If you’ve been having health issues related to your kidneys or the renal system (also known as the urinary system), or have experienced symptoms such as swelling in your feet, ankles, or legs, fatigue, itchy skin, or recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs), it might be time to consider seeing a nephrologist.
Nephrologists are medical specialists who deal with the evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases that involve the kidneys and the rest of the renal system. The kidneys are a pivotal organ, and their health and function have a massive impact on your overall health.
Nephrologists may diagnose and treat various kidney-related conditions, as well as recommend diets and perform transplants or other operations. If you’re not sure whether seeing a nephrologist is right for you, talk to your primary care provider and consider the following common indicators that it’s time to see a nephrologist.
Six Reasons to See a Nephrologist
There’s no Wrong Time to See a Nephrologist
While there are numerous reasons to see a nephrologist, at the end of the day, the best reason to plan an appointment is to maintain and protect your kidney health. Kidney disease is frequently referred to as the ‘silent killer’ because its symptoms are so often missed, or detected only when the disease has progressed to a critical stage. In fact, 90% of people with CKD don’t even know they have it; by the time obvious symptoms begin to show, your kidneys’ function can have deteriorated significantly.
While there’s no cure for kidney disease, early detection can give you and your nephrologist time to make changes to your lifestyle that can help preserve your health and prevent the condition from worsening.
Milwaukee Nephrologists Are Here For Kidney Health
Take control of your health. If you’re concerned about your kidneys, contact the experts at Milwaukee Nephrologists today to schedule a consultation, or talk to your primary care physician today about kidney health.
Chronic kidney disease and kidney failure are two frightening health prospects. They can drain you of energy, make you feel sluggish, and force you into highly-restrictive lifestyles. If you or a loved one is going through this, you want solutions.
Naturally, you’ll consider a kidney transplant. However, assessing the benefits and risks of different kidney treatments can be overwhelming. But with the right information, it doesn’t need to be.
In this blog, we’ll break things down and give an overview of some of the pros and cons of kidney transplant. With this in mind, you may have more context to confidently make informed treatment decisions for yourself or a loved one.
Kidney Transplants 101
Before we get to the benefits and risks of kidney transplants, let’s take a look at some of the basic things that must happen before a transplant.
The process of a kidney transplant begins with eligibility. Patients seeking a kidney transplant must either currently be on dialysis or immediately facing the prospect of it, and also be free of cancer or other diseases that could lead to negative health outcomes following the transplant.
Second, eligible patients must be fully prepared to undergo the transplant procedure. This means you not only have to be healthy enough to be operated on, but you also must be financially prepared to cover the operation, and have a support network in place that can assist you during recovery.
Finally, when you’re fully cleared and ready for a transplant, you are registered and placed on a waiting list. How soon you receive a transplant depends on factors such as blood type and body size, as these are essential to the success of the transplant. If a family member is a match and willing to donate a kidney, this is typically the fastest route to transplant, and also tends to produce the best result.
Benefits of Kidney Transplant
The benefits of a kidney transplant are huge, and can literally change your life:
Risks and Disadvantages of Kidney Transplant
Kidney transplants are a remarkable health solution. They offer many people a new lease on life and the opportunity to get back to the things they love. However, there are risks involved with the transplant process.
Talk to a Nephrologist Today to Learn if a Kidney Transplant is Right for You
Kidney transplants are nothing short of incredible, unbelievable medical operations. They give people who are afraid, tired, and often isolated a chance to get back to the life they had before kidney disease or failure.
If you or a loved one is suffering from kidney failure or end-stage renal disease, a kidney transplant may be a treatment option. To learn more about kidney transplants, contact the experts in kidney health at Milwaukee Nephrologists today. They can assess your health, determine the best treatment solutions, and answer your questions at every stage of the transplant journey.
Should You Use a Muscle Relaxer for Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones are a common problem with an estimated one in ten people having a kidney stone at some point in their lives. This is often a painful experience and over half a million people go to the emergency room for kidney stone problems every year. We understand how stressful, alarming, and painful passing a kidney stone can be. Proper treatment of kidney stones begins with a better understanding of the problem, so let’s examine the common causes of kidney stones, the ways they can be passed, and the treatment options available.
Common Causes of Kidney Stones
One of the most common causes of kidney stones is dehydration. Water is vital for healthy kidney function and helps deliver essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients throughout the body. If you’re dehydrated, those minerals accumulate in your kidneys and can harden and develop into kidney stones.
Other dietary habits can also increase the risk of kidney stones. High salt and sodium intake increases the amount of calcium in the urine which will increase the risk of developing kidney stones. Likewise, high levels of sugar consumption can also promote the development of stones. Following a kidney-friendly diet can help reduce your risk of kidney stones.
Being overweight or obese can also increase the risk of kidney stones. Studies have shown a link between weight gain and developing kidney stones and other urinary risks. Certain weight loss treatments, such as gastric bypass surgery, have also been linked to an increased risk of kidney stones, so it’s important to keep that risk in mind when exploring weight loss options.
How are Kidney Stones Passed?
Smaller kidney stones can usually be passed naturally without any special treatments or procedures. Stones vary in size and are usually between the size of a grain of salt and the size of a kernel of corn. You may not even notice you have a smaller stone until it starts moving from the kidney to the bladder. These smaller stones can be passed at home by drinking plenty of water to break down the minerals and using ibuprofen or naproxen to manage any pain.
Additional treatments and procedures are necessary in the case of larger stones that can’t be passed at home or stones that are blocking the ureter. In these cases, some type of surgery will be performed. There are several surgical options for treating kidney stones, but which one your doctor recommends largely depends on the size and location of the stone.
One of the most common types of surgery options is Shock Wave Lithotripsy (SWL). This non-invasive procedure is most often used for smaller or medium-sized stones. The surgery uses high-energy sound waves to break stones up into smaller pieces to make them easier to pass. The procedure has a short recovery time and patients can leave the hospital shortly after surgery is completed.
Do Muscle Relaxers Help Pass Kidney Stones?
In some cases, muscle relaxers can help pass kidney stones. Your doctor may prescribe alpha-blockers or other muscle relaxers to help relax the ureteral muscles, reduce pain, and promote stone passage. Muscle relaxers can widen the ureter, which makes passing small stones easier. Contractions in the ureter, which are a common cause of pain, can sometimes be reduced through muscle relaxers or other medications.
There are limitations to muscle relaxers’ effectiveness for kidney stones, however. Muscle relaxers will not be helpful for stones that are too large to pass anyway. Only your doctor can determine if muscle relaxers are a viable treatment option for your kidney stone diagnosis, so always consult with your doctor before beginning any kind of treatment.
Do You Think You Have a Kidney Stone?
If you think you have a kidney stone, don’t wait to see a nephrologist. Early detection and treatment can reduce the chances that you experience more severe levels of pain from the kidney stone. Without seeing a nephrologist, it will be hard for you to determine whether you have a kidney stone, much less whether it can be passed with a muscle relaxer. Always consult with a medical professional before beginning any treatment.
Milwaukee Nephrologists Are Here to Help
At Milwaukee Nephrologists, our specialists can help diagnose kidney stones and formulate the best treatment plan for your situation. Our staff will work to:
The Importance of Following a Hemodialysis Diet
If your kidneys no longer work, or function at a lowered capacity, you might need home hemodialysis, often simply called dialysis. This treatment helps your body remove waste and fluid from your blood. Without dialysis, your kidneys will continue to fail, toxins in your blood won’t be removed, and your health will deteriorate.
When you start dialysis treatment, a special diet should be followed for the best health outcomes. Doing so can remove unnecessary stress from your kidneys, make dialysis more effective, and improve your comfort and quality of life.
How Diet Impacts the Results of Hemodialysis
Dialysis can remove most of the toxins your kidneys would remove from your body’s blood, but it’s not a completely perfect system. Therefore, by altering your diet to control how much of particular nutrients and minerals you consume, you can ensure your dialysis treatment is as effective as it can be.
However, if a dialysis-focused diet isn’t followed, your health can deteriorate, as the treatment may be unable to remove the necessary toxins from your blood. Additionally, a poor diet while on dialysis can lead to heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for people on dialysis.
The Role Nutrients Play in a Hemodialysis Diet
One of the main jobs your kidneys perform is delivering nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to organs throughout your body through your bloodstream. But when you are undergoing hemodialysis, your kidneys aren’t capable of filtering out the excess, so following a careful diet is more important.
Because of the way various minerals and nutrients interact within your body, following a hemodialysis diet can help counteract some of the potential side effects that each nutrient can produce.
Most dialysis patients will need to increase their protein intake. This is because dialysis often removes proteins along with blood during the treatment process. As a result, your body may not have enough protein, and when the body doesn’t have enough protein, it will begin consuming protein from your muscles at the expense of your body. A lack of protein can be highly destructive and lead to more health problems if you’re undergoing dialysis, so it’s important to maintain an appropriate protein intake
When undergoing dialysis, your phosphorus intake needs to be closely monitored. Phosphorus binds with calcium, which is crucial to bone development and health; because of this binding, excess phosphorus can simultaneously have a weakening effect on your bones and a hardening effect on soft tissues like muscles and blood vessels.
Foods that are high in protein are often also high in phosphorus, so finding a diet that works for you is a balancing act, but is more than achievable with the help of a dialysis dietician.
Dialysis patients typically need to consume more calcium. Calcium’s impact on bone development is crucial for offsetting the impacts of phosphorus, which can have deleterious effects on your bones.
Dialysis is incredibly effective at removing waste from your body, but even so, it has its limits. Dialysis can only remove so much potassium, and therefore your potassium intake must be limited. Dialysis patients who may have been following the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet to lower their blood pressure may need to alter their diet, because despite DASH being low in sodium, it typically contains a significant amount of potassium.
Reducing sodium consumption is one of the first dietary changes we recommend to patients who are at risk of Chronic Kidney Disease. When you’re undergoing hemodialysis, you similarly need to limit how many salty foods you eat. Dialysis can only remove so much sodium, and without your kidney’s natural regulation, high sodium levels can lead to high blood pressure and more medical complications.
Carbs are particularly important for hemodialysis patients because many are rich in fiber. Fiber is important for the heart, the circulatory system, and preventing constipation. It also helps lower cholesterol, which can prevent the need for additional medications. Lowered cholesterol can also reduce the risk of heart disease, which is a common illness among dialysis patients.
While healthy kidneys thrive on receiving plenty of fluids in order to keep your blood and body in ship shape, it’s a different story for individuals who rely on dialysis. Now, dialysis does remove your body’s extra fluids, but it still isn’t the same as healthy kidneys, which work day and night to process waste, whereas dialysis is a process that you undergo far less frequently.
Therefore, it’s important that you limit your fluid intake each day. Your dietician will help you determine an amount you can drink without risking a rise in blood pressure, damage to your heart, or edema (swelling in your face, ankles, feet, and wrists).
The Benefits of Following a Hemodialysis Diet
There’s no denying that hemodialysis is an intense treatment method, but by following a hemodialysis diet, your treatment can be as effective as possible and lead to huge benefits, including factors such as:
At Milwaukee Nephrologists, that’s our goal: to improve your quality of life. For four decades, we’ve been providing state-of-the-art care and pursuing innovative programs in home hemodialysis.
To get in touch with a team of highly-skilled nephrologists in Southeastern Wisconsin, contact us today.
Is Water Good For Your Kidneys?
Is water good for your kidneys? It’s a common question with a simple answer: yes, water is good for your kidneys. There are a few exceptions to that rule, but generally speaking, water is not only beneficial to your kidneys, but vital to its function.
Why Your Kidneys Need Water
Your kidneys need water because your body needs water. Imagine that your body is a city: water acts like a vehicle bringing minerals and nutrients to all the factories and services (aka: organs), and expelling waste. Just as water is necessary to move the good stuff around your body, it’s also necessary to haul the bad stuff away.
Your kidneys remove toxins from your body with water, and also use water to deliver hormones throughout your body. Water is crucial for your body’s health in general, and water is good for your kidneys too. If you’re not adequately hydrated, you leave your kidneys and entire body vulnerable to many risks.
Risks of Dehydration
How Much Water Should You Drink?
Clearly water is critical for your kidneys and your body on the whole. You want to take care of it, but how much water should you be drinking? Well, it depends. Historically, eight cups of water a day has been the standard recommendation. While eight cups a day isn’t a bad goal, it’s definitely not a perfect measure for everyone, and it falls quite short of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s findings.
The Academies found that a person’s total water intake—water consumed by drinking, as well as by consuming foods such as melons and vegetables—should be around 3.7 liters for men and 2.7 liters for women.
Fluids can also be obtained through a variety of means; water isn’t the only option. Water can be supplemented with the following:
What if You're on Dialysis?
For most people, drinking quite a bit of water is ideal. However, if you are on dialysis, your water intake actually needs to be limited. Dialysis is highly effective, but it simply isn’t the same as the 24/7 function of healthy kidneys, and consuming too much fluid while on dialysis can lead to edema—swelling that typically occurs in the face, wrists, ankles, and feet. People with kidney failure should always consult with their nephrologist to maintain an optimal level of hydration.
Urine is a Good Indicator of how Hydrated You Are
Fortunately, you often don’t need a professional to tell you if you’re getting enough fluids each day—your urine can tell you that. Urine that’s a very faint yellow or clear color is a strong indicator that you’re giving your kidneys the support they need, whereas urine that’s a darker yellow, you need to drink more water. It’s normal for the color of your urine to change slightly from day to day, but monitor it to ensure it’s staying relatively the same and that you’re staying fully hydrated.
Water is Part of a Kidney-Friendly Diet and Lifestyle
Following a kidney-friendly diet and staying hydrated can work wonders, helping your kidneys to perform better and longer, even if you have kidney disease. Milwaukee Nephrologists is dedicated to helping our patients gain a greater understanding of kidney disease, and what their options are for avoiding or treating it.
Our board-certified specialists make Milwaukee Nephrologists your go-to experts on all-things kidneys. Whether you have been treating renal disease for years or if you or a loved one are at risk of kidney disease, Milwaukee Nephrologists can help. To schedule an appointment, contact us today for an examination, or learn more about kidney health on our blog.
What Causes Chronic Kidney Disease?
What is Chronic Kidney Disease?
Your kidneys' main function is to filter waste and excess fluids from your blood. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a condition characterized by a gradual loss of kidney function, often over the course of many years, which means waste and toxins slowly seep into the blood and cause various illnesses or even organ failure. CKD can progress to end-stage kidney failure, which is fatal without the use of dialysis or a kidney transplant.
What Causes Chronic Kidney Disease?
CKD occurs most often when a disease or condition impairs kidney functionality, which causes kidney damage to worsen over months and years. The two main causes of chronic kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure, which together cause about two-thirds of CKD cases.
How Can I Prevent Chronic Kidney Disease?
Follow these prevention tips to reduce your risk of developing Chronic Kidney Disease:
Risk Factors of CKD
When to See A Doctor For CKD
The earlier that kidney disease is detected and treated, the higher chance of slowing down or hindering its progression. Early detection can be difficult with CKD because by the time symptoms surface, the patient is usually already far along the disease's timeline. Getting regular checkups and blood work is extremely important.
If you are at high risk of developing CKD, make an appointment with your doctor or make an appointment with a nephrologist (kidney specialist) here.
Got Questions? We Have Answers
Milwaukee Nephrologists is a network of experts and doctors that are board-certified in Nephrology and have chosen a focus that provides a wide array of sub-specialization. If you or a loved one suffers from, or is at risk for kidney disease, please contact us for an examination.
What is Dialysis and When Do I Need It?
What Is Dialysis?
Before you can understand what dialysis does, you must understand what kidneys do and how they function. The kidneys are responsible for removing waste substances and fluid from your blood. When your kidneys fail, they effectively stop filtering waste from blood. This is why dialysis is used to keep your body in balance. By removing waste, salt, and extra water to prevent them from building up in the body, dialysis machines essentially act as exterior kidneys. This procedure helps control your blood pressure and keep a safe level of certain chemicals in your body, such as potassium, sodium, and bicarbonate.
When Is Dialysis Needed?