Kidney Disease (Chronic)

By: Joe Swails

What is kidney disease?
Your kidneys ‘filter out’ unwanted waste products and fluids from your blood. They also help regulate your blood flow and control your blood pressure. When your kidneys fail (this can occur due to a variety of causes), they no longer filter out properly. The condition is chronic (long-lasting), irreversible and can result in the onset of a range of symptoms, some of which can be extremely unpleasant.

Symptoms of kidney disease include:

Tiredness (this can range from mild to overwhelming, depending upon the severity of your condition)

Breathlessness (ranging from mild to severe)

Increased frequency of the need to urinate (particularly at night)

Blood in your urine, and also urinary tract infections (in some cases)

Nausea and sometimes vomiting


Swollen feet and ankles

Swollen hands

Itchy skin

Dry skin

Muscle cramps

Mild lower back pain

Sudden abdominal pain

Loss of appetite resulting in weight-loss

Puffiness around the eyes

Pallid complexion

Note: The swelling of the feet, ankles and hands is due to water retention caused by the failure of your kidneys to function properly.

If you have kidney disease you have an increased risk of developing heart disease and also of having a stroke.

Heart disease (cardiovascular disease): Cardiovascular diseases occur when excessive amounts of fat and cholesterol collect in your blood vessels. Also, where the natural, regulated flow of blood to the body is interrupted (i.e. through damaged kidneys), heart disease can develop.

Stroke: A stroke is a serious condition – a medical emergency, in fact. A stroke can also lead to long term disability due to the interruption of blood supply to your brain – causing brain damage.

Typical symptoms of stroke include: The face ‘falling’ or collapsing on one side; difficulty swallowing and speaking (slurred speech); and being unable to move one side of your body (or feeling extremely weak there).

If someone suffers a stroke it is essential that you seek medical help for them immediately: the sooner emergency assistance is sought, the less severe the impact of the stroke can be on the victim due to their being less damage to the brain.

The most common causes of damage to the kidneys are high blood pressure, diabetes and simply becoming elderly.

High blood pressure (the cause of 50 per cent all kidney disease cases in the UK): The heart pumps more than 10 pints of blood around your body every minute. Your blood is measured in millimetres of mercury (nnHG) and is recorded as two figures in a kind of a fraction. The top figure is the systolic pressure – the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart contracts (beats). The lower figure is the diastolic pressure – the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart is still (i.e. resting between each heart beat).

When your blood pressure measurement is 140/90 mmHG or above, your blood pressure can be said to be high.

Diabetes (the cause of 25 per cent of all kidney disease cases in the UK)

There are 2 types of diabetes:

Type 1 – Diabetes: Although it is much less common than Type 2 – Diabetes, Type 1 – Diabetes still affects over 2 million people in the UK alone.

We get glucose (sugar) from food. It gives us energy and helps our cells to function properly. Type 1 – Diabetes develops when there is an excessive amount of glucose in the blood (and your body stops making a pancreatic generated hormone called insulin which keeps your blood glucose levels under control). Too much glucose can damage your blood cells over time, make you feel ill, and lead to extremely serious medical problems.

Type 1 – Diabetes generally occurs in children or young adults.

Type 2 – Diabetes: Type 2 – Diabetes is different because it occurs in people over 40 years of age and develops gradually over time. Cells resist (or reject) the sufficient amounts of insulin the pancreas creates, and so therefore fail to be stimulated by it. This has a knock-on effect which causes the insulin generating cells in the pancreas to become exhausted and to stop functioning properly.

Kidney disease and ethnicity
Ethnicity can also play a role in whether you develop kidney disease. For example, if you are South Asian, African or Afro-Caribbean, then you are at greater risk.

If you are suffering from the aforementioned symptoms, arrange an appointment with your GP. After taking your medical history and asking you some questions about your symptoms, you will then be asked to have a series of tests, such as a blood test and urine test.

Most cases of kidney disease are diagnosed accurately through the blood test, where the levels of creatinine in your blood are measured (high blood creatinine levels are a strong indicator of kidney disease). However, where further confirmation is still required (this occurs in rare cases) you may be asked to have a scan, such as an MRI scan, CT scan or ultrasound scan, in order for the shape of your kidneys to be examined.

If a confirmed diagnosis of kidney disease is made, an appropriate treatment will be recommended to you.

Because kidney disease is a chronic, irreversible condition, treatment is aimed towards slowing down the progression of the disease. This is through prescribed medication from your GP for blood pressure control and also advice about maintaining good blood glucose monitoring control.

Note: If you are suffering from recurring kidney infections as an associated condition of having damaged kidneys, this will be treated with a course of prescribed antibiotics.

What is kidney dialysis?
Kidney dialysis is a form of kidney disease treatment that is prescribed when your kidneys simply no longer work well enough to sustain and maintain life. The dialysis treatment is intended to try to help with the control of blood pressure, the removal of waste products from the body, and the process of keeping the body’s blood chemicals in proper balance (i.e. at safe levels).

You may undergo regular dialysis treatment for a short period or for the rest of your life, depending upon the severity of your condition.

How Chemist Online can help
Through this website we have a range of products available to buy which can help you to monitor your blood glucose levels.

Advice & Support
National Kidney Federation
Helpline: 0845 601 0209

PKD Charity (Polycystic Kidney Disease Charity)
Helpline: 0300 111 1234

British Heart Foundation
Tel: 08450 70 80 70

This information and advice is not intended to replace the advice of your GP or chemist. Chemist Online is also not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based upon the content of the Chemist Online website. Chemist Online is also not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised on any of the sites.

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