How to spot kidney disease in older people

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Kidney disease often goes unnoticed in many people, especially in elderly adults, where symptoms can be subtle or mistaken for normal signs of aging.

Detecting kidney disease early is crucial because it can progress to kidney failure if left untreated.

Understanding the signs and symptoms of kidney disease can help in early diagnosis and management, improving the quality of life for older adults.

The Function of Kidneys and What Happens When They Fail

The kidneys are vital organs that filter waste and excess fluids from the blood, which are then excreted through urine. They also help regulate blood pressure, electrolyte balance, and red blood cell production.

As people age, kidney function naturally declines, but this process can be drastically accelerated by diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which are common in older adults.

Early Signs of Kidney Disease

In the initial stages, kidney disease often has no severe symptoms, which makes it hard to detect. Symptoms that do occur can easily be confused with other conditions that are common in older age. Here are some of the early signs:

Changes in Urination: This could be the most immediate sign of kidney trouble. Changes may include urinating more or less often, darker or lighter urine, or urine that contains blood.

Swelling or Edema: Poor kidney function can lead to sodium retention, causing swelling in the legs, ankles, feet, face, or hands.

Fatigue: Kidneys produce a hormone called erythropoietin, which helps make red blood cells that carry oxygen. When kidney function is impaired, the production of this hormone drops, leading to fewer red blood cells and symptoms of anemia like fatigue and weakness.

Sleep Issues: Trouble sleeping can sometimes be linked to kidney disease due to the inability of the kidneys to filter toxins properly, which can cause sleep disturbances.

Dry and Itchy Skin: Healthy kidneys do a lot of important work including keeping bones strong and blood clean. When they’re not working well, the build-up of toxins can cause severe itching and dry skin.

Symptoms That Indicate Progressed Kidney Disease

As kidney disease progresses, the symptoms become more pronounced and severe. These include:

Muscle Cramping: Electrolyte imbalances like low calcium and poorly controlled phosphorus can cause muscle cramping.

Poor Appetite: Accumulation of toxins as a result of reduced kidney function can cause a loss of appetite.

Nausea and Vomiting: These symptoms can result from the build-up of waste products in the body in kidney disease.

Changes in Mental Sharpness: Toxin build-up can also affect the brain, leading to confusion or difficulty concentrating.

Coldness: Anemia can make a person feel colder than usual, particularly in the extremities.

Detecting and Managing Kidney Disease

Early detection of kidney disease involves screening for protein in the urine and checking blood for creatinine (a waste product). Elevated levels of creatinine indicate poor kidney function.

Managing kidney disease in the elderly focuses on treating the underlying conditions that may accelerate the deterioration of kidney function, such as hypertension and diabetes, along with dietary changes, medications, and in some cases, dialysis.

The Importance of Awareness

Given the subtlety of its symptoms, raising awareness about kidney disease among the elderly and their caregivers is crucial. Regular check-ups and simple blood and urine tests can go a long way in detecting kidney disease early, thereby preventing the progression to kidney failure.

If you or an elderly loved one are experiencing any unusual symptoms like those described, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider to rule out kidney disease or begin treatment.

If you care about kidney health, please read studies about pesticide linked to chronic kidney disease, and this drug may prevent kidney failure in people with diabetes.

For more information about kidney health, please see recent studies about drug duo that may treat kidney failure, and results showing these vegetables may protect against kidney damage.

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