Caring For Your Kidneys

Caring For Your Kidneys:
What You Should Know by Dr. Carolyn Forbes, MD, FAAFP

ith the prevalence of chronic kidney disease (CKD) increasing by 16% in the last 10 years and with 1 in every 6 people in the United States having chronic kidney disease, the importance of knowing your kidney function is vital to your long term health. The increasing incidence of CKD is largely related to the increasing number of people with diabetes, high blood pressure, advanced age, and obesity in the general population. This means that almost 20 million Americans have CKD. With kidney disease being often preventable and more treatable the earlier it is found, having regular discussions with your family doctor about your kidney function can add years to your life.

Causes of Chronic Kidney Disease

Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes causes damage to and inflammation of the small filters which make up the kidneys. This leads to diabetic nephropathy, the leading cause of CKD in the United States.

Obesity. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill for this. Try to maintain a healthy weight and incorporate aerobic exercise four times weekly.

High Cholesterol. Eat a low fat diet, avoiding butter and fried foods. If your doctor tells you your bad LDL cholesterol is over 100 or your good HDL cholesterol is less than 45, discuss whether fish oil or presciption medication to improve these numbers is right for you.

NSAIDS (Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs). These include ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin. Do not take these medications regularly without the knowledge of your family doctor. Also, when taking these medications, make sure you drink plenty of water. Many other medications can also affect kidney function, but NSAIDS are the most commonly abused.

Obstruction of Flow. This can be caused by stones, an en-larged prostate or cancer.

Polycystic Kidney Disease. This is an inherited disease which causes large cysts to develop in the kidneys. If you have a family member who has been diagnosed with kidney disease, you should be screened.

Glomerulonephritis. This is damage to and swelling of the filters that make up the kidneys. This is most com-monly caused by the body’s immune system getting confused. The immune cells that were made to fight infection then attack the kidneys instead and cause damage and loss of function.

Hypertension. Talk with your family doctor about keeping your blood pressure less than 125/75 and avoid salt and caffeine in your diet.

Chronic Illness. If you are being treated for any chronic illness, you should have your kidney function checked regularly. Your family doctor will tell you how frequently to be checked based on your diagnosis and the severity of your illness.

Some symptoms of Chronic Kidney
Disease include:
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Swelling of Face, Hands, and Feet
  • Frequent Urination
  • Fatigue
  • Poor Appetite, Nausea, or Vomiting
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Easy Bruising
  • Pale Skin
  • Itching
  • Bone Pain or Fractures
  • Chest Pain
  • Headaches
  • Erectile Dysfunction
Diagnosing Chronic Kidney Disease

An excellent measure of your kidney function can be obtained with a simple blood test and a urine sample. These tests measure how fast your kidneys remove toxins or waste products from the body. They also make sure the kidneys are saving or hanging onto to proteins that are good for your body. Because the kidneys do such a good job of compensating for damage to their function, kidney disease can progress to a state where minimal kidney function is left without a person having symptoms. This is why regular follow-up with your family doctor is so important in maintaining good kidney health.

If decreasing kidney function is caught early, these symptoms can often be prevented or delayed. The National Kidney Foundation has a helpful website for learning more about kidney disease at and a hotline for patients, family members, and caregiv-ers at 1-855-NKF-CARES (653-2273). Also, go to the American Academy of Family Physicians website and type “kidney” in the search box for more great information.

DR. CAROLYN FORBES, MD, FAAFP has been a Family Medicine physician in Tooele for over 15 years. She graduated from  Brigham Young University with a B.S. in Biochemistry in 1990, Indiana University School of Medicine in 1994 and completed a Family Medicine Residency at the University of Kansas in 1997. Dr. Forbes is Board Certified and a Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians. Providing medical care to patients of all ages, newborns through seniors, she has a special interest in Diabetes and Heart Disease. She has medical privileges at Mountain West Medical Center in Tooele. Dr. Forbes is pleased to practice medicine with two Board Certified Physician Assistants, Sara Carstensen, PA-C, and Cameron Dortch, PA-C. To schedule an appointment, call her office at (435)-843-1225.