications, or diuretics.