They Go Together… Sometimes 

I’m certain you’ve already read about Covid-19 causing Acute Kidney Injury (AKI). To the best of our knowledge, it’s airborne which means the lungs are involved. But did you know there’s a correlation between the lungs and the kidneys?

Think of it this way. You know Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) can be the cause of diabetes (sigh, that’s me) or hypertension (high blood pressure). You also know that hypertension can be the cause of CKD (sigh, that’s me again.) Well, AKI can be the cause of Acute Lung Disease (ALI) and ALI can be the cause of Acute Kidney Disease.

I know I just blindsided you with a new medical term, so let’s find out just what ALI is.  I went to The National Organization for Rare Disorders at https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/acute-respiratory-distress-syndrome/ for what turned out to be a rather comprehensive answer:

“Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a type of severe, acute lung dysfunction affecting all or most of both lungs that occurs as a result of illness or injury. Although it is sometimes called adult respiratory distress syndrome, it may also affect children. ARDS is a buildup of fluid in the small air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. This makes it difficult for oxygen to get into the bloodstream.”

Ah, so ALI and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) are one and the same. That should make finding information about it a bit easier.

We’ve just learned that ALI can cause AKI and vice-versa, but what can cause ALI beside Covid-19? This list is from the Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ards/symptoms-causes/syc-20355576. Notice they do include COVID-19 as a cause of ARDS.

  • “Sepsis. The most common cause of ARDS is sepsis, a serious and widespread infection of the bloodstream.
  • Inhalation of harmful substances. Breathing high concentrations of smoke or chemical fumes can result in ARDS, as can inhaling (aspirating) vomit or near-drowning episodes.
  • Severe pneumonia. Severe cases of pneumonia usually affect all five lobes of the lungs.
  • Head, chest or other major injury. Accidents, such as falls or car crashes, can directly damage the lungs or the portion of the brain that controls breathing.
  • Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). People who have severe COVID-19 may develop ARDS.
  • Others. Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), massive blood transfusions and burns.”

We can probably guess that one of the symptoms of ALI or ARDS is breathlessness, but let’s see if there are any others. I decided to go to Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/health/acute-respiratory-distress-syndrome#symptoms for this information. Yep, breathlessness is not the only symptom of ARDS.

  • “labored and rapid breathing
  • muscle fatigue and general weakness
  • low blood pressure
  • discolored skin or nails
  • a dry, hacking cough
  • a fever
  • headaches
  • a fast pulse rate
  • mental confusion”

This is not looking good at all. I’m wondering how ALI is treated now. The American Lung Association at https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/ards/ards-treatment-and-recovery was detailed in explaining.

Ventilator support

All patients with ARDS will require extra oxygen. Oxygen alone is usually not enough, and high levels of oxygen can also injure the lung. A ventilator is a machine used to open airspaces that have shut down and help with the work of breathing. The ventilator is connected to the patient through a mask on the face or a tube inserted into the windpipe.

Prone positioning

ARDS patients are typically in bed on their back. When oxygen and ventilator therapies are at high levels and blood oxygen is still low, ARDS patients are sometimes turned over on their stomach to get more oxygen into the blood. This is called proning and may help improve oxygen levels in the blood for a while. It is a complicated task and some patients are too sick for this treatment.

Sedation and medications to prevent movement

To relieve shortness of breath and prevent agitation, the ARDS patient usually needs sedation. Sometimes added medications called paralytics are needed up front to help the patient adjust to the ventilator. These medications have significant side effects and their risks and benefits must be continuously monitored.

Fluid management

Doctors may give ARDS patients a medication called a diuretic to increase urination in hopes of removing excess fluid from the body to help prevent fluid from building up in the lungs. This must be done carefully, because too much fluid removal can lower blood pressure and lead to kidney problems.

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)

ECMO is a very complicated treatment that takes blood outside of your body and pumps it through a membrane that adds oxygen, removes carbon dioxide and then returns the blood to your body. This is a high-risk therapy with many potential complications. It is not suitable for every ARDS patient.”

Now that we understand what ALI/ARDS is, what – in heaven’s name – does it have to do with AKI?

“Renal failure is a frequent complication of ARDS, particularly in the context of sepsis. Renal failure may be related to hypotension, nephrotoxic drugs, or underlying illness. Fluid management is complicated in this context, especially if the patient is oliguric. Multisystem organ failure, rather than respiratory failure alone, is usually the cause of death in ARDS.”

Thank you Medscape at https://www.medscape.com/answers/165139-43289/why-is-renal-failure-a-frequent-complication-of-acute-respiratory-distress-syndrome-ards for the explanation.  I think a few definitions are in order to adequately understand this explanation.

“Sepsis refers to a bacterial infection in the bloodstream or body tissues. This is a very broad term covering the presence of many types of microscopic disease-causing organisms.

Hypotension is the medical term for low blood pressure.

Nephrotoxic is toxic, or damaging, to the kidney.

(Oligoric is the adjective meaning of or pertaining to oligoria.)

Oliguria or oliguresis is the noun meaning the excretion of an abnormally small volume of urine, often as the result of a kidney disorder.”

All the above definitions were paraphrased from The Free Dictionary by Farlex, Medical Dictionary.

You probably know more than you wanted to about the connection between Covid-19, your lungs, and your kidneys than you ever intended to find out by now. Don’t be frightened, but do wear your mask and continue to social distance. Oh, and don’t forget the hand sanitizer.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

The Dye is Cast

Bet you think I made a spelling error in the title. If you’re thinking of the original phrase, you’re right. In that one, it’s spelled ‘die’. Here’s where it came from according to Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alea_iacta_est:

Alea iacta est (‘The die has been cast’) is a variation of a Latin phrase (iacta alea est [ˈjakta ˈaːlɛ.a ˈɛst]) attributed by Suetonius to Julius Caesar on January 10, 49 BCE, as he led his army across the Rubicon river in Northern Italy…. The phrase, either in the original Latin or in translation, is used in many languages to indicate that events have passed a point of no return. It is now most commonly cited with the word order changed (‘Alea iacta est’) rather than in the original phrasing….”

Uh-oh, there is in existence a phrase just like the title of today’s blog. It means the tint has been applied and can’t be changed or something like that.That this phrase with this spelling exists was a bit surprising. What I meant in the title is the dye used in contrast CTs.

Let’s back up just a bit so we can explain what a CT is. The Mayo Clinic at https://mayocl.in/3jujqdk tells us:

A computerized tomography (CT) scan combines a series of X-ray images taken from different angles around your body and uses computer processing to create cross-sectional images (slices) of the bones, blood vessels and soft tissues inside your body. CT scan images provide more-detailed information than plain X-rays do.”

I’ll be having one with contrast this afternoon. You know we, as CKD patients, have been warned not to allow that contrast into our bodies. Let’s find out why and then I’ll tell you why I am allowing it. The contrast is the dye in the title of today’s blog.

“In a CT scan, dense substances like bones are easy to see. But soft tissues don’t show up as well. They may look faint in the image. To help them appear clearly, you may need a special dye called a contrast material. They block the X-rays and appear white on the scan, highlighting blood vessels, organs, or other structures.Contrast materials are usually made of iodine or barium sulfate. You might receive these drugs in one or more of three ways:

  • Injection: The drugs are injected directly into a vein. This is done to help your blood vessels, urinary tract, liver, or gallbladder stand out in the image.
  • Orally: Drinking a liquid with the contrast material can enhance scans of your digestive tract, the pathway of food through your body.
  • Enema: If your intestines are being scanned, the contrast material can be inserted in your rectum.

After the CT scan, you’ll need to drink plenty of fluids to help your kidneys remove the contrast material from your body.”Thank you, WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/cancer/what-is-a-ct-scan#2 for the above information.

Of course, now we need to know why we shouldn’t be having this contrast material. Radiology Affiliates Imagining at https://4rai.com/blog/can-contrast-hurt-my-kidneys, a new site for me but one that seems very thorough, explains that we just don’t know for sure:

“…. Unhealthy kidneys, though, may be slower and less efficient when it comes to clearing the contrast from the blood. While the medical community has not yet determined exactly how contrast dye causes kidney problems, they think it has to do with this slow clearance of the dyes from the body.”

Well, what problems can contrast dye cause for our kidneys? I went right to the National Kidney Foundation at https://bit.ly/2YL7RXv  for an answer to this question

“What is Contrast Induced Nephropathy (CIN)?

CIN is a rare disorder and occurs when kidney problems are caused by the use of certain contrast dyes. In most cases contrast dyes used in tests, such as CT (computerized tomography) and angiograms, have no reported problems. About 2 percent of people receiving dyes can develop CIN. However, the risk for CIN can increase for people with diabetes, a history of heart and blood diseases, and chronic kidney disease (CKD)….The risk of CIN in people with both CKD and diabetes is 20 to 50 percent.

CIN is associated with a sharp decrease in kidney function over a period of 48-72 hours. The symptoms can be similar to those of kidney disease, which include feeling more tired, poor appetite, swelling in the feet and ankles, puffiness around the eyes, or dry and itchy skin. In many cases, CIN is reversible and people can recover. However, in some cases, CIN can lead to more serious kidney problems and possible heart and blood vessel problems

What is Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis (NSF)?

NSF is a rare but serious disease affecting skin and other organs that has been found in some patients with advanced CKD after exposure to gadolinium-containing contrast dyes that are used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). NSF appears to affect about 4 percent of patients with advanced CKD. People with acute kidney injury (AKI) are also at higher risk. NSF has not been reported in people with mild kidney damage or normal kidney function.

NSF can be painful, debilitating, or even fatal. Symptoms and signs of NSF can include burning and itching of the skin, red or dark patches on the skin, joint stiffness, or muscle weakness. The disease can develop within 24 hours up to around 3 months….  delay in excretion [of this drug] is thought to be one the main reasons why NSF may happen.”

Notice that both possible effects of using contrast dye with kidney disease are rare.

So why am I having the contrast dye when I’ve been advised not to? My oncology team needs to see if the cancer has returned and, if it has, how badly. I told them at the beginning of my treatment to spare my kidneys as much as possible. But, in this case, I don’t want them to spare my kidneys so much that I end up dead of cancer.

There are two kinds of dye used, one less harmful to the kidneys than the other. I believe that’s the one that is used on me. It is also reduced in order to save me from any possible further kidney damage. Most importantly, my creatinine level is measured before administering the contrast dye. After a year and a half of this, my kidneys are doing just as well as they were doing before I started allowing contrast dye.

This is my story; remember, everyone is different and talk this over with your nephrologist before you agree to contrast dye. My nephrologist and I agreed that I needed to be alive more than I needed to save my kidneys.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Not Your New Age Crystals 

I was perusing the Facebook Chronic Kidney Disease online support groups as I usually do in the morning when I ran across a post that caught my eye. The person posting wanted to know if he were going to die because he had crystals in his urine. I’d never thought about that before. He sounded really scared, so I decided to take a look at this condition.

First of all, some basic information from Study.com at https://bit.ly/34n3W6H:

“Crystals in the urine is known as crystalluria. Sometimes crystals are found in healthy people and other times they are indicators of organ dysfunction, the presence of urinary tract stones of a like composition (known as urolithiasis), or an infection in the urinary tract.”

Ummm, I wanted a bit more information so I turned to Healthline.com at https://www.healthline.com/health/urine-crystals.

“Crystals can be found in the urine of healthy individuals. They may be caused by minor issues like a slight excess of protein or vitamin C. Many types of urine crystals are relatively harmless.

In some cases, however, urine crystals can be indicators of a more serious underlying condition. Symptoms that would indicate a more serious condition could include:

  • fever
  • severe abdominal pain
  • blood in the urine
  • jaundice
  • Fatigue”

Serious conditions? What does that mean? The organ dysfunction Study.com mentioned? Which organs? Urolithiasis? An infection? Can you die from any of these?

Time to slow down. Since this is a Chronic Kidney Disease blog, let’s start with the kidneys.

“Crystal-induced acute kidney injury (AKI) is caused by the intratubular precipitation of crystals, which results in obstruction. Crystal-induced AKI most commonly occurs as a result of acute uric acid nephropathy and following the administration of drugs or toxins that are poorly soluble or have metabolites that are poorly soluble in urine …. Other drugs or medications may be metabolized to insoluble products such as oxalate (ethylene glycol, vitamin C), which are associated with precipitation of calcium oxalate crystals within tubular lumens and kidney injury.”

Thank you UptoDate.com at https://bit.ly/3j3BT0k for this information, although we’ll need some explanation in order to understand it. I get it that crystals can produce obstruction in the tubules (Wikipedia: The renal tubule is the portion of the nephron containing the tubular fluid filtered through the glomerulus), rather than being passed out of the body in the urine. It makes sense that if the crystals do produce obstruction, the urine may back up… right into the kidneys. That’s when you have the AKI. Remember, this in not chronic. The condition remains until it’s remedied, but it can be remedied.

What about urolithiasis? I must thank the National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/hydronephrosis for their easily understood information about a condition called hydronephrosis which will explain how both urolithiasis and/or an infection would affect your kidneys.

“Hydronephrosis is the swelling of a kidney due to a build-up of urine. It happens when urine cannot drain out from the kidney to the bladder from a blockage or obstruction. (Gail here: such as the blockage caused by crystals which results in AKI.) Hydronephrosis can occur in one or both kidneys.

The main function of the urinary tract is to remove wastes and fluid from the body. The urinary tract has four parts: the kidneys, the ureters, the bladder and urethra. The urine is formed when the kidneys filter blood and remove excess waste materials and fluid. Urine collects into a part of the kidney called the renal pelvis. From the renal pelvis, the urine travels down a narrow tube called the ureter into the bladder. The bladder slowly fills up with urine, which empties from the body through another small tube called the urethra. Hydronephrosis occurs when there is either a blockage of the outflow of urine, or reverse flow of urine already in the bladder (called reflux) that can cause the renal pelvis to become enlarged.

Hydronephrosis may or may not cause symptoms. The main symptom is pain, either in the side and back (known as flank pain), abdomen or groin. Other symptoms can include pain during urination, other problems with urination (increased urge or frequency, incomplete urination, incontinence), nausea and fever. These symptoms depend on the cause and severity of urinary blockage.

How is Hydronephrosis Caused?
Hydronephrosis is usually caused by another underlying illness or risk factor. Causes of hydronephrosis include, but are not limited to, the following illnesses or risk factors:

  • Kidney stone
  • Congenital blockage (a defect that is present at birth)
  • Blood clot
  • Scarring of tissue (from injury or previous surgery)
  • Tumor or cancer (examples include bladder, cervical, colon, or prostate)
  • Enlarged prostate (noncancerous)
  • Pregnancy
  • Urinary tract infection (or other diseases that cause inflammation of the urinary tract)”

Kidney stones? MedicalNewsToday at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/154193 helped us out with that one:

“Kidney stones are the result of a buildup of dissolved minerals on the inner lining of the kidneys.

They usually consist of calcium oxalate but may be composed of several other compounds.

Kidney stones can grow to the size of a golf ball while maintaining a sharp, crystalline structure.

The stones may be small and pass unnoticed through the urinary tract, but they can also cause extreme pain as they leave the body.”

There is quite a bit more information about kidneys stones at this site. What we needed to know is that, again, it’s a buildup – as in not passed from the body via the urine – that causes kidney stones.

Will the person who posted the comment about crystals in his urine die, whether or not he develops symptoms? It seems to me that’s not necessary IF he seeks treatment and follows medical advice.

Back to Healthline, but this time at https://www.healthline.com/health/urine-crystals#prevention, for their take on this question:

“Urine crystals that aren’t caused by underlying conditions like liver disease or genetic conditions can often be prevented. In some cases, even crystalluria triggered by genetic causes can be reduced with lifestyle or diet changes.

The most effective way to prevent urine crystals is to drink more water and stay hydrated. This helps dilute the chemical concentrations in the urine, preventing crystals from forming.

You can also make certain changes in your diet. Your doctor can help you determine what changes to make based on the type of crystals that you have. They may recommend cutting back on protein, for example, or reducing foods high in oxalate (as is the case for calcium oxalate crystals).

Avoiding salty foods can also help prevent a number of different urine crystals, so eliminating processed foods can be beneficial.”

I’m going to add today’s blog to the things-I-never-knew part of my brain.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!