The kidneys are located at both sides of your back bone, just under the rib cage and above the small of your back. They are quite small and each one is approximately the size of an adult fist.
Their main purpose is to clean our blood by filtering all of our body’s waste and toxins. Your blood supply will circulate through the kidneys approximately 12 times per hour so they are very important organs, vital to the daily workings of your body and responsible for some very important jobs. These are:
- Blood pressure – Kidneys keep your blood pressure regular.
- Water balance – Kidneys add excess water to other waste to produce urine.
- Clean your blood – Kidneys filter your blood to remove wastes and toxins.
- Vitamin D Activation – Kidneys manage the production of vitamin D for strong bones, muscles and overall health.
There are 3 main things you need to control to keep your kidneys healthy.
- Get your blood pressure checked regularly and make sure it stays within your recommended range.
- If you have diabetes, make sure your glucose level stays within your target range.
- Be active and lead a healthy lifestyle. Maintain a healthy weight.
You can achieve this if you:
- Quit smoking
- Eat healthy and make wise food choices
- Be active and exercise regularly
- Drink water
- Limit alcohol
- Improve overall health and wellbeing – enjoy life!
Symptoms of Kidney Disease
Did you know that people can lose up to 90% of their kidney function before they experience any symptoms? Chronic kidney disease is called the ‘Silent Disease’ as there are often no warning signs. Some signs to look out for that might indicate the start of a problem are:
- High blood pressure
- Changes in the amount and frequency of your urine
- Changes in the appearance of your urine
- Blood in your urine
- Puffiness in your legs, ankles and around your eyes
- Pain in your kidney area
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty sleeping
- Headaches or lack of concentration
- Unusual itchiness
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
- Bad breath and a metallic taste
- Muscle cramps
- Pins and needles in your fingers and toes
These symptoms are general and could be related to many other illnesses or conditions but if you are experiencing any of the above, please make an appointment to see your regular GP to have a full check-up.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Urinary tract infection is very common especially in women, children and the elderly, but men can also get them. If this infection is not treated promptly, it can move to your kidneys where is can cause damage. To reduce your risk of getting UTI’s you need to:
- Drink lots of fluid – especially water
- Don’t wait too long to pass urine
- When on the toilet, do not wipe from back to front
Having low estrogen through menopause, having a catheter in place and a kidney stone obstruction can also increase your chance of getting a UTI.
The symptoms of a urinary tract infection are:
- Burning feeling when you urinate
- Frequent or intense urge to urinate even though little comes out when you do
- Pain or pressure in your back or lower abdomen
- Cloudy, dark, bloody or strange smelling urine
- Feeling tired or shaky
- Fever or chills
Kidney stones can occur when the waste chemicals from your urine form crystals that clump together. These stones are hard and can vary in size and shape. If a stone moves from where it has formed, it can cause pain and difficulty in passing urine. This is called ‘Renal Colic’ and requires immediate medical attention.
- Severe pain in the back, just below the ribs that can move to the front of the body and down towards the groin.
- Blood in the urine
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shivers, sweating and fever
- Bad smelling urine
- Small gravel like stones in the urine
- Urgent feeling to urinate
If you suspect you have a kidney stone, immediately make your way to your nearest emergency department for urgent treatment.
The best place to go to find out about your kidney health is your regular GP. If you need any additional information, the following resources are available:
Kidney Health Australia www.kidney.org.au
Health Direct www.healthdirect.gov.au/kidneys
Diabetes WA www.diabeteswa.com.au
If you experience any unusual symptoms outside of normal business hours, please call us on 93704200 or book an appointment online for a consultation with one of our experienced after-hours doctors.