Questions to ask your doctor about kidney disease
If you’ve just been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD), you probably have a lot of questions. You may be confused and worried. It’s important to organize your thoughts and get some answers. Below are some questions about kidney disease that may come to your mind and potential answers from your doctor. Then you can make a list of additional questions you want to ask your doctor about kidney disease, kidney function and kidney treatments.
What do my kidneys do?
In the simplest terms, kidneys are filters for the body. They remove excess waste and water from the bloodstream then remove it from the body through urine. In addition, kidneys adjust the mineral and chemical balances within your body. Kidneys also have “endocrine” functions, meaning they produce enzymes and hormones which help control blood pressure, absorb calcium from the food you eat and make red blood cells. A more detailed explanation can be found at the DaVita.com How Kidneys Work page.
What is chronic kidney disease (CKD)?
If you have chronic kidney disease, your kidneys no longer filter your blood as effectively as they used to. There are five stages of CKD: Stage 1 is fairly normal kidney function and Stage 5, also known as end stage renal disease (ESRD), is the most severe. Your doctor will determine which stage your kidney disease has reached by calculating your glomerular filtration rate (GFR). Chronic kidney disease develops and progresses over time. This is different from acute or sudden kidney failure, which happens very quickly.
How did I get chronic kidney disease?
There are multiple causes of chronic kidney disease. The leading cause is diabetes. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the second leading cause of CKD. There are also inherited forms of kidney disease. Your doctor can determine why you have kidney disease and the best kidney disease treatment for you.
Is there a cure for chronic kidney disease?
Certain types of kidney diseases can be cured with medications or other therapies prescribed by your doctor. However, there is no cure for most kidney diseases. This does not mean that you are helpless – with lifestyle changes and prescribed medicine from your doctor, kidney function may be prolonged. Dialysis or kidney transplant are options if your kidney function continues to decline to the point where they can no longer keep you healthy.
How will chronic kidney disease change my life?
Although being diagnosed with chronic kidney disease does not mean you need to become a completely different person, it may impact several areas of your daily life. You might need to make changes to your diet, your level of exercise, your medications and your personal habits. You’ll want to ask your doctor what modifications you need to make to live with chronic kidney disease.
What is dialysis and do I need it?
Dialysis is a treatment that removes wastes and excess fluid from your body when your kidneys no longer function. This process replaces some of the functions of the kidney. Once you have reached stage 5 of CKD a form of renal replacement therapy such as dialysis is needed. Your doctor will run lab tests before determining whether or not you start dialysis.
Will I need a kidney transplant?
When the kidneys fail, either dialysis or kidney transplant is needed. Your doctor will evaluate you as a candidate for kidney transplant and discuss this option with you. Some people with chronic kidney disease are able to have a kidney transplant before they need to start dialysis. Others are treated by dialysis for a time before they have a kidney transplant.
What resources are available to me?
Good news: there are more resources available to you now than ever before. In addition to medical advances, the internet provides many options to help you cope with kidney disease. There are articles, online forums, doctor locators and free education classes that are open to you, your friends and family.
Being diagnosed with an unfamiliar disease such as kidney disease is likely to cause anxiety and confusion. After you get past the initial shock, you’ll want to take time to organize your thoughts and formulate some key questions about kidney disease. You may want to make a list of the top three to five questions that cause you the most concern and then discuss them in depth with your doctor. This may help you gain some clarity and assist you in adjusting to kidney disease.
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