Disease Awareness

Patient Knowledge Bank

What is Chronic Kidney Disease?

Kidney disease often has no symptoms, so diagnosis can be a shock. You may worry that your kidney disease will worsen and that you’ll end up on dialysis.

In fact, the outlook, in most cases, is more reassuring.

Kidney disease is common and usually stable (not going to get worse). Fewer than one in 20 people with the condition ever have kidney failure and need dialysis or a kidney transplant.

What is Kidney Disease?

Normal kidney function is a very complex process. Waste products are filtered from the blood by the kidneys and are eliminated together with excess fluid as urine via the bladder; however, the kidneys also regulate other important functions in the body, including blood pressure, hormones and haemoglobin (red blood cells), and they play an important part in maintaining healthy bones.

A problem with your kidneys has the potential to affect these vital functions but unless your condition affects both kidneys you are unlikely to run into problems.

Lifestyle Tips for Kidney Disease

Although your kidney disease is unlikely to get worse or cause you serious day-to-day problems, it is a warning about your future health. That’s because kidney disease, even if it’s mild and stable, automatically puts you at higher-than-average risk of heart disease and stroke.

If you have kidney disease, you’ll benefit even more than the general population from improving your lifestyle and looking after your heart. The NHS will support and advise you, and you can help yourself by doing the following:

  • Lose any excess weight and exercise regularly (at least 150 minutes each week for the average adult). Find out if you are a healthy weight using this tool to check your BMI. Read more about how to lose weight.

  • Stop smoking. Read more about how the NHS can help you stop smoking.

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Read how to achieve a balanced diet.

  • Reduce the salt in your diet to help keep your blood pressure down. Read more about how to cut down on salt.

  • Take extra care to keep your blood pressure and blood sugar at normal levels if you have diabetes or high blood pressure.

  • Drink water normally and when you feel you want to, unless you’ve been advised otherwise by your doctor or dietitian. There’s no evidence that drinking extra water or fluids will help if you have kidney disease.

Vaccinations and Kidney Disease

It’s important that you are vaccinated against:

  • hepatitis B

  • flu (every year)

  • pneumonia (also called the pneumo jab)

Kidney disease puts you at higher risk of catching flu. There’s also a greater chance if you catch flu that it will lead to more serious illnesses, including bronchitis and pneumonia.

Flu, hepatitis B and pneumonia vaccinations are free for kidney disease patients from your local GP surgery. The flu jab is available each autumn, from September.

Medicines and Kidney Disease

If you have kidney disease, it’s important to take care with pharmacy medicines. as some can be potentially harmful. Read more about pharmacy remedies and kidney disease.

Kidney problems are aggravated by high blood pressure (hypertension) and diabetes. If you also have either of these conditions your doctor will probably prescribe long-term daily tablets to prevent kidney damage.

Blood-pressure-lowering tablets called ACE inhibitors are usually prescribed. These protect the kidneys, but can sometimes cause a cough. If that happens, a similar group of tablets known as angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) can be used.

Because kidney disease puts you at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes), your doctor may offer you medicines called statins. Statins lower the level of cholesterol in the blood, reducing risk of cardiovascular disease.

Flu, hepatitis B and pneumonia vaccinations are free for kidney disease patients from your local GP surgery. The flu jab is available each autumn, from September.

Severe Kidney Disease

Sometimes it’s not possible to stop kidney disease getting worse. If your kidney disease is already severe or in decline, your GP will refer you to a hospital-based kidney specialist team who will work out a treatment plan for you.

This may include following a special diet and taking additional medicines such as iron treatment to prevent anaemia, and vitamin D supplements for healthy bones and muscles.

The hospital team of doctors, nurses, dietitians, social workers and pharmacists will help you prepare for the possibility of going on to dialysis or having a kidney transplant.

Further Info for Kidney Patients

The NKF (National Kidney Federation) has information and advice for newly diagnosed patients.

To order a free leaflet or speak to an adviser, call the NKF’s helpline on 0845 601 0209 or visit its website at www.kidney.org.uk.

Click the logo above for the latest public transport information to get to Manchester Royal Infirmary – part of the Oxford Road Hospital Campus.

Click map to download as a PDF

Manchester Royal Infirmary has a section of their website dedicated to Patient Experience.

Click HERE to leave a Patient Review for the Hospital Management.

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