One Thing is Not Like the Other

I’d always thought that albuminuria and proteinuria were one and the same since the words are often use interchangeably. Guess who was wrong. While ‘uria,’ means:  

“a combining form with the meanings ‘presence in the urine’ of that specified by the initial element (albuminuria; pyuria), ‘condition of the urinary tract,’ ‘tendency to urinate as specified (polyuria).’’ 

according to Dictionary.com at https://www.dictionary.com/browse/-uria, albumin and protein are two different substances. 

I know they are closely related, but yet… still not the same. Let’s take a look at albumin: 

“Your liver makes albumin. Albumin carries substances such as hormones, medicines, and enzymes throughout your body.” 

Thank you to University of Rochester’s Medical Center’s Health Encyclopedia at bit.ly/3agVUO8 for this information. 

Wait a minute, the liver? I thought we were dealing with the kidneys. Let me think a minute. I know: we’ll go to the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. This is what I found at bit.ly/3pDfmer

“Albuminuria is a sign of kidney disease and means that you have too much albumin in your urine. Albumin is a protein found in the blood. A healthy kidney doesn’t let albumin pass from the blood into the urine. A damaged kidney lets some albumin pass into the urine. The less albumin in your urine, the better.” 

Oh, so the albumin itself doesn’t harm the kidneys, but is a sign of kidney disease. Got it. But it’s a protein. Let’s take a look at the protein part of proteinuria and see if we can figure this out. 

In What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Kidney Disease, I defined protein as: 

“Amino acids arranged in chains joined by peptide bonds to form a compound, important because some proteins are hormones, enzymes and antibodies.”   

Look at that: hormones and enzymes are mentioned in both definitions. It would make sense to define these two words now. According to my first book on Chronic Kidney Disease, 

“Hormones: Gland produced chemicals that trigger tissues to do whatever their particular job is.” 

I need some examples. Hormone.org has an extensive list.  Some hormones you might recognize are: 

  • Adrenaline 
  • Cortisol 
  • Erythropoietin 
  • Estrogen 
  • Glucagon 
  • Insulin 
  • Melatonin 
  • Oxytocin 
  • Serotonin 
  • Testosterone 
  • Vitamin D 

What about enzymes? The Merriam Webster Dictionary can help us out here. 

“any of numerous complex proteins that are produced by living cells and catalyze specific biochemical reactions at body temperatures” 

I don’t know about you, but I’m better with examples. I took a short list from MedicalNewsToday: 

  • Lipases 
  • Amylase 
  • Lactase 

These terms may look familiar from your quarterly blood tests. 

I still don’t get it. If albumin is a protein, why isn’t it considered proteinuria? MDEdge, a new site for me, but one that seems credible, explains: 

“Proteinuria and albuminuria are not the same thing. Proteinuria indicates an elevated presence of protein in the urine (normal excretion should be < 150 mg/d), while albuminuria is defined as an ‘abnormal loss of albumin in the urine.’…. Albumin is a type of plasma protein normally found in the urine in very small quantities. Albuminuria is a very common (though not universal) finding in CKD patients; is the earliest indicator of glomerular diseases, such as diabetic glomerulosclerosis; and is typically present even before a decrease in the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) or a rise in the serum creatinine…. 

Albuminuria, without or with a reduction in estimated GFR (eGFR), lasting > 3 months is considered a marker of kidney damage. There are 3 categories of persistent albuminuria…. Staging of CKD depends on both the eGFR and the albuminuria category; the results affect treatment considerations.” 

The important part to remember is that both are indicators of Chronic Kidney Disease. 

Switch of topics here. Remember KidneyX? That’s, 

“The Kidney Innovation Accelerator (KidneyX), a public-private partnership between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the American Society of Nephrology (ASN), is accelerating innovation in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of kidney diseases.”   

Well, they have an announcement for you: 

“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) announced the eight winners of the KidneyX COVID-19 Kidney Care Challenge Round 1. The $300,000 challenge has identified solutions that could reduce the transmission of coronavirus among people with kidney disease and/or reduce the risk of kidney damage among people who contract the virus. 

‘We congratulate the Round 1 winners who have highlighted approaches to patient monitoring, patient education, and vaccine distribution,’ said HHS Acting Assistant Secretary for Health Rear Admiral Felicia Collins, MD, MPH. ‘We look forward to the subsequent round of rapid-response innovation that supports COVID-19 risk reduction in kidney patients and health professionals during the pandemic.’ 

Each winner will receive $20,000 in recognition of their solution…. The KidneyX Round 2 winners will be announced in February, 2021. 

COVID-19 Kidney Care Challenge Round 1 Winners 

The following submissions were selected as winners of the COVID-19 Kidney Care Challenge Round 1: 

  • 9 Remote Monitoring Platform to Reduce COVID-19 Risk for Hemodialysis Patients 
  • Free E-Learning Platform with CKD and COVID-19 Patient Education 
  • Immediate Rooming for Patients 
  • Canopy: the Next Generation, Reusable Respirator 
  • Characterizing and Targeting Vaccine Hesitancy Among End-Stage Kidney Disease (ESKD) Patients 
  • COVID-19 in Translation: Making Patient Education Accessible to Minorities 
  • The ‘Good Humoral’ Immunity Truck and Freezer Project 
  • Development of Telemedicine-Enhanced Peritoneal Dialysis Training Protocols During COVID-1″ 

Did you know that patients were involved in these projects? 

We’ve passed a sort of milestone with SlowItDownCKD: this is the 601st blog. If there were no Covid-19, I would invite you all to my house for a Renal Diet Bar-B-Q. We know that’s not going to happen any time soon, so – please – have a special meal at your home with those you love. Wear your masks, keep six feet apart, wash your hands often, keep it to a very small gathering of those who are in your pod (Our pod is very small, just Bear and me.), but have a good time anyway. 

Until next week, 

Keep living your life! 

It Won’t Necessarily Get You High

About a million years ago, really in the 60s, I attended Hunter College of the City University of New York. Since it was located on Lexington Avenue and 68th Street, we had no campus. What we did have was a high raise building with what seemed to be to be huge elevators. They always smelled so sweet despite the number of bodies crammed in during the change of classes. Being an innocent, I couldn’t figure out why. 

One of my brothers was in the Air Force. When he came home on leave, I told him about this. He laughed. Being more worldly, he explained to me about cannabis. I wasn’t sure I believed him; that’s how innocent I was. Ah, but I realized I had noticed the same odor at parties I’d been invited to. 

Years later, a reader was offered medical marijuana and wanted to know if it would make him high. It wouldn’t. He chose to do without it then. 

When I had cancer, I was offered medical marijuana to replace the opioids I took after surgery. By this time, five decades after my college experience (or lack thereof), I was more than willing. Except… my oncologist explained that it would exacerbate the constipation I was enduring from the drugs I was already taking. I was already uncomfortable enough, so I decided against it. 

So, what is this cannabis of which I write? Surprise! Instead of my favorite dictionary, we’ll be using the Oxford Languages since it is more specific: 

“a tall plant with a stiff upright stem, divided serrated leaves, and glandular hairs. It is used to produce hemp fiber and as a drug. 

a dried preparation of the flowering tops or other parts of the cannabis plant, or a resinous extract of it ( cannabis resin), smoked or consumed, generally illegally, as a psychoactive (mind-altering) drug.” 

Hmmm, however does this make us high?  According to LiveScience at https://www.livescience.com/how-cannabis-high-works.html,  

“‘When a person smokes or inhales cannabis, THC [Gail here: THC is tetrahydrocannabinol, the part of cannabis that gives you a high.] ‘goes into your lungs and gets absorbed … into the blood,’ according to Daniele Piomelli, a professor of anatomy & neurobiology, biological chemistry, and pharmacology at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine. Edibles take [sic] slightly longer trip through the liver, where enzymes transform THC into a different compound that takes a bit longer to have an effect on people’s perception of reality.”   

Wait a minute… the liver? I’m dealing with kidneys here. 

As reported on Healio at http://bit.ly/39j7WpD , Lisa Miller Hedin, BSN, RN, mentioned the following during her speech at the American Nephrology Nurses Association National Symposium last September. By the way, “Miller Hedin, the founder and CEO of the Medical Cannabis Training Academy, has been involved for 25 years in nephrology nursing and has spent the last 5 years researching cannabis treatment options.” 

“Cannabis is mostly eliminated by the liver and excreted into stool, Miller Hedin said. ‘Very little is eliminated by kidneys or dialysis.’ Cannabis is lipid soluble and can stay in a patient’s system for 80 days, she said.” 

Well, if a bit of it “is eliminated by kidneys or dialysis,” why are Chronic Kidney Disease patients using it at all? 

The nephrologist’s guide to cannabis and cannabinoids by Rein, Joshua L. Division of Nephrology, Department of Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York, USA at http://bit.ly/39mfA2R gave me more insight.  

“Cannabis (marijuana, weed, pot, ganja, Mary Jane…) is the most commonly used federally illicit drug in the United States. As of December 2019, 33 states and the District of Columbia have medical cannabis programs. Eleven states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational use. Several countries worldwide have legalized recreational use whereas many others have medical cannabis and decriminalization laws. The prevalence of cannabis use more than doubled between 2001 and 2013 in the United States… particularly among people over the age of 50 and even more so among those over 65 years …. These age groups are enriched with chronic illness including chronic kidney disease (CKD) that is associated with excess morbidity and mortality ….” 

Read that last line again. This time I did go to my favorite dictionary, the Merriam-Webster at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/morbidity for a specific definition – or definitions in this case – of morbidity, 

“1: the quality or state of being morbid especially: an attitude, quality, or state of mind marked by excessive gloom…  

2: a diseased state or symptom: ill health 

3: the incidence of disease: the rate of illness (as in a specified population or group) 
    also: the incidence of complications or undesirable side effects following surgery or medical                        treatment” 

I get it. We have pain. Cannabis can alleviate it without the use of opioids. But don’t necessarily expect to get high.     

Dr. Peter Grinspoon tells us via Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publishing at  https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/medical-marijuana-2018011513085,   

“Least controversial is the extract from the hemp plant known as CBD (which stands for cannabidiol) because this component of marijuana has little, if any, intoxicating properties. Marijuana itself has more than 100 active components. THC (which stands for tetrahydrocannabinol) is the chemical that causes the ‘high’ that goes along with marijuana consumption. CBD-dominant strains have little or no THC, so patients report very little if any alteration in consciousness.” 

Healthline (Remember them?) at https://www.healthline.com/health/does-cbd-get-you-high#thc seems to have the definitive word on this: 

“CBD can have several positive effects. Some of these research-backed uses of CBD even suggest it may help you feel relaxed. That can feel a bit like a high, though it’s not intoxicating…. 

Research suggests CBD is beneficial for relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression. It might also ease inflammation and pain….  

The World Health Organization says CBD is safe. However, more research is still needed to understand the full spectrum of effects and possible uses. 

Despite general acceptance, some people may experience some side effects when they take CBD, especially at high concentrations. These side effects can include: 

diarrhea 

mild nausea 

dizziness 

excessive fatigue 

dry mouth 

If you take any prescription medications, talk with your doctor before using CBD. Some medicines may be less beneficial because of CBD. They could also interact and cause unintended side effects.” 

Reminder – cannabis is not legal in all states. 

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!