Written by Robin Bassett, DNP and Shannon Starin, MSN, RN
Do you know what your kidneys do? Most people have a broad idea, but kidneys do so much more than just “remove waste.” Your kidneys are the key to keeping your body’s ecosystem in check. Beyond removing waste products, your kidneys balance fluids, help control blood pressure, regulate hormones, keep your bones healthy and help make red blood cells. Pretty important right? So how do 37 million American adults have kidney disease and don’t know it?
While most major organs cause pain or show signs when they’re in distress, the symptoms of kidney failure are often silent and that’s why it’s important to know if you’re at risk. The top risk factors for kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure. If you are at risk, you should maintain annual labs and health appointments with your primary care physician, and ask about your kidney function through your lab and urine results. Early detection and treatment of chronic kidney disease are the keys to keeping kidney disease from progressing to kidney failure. When detected early, many kidney diseases can be treated successfully. Controlling diabetes and high blood pressure can help prevent kidney disease or keep it from getting worse.
There are five stages of kidney disease: these stages measure the function of your kidney.
- Stage one is best, functioning at 90% or better.
- Stage two is 60-89% function
- Stage three is 30-59% function.
Often times there are no specific symptoms for stages one through three, but kidney function can slowly decline.
- Stage four kidneys are performing at 15-29% of normal function, and treatment for kidney failure may be needed soon.
- Stage five the kidneys are functioning at about 15% or less. They can no longer keep up with removing waste products and extra water. People who are on dialysis are in stage five or “end stage” kidney disease.
When people hear end-stage kidney disease, they often think of dialysis as the only treatment; however, people who choose kidney transplant as a treatment double their life expectancy over life expectancy on dialysis. You can qualify for a kidney transplant once your kidney function is at 20% or less, which means you may get a kidney transplant evaluation before you have to start dialysis.
Once on the waitlist for a transplant, you can receive a kidney two different ways. The majority of kidneys transplanted are though a deceased donor – someone who has elected to be an organ donor and has passed away. The second option is to find a live donor who matches the kidney recipient. This is usually a family member or close friend.
Halifax Health – Center for Transplant Services is affiliated with UF Health. When you choose Halifax Health for kidney transplant, you get the expertise of UF Health Shands while being able to stay close to home. Halifax Health Center for Transplant Services has been serving the Volusia County area since 2008. We have performed over 180 kidney transplants. While kidney disease can be a scary diagnosis, our mission is to provide you with exceptional care and give every patient a better quality of life. If you or someone you know has kidney disease give us a call at 386.425.4650, or visit halifaxhealth.org/kidney.
April is National Donate Life Month, dedicated to helping raise awareness about donation, encouraging Americans to register as organ donors and to honoring those who have saved lifes through their gift of donation.
If you would like to become an organ, eye and tissue donor, please visit Become an Organ Donor