Kidney disease is slow, progressive damage to the kidneys that can lead to a loss of kidney function. Although the damage is not reversible, its progress may be slowed with treatment that focuses on the underlying cause of a patient’s kidney disease.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most common causes of kidney disease. In fact, more than half of people with kidney disease have hypertension.
The kidneys play a vital role in the workings of the human body. When the kidneys are working properly, they filter out toxins, excess water and waste carried by the blood, and excrete the filtered substances to the bladder to be expelled as urine. They perform the real “detox” of your body.
Kidneys are also responsible for releasing hormones that regulate blood pressure, promote bone strength, and increase red blood cell count. Without kidneys, your body could not survive. Someone who experiences a complete loss of kidney function can only live with regular dialysis or a kidney transplant.
How Does Hypertension Affect the Kidneys?
The important jobs that kidneys do require many blood vessels to transport and remove toxins from the body. Nephrons are tiny structures within kidneys that do the actual work of filtering the blood. There are about one million nephrons in each of your kidneys that depend on tiny blood vessels to transport the waste-filled blood on its way out of the body.
Hypertension means that your blood puts more pressure on the delicate walls of blood vessels, causing permanent damage and resulting in less blood reaching the kidneys to be filtered.
One consequence of reduced kidney function is that the kidneys are unable to expel excess fluid from the blood. The resulting increase in blood volume means the pressure of the blood within the cardiovascular system is increased. Higher blood pressure causes more damage to blood vessels that serve the kidneys and conduct waste and fluids within them, leading to further loss of kidney function. This is one major way that kidney disease progresses.
Hypertension induces kidney disease and kidney disease in turn worsens hypertension.
Reducing your Risk of Kidney Disease
If you have hypertension, you need to take steps to manage the condition for your continued health.
High blood pressure is often called “the silent killer” because there are few if any noticeable symptoms. Hypertension can lead to stroke, heart failure, and heart attacks – in addition to kidney disease.
Checking your blood pressure regularly is the only way to know if you have hypertension. A single reading is not enough for a diagnosis, but if your blood pressure measures more than 140 for the top number (systolic pressure) and/or more than 90 for the bottom number (diastolic pressure), you need to follow up with a health care professional for additional testing.
Hypertension can be managed through one or a combination of different classes of medications. Your doctor may recommend changes to your diet, including the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet that is low in sodium and sugar.
Seeing the Right Kind of Kidney Specialist
A nephrologist is a doctor with specialized training in kidney disorders. If you have hypertension, a nephrologist will test your kidneys to see if there is any damage. Managing hypertension-induced kidney disease means caring for your whole body, from diet and lifestyle to medication.
Commonwealth Nephrology Associates specializes in caring for patients with kidney disease and hypertension. Our compassionate physicians are experienced with all aspects and stages of kidney disease, aggressively treating these illnesses and offering realistic treatment plans for underlying causes.
Our goal is to slow the progression of kidney disease and help our patients live longer, more satisfying lives. Commonwealth Nephrology Associates has locations throughout Massachusetts. To find out more and schedule an appointment at the location nearest you, call us at (617) 739-2100 today.