Kidney disease can also be thought of as a silent killer. In fact, 9 out of 10 people who have it don’t know that they do. Yet, 37 million Americans have kidney disease. The good news is that there are ways to prevent kidney failure.
Let’s dive into what kidneys do, how substance use affects them, what kidney failure looks like, and how to prevent it.
What Do Kidneys Do?
The kidneys are vital bodily organs. They filter toxins from the blood and excrete waste as urine.
Some potential complications can arise when someone’s kidneys aren’t working correctly.
- Heart disease
- Weak bones
- Metabolic acidosis
- Weak immune system
Substance Use and Kidney Function
Drug and alcohol use can significantly affect kidney function in the following ways:
- They can enlarge the kidneys. Alcohol use can reduce the kidney’s ability to regulate electrolytes in the body.
- Drugs and alcohol are processed through the kidneys and turned into urine.
- Drug use can lead to lesions in the kidneys.
Substance use can lead to rhabdomyolysis, which can also happen from an opioid overdose. Rhabdomyolysis is the deterioration of muscles from the toxins in drugs. As these muscles deteriorate, myoglobin is released into the bloodstream. Large amounts of myoglobin can damage the kidneys and result in kidney failure. While it is a rare condition, 46% of the cases were due to drug and alcohol use.
Because of substance use, many problems arise when the kidneys aren’t working correctly. As a result, they may be unable to regulate hormones in other body parts.
So, what does renal failure look like?
Kidney Failure Symptoms
The symptoms of kidney failure will differ from person to person. Some of the common early symptoms can include:
- Itchy skin
- Muscle cramps and weakness
- Joint pain
- Infrequent urination
- Kidney pain
- Memory issues or confusion
- Swelling of the extremities
If someone has any of these symptoms alongside a fever, it may be wise to reach out to a doctor to check for acute kidney failure.
How to Prevent Kidney Failure
There are a few ways to prevent kidney failure. One of the most important things someone can do for their kidneys is to drink plenty of water. Some other ways to prevent kidney failure include the following:
- Reduce the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Regular exercise
- Reduce salt intake
- Don’t smoke cigarettes
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Manage blood sugar and blood pressure
- Eat foods low in sugar and cholesterol
Other ways to prevent kidney failure exist, but the most important is to stop drinking or using drugs.
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