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Understanding Common Kidney Diseases

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(NewsUSA) - Did you know that one in seven Americans lives with a kidney disease? As a nephrologist, I see the range of emotions patients experience when they are first diagnosed. Anxiety, fear and guilt are all common feelings that may be accompanied by physical aches and pains stemming from their condition. While these emotions may be overwhelming, I encourage my patients to take charge of their diagnosis by educating and empowering themselves to learn more about a management strategy that works for them.     

I also try to educate my patients on the nuances between kidney diseases, as some variants -- such as autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) -- can be inherited and easily masked by another condition, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and the sickle cell trait. The following are common kidney diseases you should be aware of so that you can discuss them with your family and your healthcare provider:     

• Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is characterized by kidney damage or a decrease in kidney function for at least three months. People living with CKD lose their ability to filter extra salt and fluid from the blood properly due to loss of kidney function. CKD is common in the United States, with more than 37 million adults potentially living with this disease. Individuals are at a higher risk for CKD if they already have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or a family history of kidney failure.     

• Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is an inherited disorder and a form of chronic kidney disease that causes cysts to form and grow in the kidneys; as cysts grow, kidneys enlarge and damage progresses, reducing kidney function and potentially leading to kidney failure.   

 • Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is an inherited, rare disease that affects more than 140,000 Americans. ADPKD, the most common form of PKD, causes cysts to form and grow in the kidneys. As the cysts grow, kidneys enlarge, with some kidneys growing to the size of a football. As a result, kidney function progressively declines and may lead to kidney failure.     

ADPKD may be diagnosed by clinical imaging such as an ultrasound, computed tomography  scan or magnetic resonance imaging. Genetic testing may also be used to diagnose ADPKD. While ADPKD is considered a rare disease, it frequently occurs in families impacted by the condition -- with a child of a parent with ADPKD having a 50 percent chance of inheritance.     

• Autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease (ARPKD) is often detected before a baby is born due to ultrasound images showing the unborn baby’s kidneys larger than normal. A child is only born with ARPKD if both parents are carriers of the gene that causes it.   

 There are a variety of healthy lifestyle changes and management strategies that may help to delay disease progression such as maintaining a kidney-friendly diet, drinking a certain amount of water and maintaining a healthy weight. It’s also important to utilize educational resources, such as ADPKDQuestions.com, to ensure you’re educated about the disease so you can have open conversations with your doctor and family.

Dr. Dahl is a paid consultant of Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc.