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October 2, 2007 > Are You At Risk for Kidney Trouble?

Are You At Risk for Kidney Trouble?

Learn How to Protect Your Kidneys at Upcoming Washington Hospital Seminar

Do you ever think about your kidneys? If not, you're probably not alone. You can't feel them working like your heart or lungs. But just like those vital organs, you need your kidneys functioning properly to stay healthy.
If you suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiac disease or obesity, you face a greater risk of developing kidney trouble. Genes also seem to play a role. Those with a family history of kidney disease are also at greater risk along with African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders.
"We see a lot of kidney disease that is secondary to these other chronic conditions," said Dr. Jeanie Ahn, a nephrologist at Washington Hospital. "In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of end-stage renal disease (kidney failure) in this country."
Ahn will be presenting an upcoming seminar on kidney disease with Dr. Peter Lunny, also a nephrologist at Washington Hospital. "What Happens When Kidneys Don't Work? Urinalysis Results and What They Mean" will be held on Monday, October 8, from 1 to 3 p.m., at the Conrad E. Anderson, MD Auditorium at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue, in Fremont. To register for the seminar, call (800) 963-7070.
Shaped like lima beans and located near the middle of your back, the kidneys filter blood. Thousands of tiny filters inside your kidneys called nephrons remove waste products and extra water, which become urine.
The wastes in your blood come from food you eat and the normal breakdown of tissues in your body. After your body has taken what it needs from the food, the "leftover" or waste is sent to the blood. If your kidneys didn't remove these wastes, they would build up in the blood and damage your body.
Kidney disease results from damage to the nephrons, which usually occurs gradually over a period of many years. There aren't any obvious symptoms, so you don't even know it's happening.
Those with diabetes are at greater risk because their bodies don't use glucose or sugar very well. The glucose stays in the blood and acts like a poison.
With high blood pressure, the small blood vessels in the kidneys can get damaged. As a result, the filter system loses its ability to work properly.
Preventing Kidney Failure
Like many other diseases, it's important to catch kidney disease early, before irreversible damage has been done to the organs.
"Kidney disease can go unnoticed because there are no symptoms in the early stages," Ahn said.
As the disease progresses, symptoms can appear, including lack of energy, poor concentration, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, muscle cramping, swollen feet and ankles, and frequent urination.
Ahn will provide an overview of the five stages of kidney disease, which move up in severity from stage one being a small amount of kidney damage with normal kidney function to stage five being complete kidney or renal failure. She will also explain the health consequences of kidneys that don't work properly, including high blood pressure, anemia, weak bones, nerve damage, and increased heart and blood vessel disease.
Once the kidneys shut down, there are no treatment options other than dialysis, which uses a machine to filter the blood, or a kidney transplant.
A urinalysis, or testing of the urine, is one way doctors can detect potential problems. Lunny will provide details about urinalysis results and what they mean.
"We need to raise awareness about kidney disease so we can recognize it and treat it before it progresses to kidney failure," Ahn said.
To learn more about reducing your risk for kidney failure, register for the seminar at (800) 963-7070.
For more information about other Washington Hospital programs and services, visit

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