Two or More

Time for another reader question, but first, let’s pay attention to what day today is. Many people see today as the day for bar-b-ques or backyard ball games (or, at least, they did before Covid 19). When I married Bear a little more than seven years ago, he explained about Memorial Day. I knew it was to honor those who died protecting us, but it was so much more meaningful when explained by a veteran… someone who didn’t die protecting us and lived on to meet me and marry me. So give some quiet thoughts to these men and woman today, will you?

Now, the question. This reader has both lupus like immune mediated glomerular nephritis and Wegeners vasculitis with kidney involvement. Her question is how does she handle both?  And, here I thought I had it bad with pancreatic cancer (now gone), Chronic Kidney Disease, diabetes, and a whole host of what I consider lesser diseases!

Starting slowly is a must here since I am like a fish out of water with these two diseases. According to the MayoClinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/granulomatosis-with-polyangiitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351088,

”Granulomatosis with polyangiitis is an uncommon disorder that causes inflammation of the blood vessels in your nose, sinuses, throat, lungs and kidneys.

Formerly called Wegener’s granulomatosis, this condition is one of a group of blood vessel disorders called vasculitis. It slows blood flow to some of your organs. The affected tissues can develop areas of inflammation called granulomas, which can affect how these organs work.

Early diagnosis and treatment of granulomatosis with polyangiitis might lead to a full recovery. Without treatment, the condition can be fatal.”

Whoa! Not good. Let’s see how it’s treated. The Cleveland Clinic at https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4757-granulomatosis-with-polyangiitis-gpa-formerly-called-wegeners/management-and-treatment tells us,

“People with GPA who have critical organ system involvement are generally treated with corticosteroids [Gail here: commonly just called steroids] combined with another immunosuppressive medication such as cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan ®) or rituximab (Rituxan®). In patients who have less severe GPA, corticosteroids and methotrexate can be used initially. The goal of treatment is to stop all injury that is occurring as a result of GPA. If disease activity can be completely ‘turned off,’ this is called ‘remission.’ Once it is apparent that the disease is improving, doctors slowly reduce the corticosteroid dose and eventually hope to discontinue it completely. When cyclophosphamide is used, it is only given until the time of remission (usually around 3 to 6 months), after which time it is switched to another immunosuppressive agent, such as methotrexate, azathioprine (Imuran®), or mycophenolate mofetil (Cellcept®) to maintain remission. The treatment duration of the maintenance immunosuppressive medication may vary between individuals. In most instances, it is given for a minimum of 2 years before consideration is given to slowly reduce the dose toward discontinuation.”

Okay, got it. Now let’s take a look at lupus like immune mediated glomerular nephritis. MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=8064 reminds us about lupus:

Lupus: A chronic inflammatory disease that is caused by autoimmunity. Patients with lupus have in their blood unusual antibodies that are targeted against their own body tissues. Lupus can cause disease of the skin, heartlungs, kidneys, joints, and nervous system. The first symptom is a red (or dark), scaly rash on the nose and cheeks, often called a butterfly rash because of its distinctive shape. As inflammation continues, scar tissue may form, including keloid scarring in patients prone to keloid formation. The cause of lupus is unknown, although heredity, viruses, ultraviolet light, and drugs may all play a role. Lupus is more common in women than in men, and although it occurs in all ethnic groups, it is most common in people of African descent. Diagnosis is made through observation of symptoms, and through testing of the blood for signs of autoimmune activity. Early treatment is essential to prevent progression of the disease. A rheumatologist can provide treatment for lupus, and this treatment has two objectives: treating the difficult symptoms of the disease and treating the underlying autoimmune activity. It may include use of steroids [Gail here: Remember they’re used in treating this reader’s other disease, too.] and other anti-inflammatory agents, antidepressants and/or mood stabilizers, intravenous immunoglobulin, and, in cases in which lupus involves the internal organs, chemotherapy.

But our reader has lupus LIKE immune mediated glomerular nephritis, so she may need to deal with the symptoms, but not the treatment. Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immune-mediated_inflammatory_diseases informs us,

“An immune-mediated inflammatory disease (IMID) is any of a group of conditions or diseases that lack a definitive etiology, but which are characterized by common inflammatory pathways leading to inflammation, and which may result from, or be triggered by, a dysregulation of the normal immune response. All IMIDs can cause end organ damage, and are associated with increased morbidity and/or mortality.”

That’s as close as I could get to the definition of immune mediated.  We know that glomerular means of or about the glomerulus. Dictionary.com at https://www.dictionary.com/browse/glomerular helped me out here:

“Also called Malpighian tuft. a tuft of convoluted capillaries in the nephron of a kidney, functioning to remove certain substances from the blood before it flows into the convoluted tubule.”

And nephritis? After a decade of writing this blog, we probably all know that’s an inflammation of the nephrons.

Let’s combine the pieces to see what we get.  The nephron’s glomeruli are inflamed in the same way lupus inflames the organs. Remember that GPA also causes inflammation. (By the way, this is the perfect point in the blog to remind you I am not a doctor and have never claimed to be one.)

But how is it treated? Here’s where I admit defeat. There is quite a bit of information available on Lupus, Lupus Nephritis, and the like. But I could not find anything that includes ‘Lupus like.’

The commonality between the two diseases seems to be inflammation. But isn’t that at the root of all Chronic Kidney Disease? I admit to being surprised twice while writing this particular blog:

  • GPA was called by its older name by the doctor.
  • The dearth of treatment information for lupus like immune mediated glomerular nephritis.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

I Never Knew

I’ve already mentioned that I read a lot while undergoing chemotherapy for my pancreatic cancer. I don’t have the energy for much else, although I do find my energy slowly increasing day by day. Often, I come across words or terms that are new to me as I read. One such term is ‘hypertensive nephrosclerosis.’ That’s a mouthful, so let’s start slowly.

‘Hypertensive’ is not a problem since we know that hyper means,

hyper– a prefix appearing in loanwords from Greek, where it meant “over,” usually implying excess or exaggeration (hyperbole); on this model used, especially as opposed to hypo-, in the formation of compound words (hyperthyroid).”

Thank you, Dictionary.com at https://www.dictionary.com/browse/hyper-. A little reminder: a prefix is a group of letters added at the beginning of a word which changes its meaning. Aren’t you glad I was an English teacher for over forty years?

You’ve probably already figured out that ‘tensive’ has to do with some kind of tension. According to Dictionary.com again, but this time at https://www.dictionary.com/browse/tensive?s=ts, it means,

adjective

stretching or straining”

That is a sort of tension, so you’re right. Add the prefix to the root word and suffix and you get ‘hypertension.’ Maybe a little grammar lesson would help here. A suffix is a group of letters added at the end of a word that change its meaning by expressing tendency, disposition, function, connection, etc. (By the way, some of this was taken from – yep – Dictionary.com again. This time at https://www.dictionary.com/browse/-ive?s=t.) What else? Oh, yes, ‘root.’ That’s the main part of the word; in this word, it’s tens. I know, I know, you didn’t come here for a grammar lesson.

Good thing ‘nephrosclerosis’ is a compound word. We know all about ‘nephro’ since it means kidney. And ‘sclerosis?’ That means hardening. This is a good point to mention this can be fatal. A former colleague recently died of sclerosis.

So ‘nephrolsclerosis’ is a hardening of the kidneys. Let’s check that out just to be sure. According to MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=4533:

 Nephrosclerosis: A progressive disease of the kidneys that results from sclerosis (hardening) of the small blood vessels in the kidneys. Nephrosclerosis is most commonly associated with hypertension or diabetes and can lead to kidney failure.

With me so far? Just one more step, let’s add ‘hypertensive’ to ‘nephrosclerosis.’ Emedicine at https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/244342-overview tells us,

“The term hypertensive nephrosclerosis has traditionally been used to describe a clinical syndrome characterized by long-term essential hypertension, hypertensive retinopathy, left ventricular hypertrophy, minimal proteinuria, and progressive renal insufficiency. Most cases are diagnosed based solely on clinical findings….”

Okay, let’s break down the definition of what we just added together to understand this term. You already know what ‘hypertension’ and ‘proteinuria’ are from reading my blogs. If you forgot, use the click throughs in the above definition. That leaves ‘hypertensive retinopathy’ and ‘left ventricular hypertrophy’ since we also know what ‘progressive renal insufficiency’ is.

‘Hypertensive retinopathy’ is summarized by DoveMed, a new site for me whose stated mission is

“We provide reliable unbiased medical information to healthcare consumers and providers by leveraging our unique ecosystem of world class products and services.”

at https://www.dovemed.com/article-synonyms/stage-4-hypertensive-retinopathy/ in this manner:

  • “Hypertensive Retinopathy (HR) refers to abnormal changes of the retina that is located in the back of the eye, due to chronic hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • The retinal arteries are autoregulated, meaning they can control their own shape based on changes in systemic blood pressure. However, at extremely high blood pressures, such as a blood pressure of 140/110 mmHg or over, they are unable to autoregulate. This can result in retinal complications
  • Depending on the severity of the signs and symptoms, Hypertensive Retinopathy can be classified to 4 stages – stage 1, 2, 3, and 4. Stage 1 Hypertensive Retinopathy has mild signs and symptoms, whereas Stage 4 Hypertensive Retinopathy has severe signs and symptoms
  • These changes typically occur in individuals who have had very high blood pressure for several years. The signs and symptoms of Hypertensive Retinopathy may include leakage of fats from the blood vessels, retinal edema (fluid in the retina), and swelling of the optic nerves
  • Some of the complications can include lack of oxygen delivered to the retina, as well as swelling of the macula and optic nerve that can result in the vision being affected
  • The treatment typically consists of controlling systemic hypertension with medications. Prognosis is generally good for individuals with stage 1 or 2 Hypertensive Retinopathy”

That leaves ‘left ventricular hypertrophy.’ Have no fear! The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/left-ventricular-hypertrophy/symptoms-causes/syc-20374314 is here to help us out:

“Left ventricular hypertrophy is enlargement and thickening (hypertrophy) of the walls of your heart’s main pumping chamber (left ventricle).

Left ventricular hypertrophy can develop in response to some factor — such as high blood pressure or a heart condition — that causes the left ventricle to work harder. As the workload increases, the muscle tissue in the chamber wall thickens, and sometimes the size of the chamber itself also increases. The enlarged heart muscle loses elasticity and eventually may fail to pump with as much force as needed.

Left ventricular hypertrophy is more common in people who have uncontrolled high blood pressure. But no matter what your blood pressure is, developing left ventricular hypertrophy puts you at higher risk of a heart attack and stroke.

Treating high blood pressure can help ease your symptoms and may reverse left ventricular hypertrophy.”

Adding all this information together, it’s clear that hypertensive blood pressure is going to do you no good in any way. So what do we do to avoid high blood pressure? That’s right! And the CDC backs you up. Take a look at https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/prevent.htm.

“Prevent High Blood Pressure

….Eat a Healthy Diet

Choose healthy meal and snack options to help you avoid high blood pressure and its complications. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Talk with your health care team about eating a variety of foods rich in potassium, fiber, and protein and lower in salt (sodium) and saturated fat. For many people, making these healthy changes can help keep blood pressure low and protect against heart disease and stroke.

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan is a healthy diet plan with a proven record of helping people lower their blood pressure….

Visit the CDC’s Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity website to learn more about healthy eating and nutrition.

Keep Yourself at a Healthy Weight

Having overweight or obesity increases your risk for high blood pressure. To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, doctors often calculate your body mass index (BMI). If you know your weight and height, you can calculate your BMI at CDC’s Assessing Your Weight website. Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to assess body fat.

Talk with your health care team about ways to reach a healthy weight, including choosing healthy foods and getting regular physical activity.

Be Physically Active

Physical activity can help keep you at a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking or bicycling, every week. That’s about 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Children and adolescents should get 1 hour of physical activity every day.

Visit the website for CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity to learn about ways you can be physically active.

Do Not Smoke

Smoking raises your blood pressure and puts you at higher risk for heart attack and stroke. If you do not smoke, do not start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you quit.

For more information about tobacco use and quitting, see CDC’s Smoking and Tobacco Use Web site.

Limit How Much Alcohol You Drink

Do not drink too much alcohol, which can raise your blood pressure. Men should have no more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day, and women should have no more than 1 alcoholic drink per day. Visit the CDC’s Alcohol and Public Health website for more information.

Get Enough Sleep

Getting enough sleep is important to your overall health, and enough sleep is part of keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy. Not getting enough sleep on a regular basis is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke…. Visit CDC’s Sleep and Sleep Disorders website for resources on how to get better sleep.”

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

James’s Kidney Transplant Wasn’t Preemptive

Last week, the third week of National Kidney Month, Kevin Fowler told us his story of the journey to his preemptive kidney transplant. This week, the fourth of National Kidney Month, James will tell us of his journey to a non preemptive kidney transplant. In case you were wondering, James and I met at an AAKP meeting in Tampa several years ago and just never lost contact. But let’s allow Uncle Jim (as he prefers to be called) tell his story.

My name is James Myers. I live in Hammond, IN. I am an ESRD & PKD patient. I was lucky enough to have a transplant on April 27th, 2016. I write to you today to tell you my story, as well as my experiences with polycystic kidney disease. At the age of 25, I went into the hospital with chest pain. From a simple x-ray, I was diagnosed with PKD.

I have lost five members of my family to PKD, including my dad. Because of my family’s history, I was immediately referred to Dr. Hellman, a nephrologist at Indiana University Health. He promptly put me on high blood pressure medication and a renal diet. I faithfully followed up at the kidney clinic every six months and took my medicine. I did the best I could do to stay on the kidney diet. There is no cure for PKD, and at that time, there was very little they could do for me.

I tried to ignore my condition and carry on with my life, but in reality, the fact is that after I was diagnosed with kidney failure, all of my decisions were colored by my impending death, or so I thought. It was a factor in a failed marriage, a legal career being cut short, and two professorships at two different colleges lost. I loved being with the kids.

Every step that I took from the date of my diagnosis was for one reason and one reason only; to avoid dialysis. I was able to do that for over 30 years, but in 2012. I could not delay it any longer. I began passing out, at home, in my classroom, everywhere. Many times after passing out, I was fearful I would be unable to reach the phone and call for help. I lived alone, and this caused a great deal of anxiety. At the age of 58, on July 28th, I started what would be a four year stretch on dialysis. My schedule was three days a week, four hours per session.

I was very, very angry when I first went on dialysis. After watching my dad die, I felt this was the beginning of the end. I had dreaded this for a long time. My dad passed after a short five years on dialysis, and I felt I was on the same life path as he. My days were numbered. I observed that many of my clinic mates came to the center by ambulance, were brought in on a gurney, walker, or wheelchair. Many used a cane. Many were diabetic on top of ESRD, and had suffered amputations. Five people were 90 years old or more. One woman was autistic and had the mentality of a 10 year old.

One of my dearest friends, Maureen O’Brien, looked after me. She forced me to open my eyes. I was able to drive and walk around on my own power. I had a fairly clear mind. I was taking classes toward two MBAs and was teaching other MBA candidates at the same time. Maureen had been dealing with kidney disease since the age of six. Every step along the way she had to argue and fight with healthcare officials. She had three transplants. Maureen provided encouragement and a bright, vivid smile. She provided a light on my path.

I began to understand my role. I made a conscious choice. I wanted to help my fellow Kidney Patients. I wanted to use my loud voice to help others. I wanted to advocate for my clinic mates who could not advocate for themselves. I did not like the way the dialysis clinics, the government, and the care staff pushed around or neglected my fellow Kidney Patients. The last straw for me was when they began to push for the cutting of funds to dialysis patients and clinics. I looked around the room and I realized with my health and skill set, I was the only one who could help. It occurred to me that if i did not accept this responsibility, maybe no one else would.

I joined as many kidney organizations as I could, I applied to be an advocate for as many groups as I could. I became very, very active on social media. I wrote petitions, I blogged, I contacted newspapers, I spoke and visited with my Congressman and Senators. I spoke frequently. To this day, I do whatever I have to do to bring about change for my fellow Kidney Patients. My life has purpose now. I like to think that my dad & Maureen would be proud of me.

I know that many of you are not used to me writing this way. I feel it is my responsibility to lift spirits, so I rarely talk about personal issues anymore. It is my hope to inspire others to likewise advocate for our fellow Kidney Patients. My friend Gail asked me to write my story out. Gail has been very candid with me, so I felt as she advocates for us, I should be just as candid with her & all of you. The point of this Kidney Story is to raise hope and to thank Gail and all of you that advocate for Kidney Patients.

PKD affects approximately 600, 000 Americans and 12.5 million people worldwide. It is one of the most inherited diseases on the planet. Polycystic Kidney Disease is more common than Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell Anemia, Muscular Dystrophy, Hemophilia, Downs Syndrome, and Hodgkins Disease combined. PKD is one of the four leading causes of Kidney Failure. It costs the federal government in excess of $2 Billion annually in Medicare and Medicaid costs for dialysis, transportation and related treatment. There is no cure.

Sincerely,

James Myers
2019 Advocate of the Year for the NKF
BOD and Ambassador for the AAKP
Ambassador for the Chronic Disease Coalition
Ambassador for the NKF of Indiana
Ambassador for the American Kidney Fund
Ambassador for the PKD Foundation
Ambassador for the DPC

Thank you, Uncle Jim, for your generous sharing and even more generous advocacy.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Dax’s Journey to Dialysis Friendly Clothing

I met Dax Francis a few years ago in a Facebook CKD & Dialysis Support page. Slowly, I became aware that he produces dialysis clothing… and that fascinated me. Then it dawned on me that you should know such clothing exists, although Dax is not the only one who produces them. I asked him if he would write a guest blog explaining how this all started and where he got the idea. He promptly agreed and that will be today’s blog, the first blog in March, National Kidney Month.

Before we read Dx’s blog, some of us may need a reminder of what FSGS is. According to The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fsgs/symptoms-causes/syc-20354693:

“Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) is a disease in which scar tissue develops on the parts of the kidneys that filter waste from the blood (glomeruli). FSGS can be caused by a variety of conditions.

FSGS is a serious condition that can lead to kidney failure, for which the only treatment options are dialysis or kidney transplant. Treatment options for FSGS depend on the type you have.”

I think we’re ready for Dax’s guest blog now.

My name is Dax Francis. I was diagnosed with FSGS as a young man, age twelve, and it was as if overnight school, sports, and friends were replaced with doctors, hospitals, and treatments. I struggled to find my place in this new body that could no longer do the things that had defined my life. Shortly after I graduated from high school, I had to begin dialysis which set me down a dark path of loneliness, depression, and sadness.

When I began dialysis I wanted everything to end. This was not the life I had ever wanted, and I believed that all my abilities, my skills, and talents were hidden behind a treatment filled with pain. The strength it took to live in that struggle was too much, and I put myself in situations where everything could have and should have ended. I was lost, and then I got that call saying it was my turn for a kidney transplant.

This was it! This is my moment to start my life! And then FSGS recurred shortly after surgery, and I was never able to leave treatment.

Devastation, utter devastation. I could not let my donor down though and felt a need to try to pursue my life once more despite the struggle. I enrolled in school for Social Work. I wanted to use my experiences to help those who may be in similar situations as myself, and I found my calling. Being able to help others and learn from those with wholly different lives and experiences than mine was the greatest gift I could have ever been given.

As I had all but finished the Social Work program, I realized that I could not be the social worker that people deserved due to my health. Being on treatment three times a week made it difficult to find work, and I rarely felt well enough to continually work. I struggled with this, feeling like I was never going to have a way to be a part of the world and the community nor was a place for me or anyone like me. This fact made me feel worthless and I dropped out of college 6 credits shy of my degree, because I thought it was pointless.

I wandered, confused, and didn’t know how to be someone who could make a difference. The wisdom I had gained from fighting every day to survive, I felt, was something special and I just wanted someone to ask me what I had learned while living in the struggle that is chronic illness. I just wanted someone to take notice of my fight and my struggle and see the person who can make a difference because of it all.

After the passing of a close friend I needed to live for both of us and put myself out there where I met someone who changed my life. I met someone who saw my fight and helped me realize that all I had been through made me capable of so much. She believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself, this enabled me to live a life that I had always dreamed of, and I was doing it all despite being on dialysis. I was able to meet the love of my life despite the struggle. It all started with putting my true self out there and not being afraid of being that true person sharing with light and love.

I enrolled back in school and finished my 6 credits finally achieving my degree. During this time the world began to change. More and more negativity seemed to be seeping into my life and I found myself in a negative space despite having everything I wanted. I needed to make a change. At the end of 2017 I committed to being positive, uplifting and to helping others the way I can. I started making videos while I was actually on dialysis just to let others know that they were not alone and that they needed to continue their fight.

The support I received from those first videos inspired me to do more with my talents and abilities and Ivye Wear was born on the morning of January 13, 2018. I wanted to provide comfort, warmth, and hope to the warriors fighting every day to survive, often with little recognition of the strength it takes to survive and live in that struggle. I wanted to provide a suit of armor for the warrior when they go into battle; whether it’s dialysis, chemotherapy, infusions, or something else entirely, and I designed comfortable, accessible clothing designed for a range of medical treatments, procedures, and devices. Sweats, Hoodies, and T-Shirts designed for warriors, by warriors. All of our clothes provide zipper access to the vital areas your caregivers need to perform treatment while you can stay warm and dignified.

I never want anyone to feel as if they don’t have a place in this world due to their illness or struggle, Ivye Wear was born to be a beacon of hope for all chronic illness patients. I believe that it is our experiences that give us the strength, wisdom, and patience to change the world.

Thank you, Dax, for your honesty and especially for the dialysis clothing.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Now What? 

Wow! It’s the last month of 2019 already. You may have noticed there was no blog post last week. That’s because I was unexpectedly hospitalized with just my iPhone on me and poor internet at the hospital not once, but twice. But I’m back in the office now.

Today is Dana’s turn to have his request filled. Although, I do wish the reader who graciously agreed to wait until after I’d recovered from major surgery to have her questions answered would contact me again. With so many people at my computer while I was hospitalized, her questions have been, er, mislaid.

Okay, Dana, back to you. Uh-oh, your messages have seemed to disappear, too. Well, I guess that’s the last time I allow anyone to use my computer. I do apologize. Please resend your questions.

Mind you all, I am not a doctor. I’m just a writer who’s taught research writing and been a Chronic Kidney Disease, stage 3 patient for 11 years. Anything I suggest – or that anyone else suggests, for that matter – should be checked with your nephrologist before you act on it

Hmmm, we have to hold off on both questions. Now what? I know. Let’s look at a rare kidney disease. Are you game? Well, will you look at that? I’ve already blogged about some of them on this list by the American Kidney Fund at https://www.kidneyfund.org/kidney-disease/other-kidney-conditions/rare-diseases/  Use the topic drop down on the right side of the blog if you’re seeking info on one of them or let me know if you’d like information about one I haven’t yet written about. Use comment on the blog so it doesn’t get lost.

Minimal change disease?  Whatever could that be? And why is it labeled in plain, laymen English rather than medical terms that we’d have to look up? Let’s find out.

According to the National Kidney Fund at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/minimal-change-disease,

“Many diseases can affect your kidney function by attacking and damaging the glomeruli, the tiny filtering units inside your kidney where blood is cleaned. The conditions that affect your glomeruli are called glomerular diseases. One of these conditions is minimal change disease (MCD). Minimal change disease is a disorder where there is damage to your glomeruli. The disease gets its name because the damage cannot be seen under a regular microscope. It can only be seen under a very powerful microscope called an electron microscope. Minimal change disease is the most common cause of nephrotic syndrome in children. It is also seen in adults with nephrotic syndrome, but is less common. Those with MCD experience the signs and symptoms of nephrotic syndrome much quicker than they would with other glomerular diseases.”

This is so logical it makes me wonder why the rest of medicine isn’t. I was referring to the part about the electron microscope. Let’s slow down a bit and take a look at “nephrotic syndrome” to ensure we fully understand what this disease is about.

The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/nephrotic-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20375608 tells us,

“Nephrotic syndrome is a kidney disorder that causes your body to excrete too much protein in your urine.

Nephrotic syndrome is usually caused by damage to the clusters of small blood vessels in your kidneys that filter waste and excess water from your blood. Nephrotic syndrome causes swelling (edema), particularly in your feet and ankles, and increases the risk of other health problems.”

Got it? Okay, then back to minimal change disease. How, in heaven’s name, do you get it? Hmmm, after surfing the internet for a while, it’s become clear the medical community doesn’t yet know the cause of minimal change disease, although the following may be involved:

“The cause is unknown, but the disease may occur after or be related to:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Use of NSAIDs
  • Tumors
  • Vaccinations (flu and pneumococcal, though rare)
  • Viral infections”

Thank you MedlinePlus (part of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, which is part of the National Institutes of Health) at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000496.htm.

All right then, maybe we could move on to the symptoms. This is clearly one of those times I wish I could understand medicalese. The best I could figure out is that, while kidney function remains normal, minimal change disease leads you right into nephrotic syndrome. That is a conglomeration of symptoms, as explained by Merck Manual Consumer Version at https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/kidney-and-urinary-tract-disorders/kidney-filtering-disorders/nephrotic-syndrome?query=Minimal%20Change%20Disease#v761896:

“Early symptoms include

  • Loss of appetite
  • A general feeling of illness (malaise)
  • Puffy eyelids and tissue swelling (edema) due to excess sodium and water retention
  • Abdominal pain
  • Frothy urine

The abdomen may be swollen because of a large accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity (ascites). Shortness of breath may develop because fluid accumulates in the space surrounding the lungs (pleural effusion). Other symptoms may include swelling of the labia in women and, in men, the scrotum. Most often, the fluid that causes tissue swelling is affected by gravity and therefore moves around. During the night, fluid accumulates in the upper parts of the body, such as the eyelids. During the day, when the person is sitting or standing, fluid accumulates in the lower parts of the body, such as the ankles. Swelling may hide the muscle wasting that is progressing at the same time.

In children, blood pressure is generally low, and blood pressure may fall when the child stands up (orthostatic or postural hypotension). Shock occasionally develops. Adults may have low, normal, or high blood pressure.

Urine production may decrease, and kidney failure (loss of most kidney function) may develop if the leakage of fluid from blood vessels into tissues depletes the liquid component of blood and the blood supply to the kidneys is diminished. Occasionally, kidney failure with low urine output occurs suddenly.

Nutritional deficiencies may result because nutrients are excreted in the urine. In children, growth may be stunted. Calcium may be lost from bones, and people may have a vitamin D deficiency, leading to osteoporosis. The hair and nails may become brittle, and some hair may fall out. Horizontal white lines may develop in fingernail beds for unknown reasons.

The membrane that lines the abdominal cavity and abdominal organs (peritoneum) may become inflamed and infected. Opportunistic infections—infections caused by normally harmless bacteria—are common. The higher likelihood of infection is thought to occur because the antibodies that normally combat infections are excreted in the urine or not produced in normal amounts. The tendency for blood clotting (thrombosis) increases, particularly inside the main veins draining blood from the kidneys. Less commonly, the blood may not clot when clotting is needed, generally leading to excessive bleeding. High blood pressure accompanied by complications affecting the heart and brain is most likely to occur in people who have diabetes or systemic lupus erythematosus.”

So, while the name of the disease is written in plain language, it’s clear this is a more complicated rare kidney disease than that would suggest.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Another Kind of Kidney Disease

While I’m still recuperating, I’ve had plenty of time to read Twitter articles, among other things. One topic I’ve been reading about is lupus nephritis. I think we’ve all heard of lupus, but just in case, here’s a definition from MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=8064.

“A chronic inflammatory disease that is caused by autoimmunity. Patients with lupus have in their blood unusual antibodies that are targeted against their own body tissues. Lupus can cause disease of the skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, joints, and nervous system.”

Did you catch the mention of kidneys in the above definition? That’s where the nephritis part of the condition comes in. By now, we’re all probably tired of being reminded that ‘neph’ means relating to the kidneys (although in non-medical terms, it means relating to the clouds) and ‘itis’ means inflammation. Nuts! I just reminded you again. Let’s ignore that. So, lupus nephritis actually means

“… a kidney disorder [which] is a complication of systemic lupus erythematosus.”

Thank you to MedlinePlus at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000481.htm for the definition. Oh, “systemic lupus erythematosus” refers back to autoimmune disease. Still, the word “erythematosus” puzzled me. I finally figured it out after realizing I probably wasn’t going to get a definition since almost all the entries were for lupus erythematosus. Remember, I studied Greek & Latin roots way, way back in college. It means red and is from the Greek. I get it. Sometimes, lupus patients have a red rash in butterfly form across their face.

So, how do you develop this particular kidney disease? What better place to find out than Lupus.org at https://www.lupus.org/resources/how-lupus-affects-the-renal-kidney-system#.

“Inflammation of the nephrons, the structures within the kidneys that filter the blood, is called glomerulonephritis, or nephritis. Lupus nephritis is the term used when lupus causes inflammation in your kidneys, making them unable to properly remove waste from your blood or control the amount of fluids in your body.”

Hmmm, no lupus equals no lupus nephritis. However, if you do have lupus, you may develop lupus nephritis.

Let’s say hypothetically that you or a loved one (or even your neighbor down the block) has lupus and is concerned about developing lupus nephritis. How would they know if they were developing it? I had to look no further than the National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/lupus.

“Lupus nephritis can cause many signs and symptoms and may be different for everyone. Signs of lupus nephritis include:

  • Blood in the urine (hematuria): Glomerular disease can cause your glomeruli to leak blood into your urine. Your urine may look pink or light brown from blood.
  • Protein in the urine (proteinuria): Glomerular disease can cause your glomeruli to leak protein into your urine. Your urine may be foamy because of the protein.
  • Edema: Having extra fluid that your kidneys cannot remove that causes swelling in body parts like your legs, ankles, or around your eyes.
  • Weight gain: due to the fluid your body is not able to get rid of.
  • High blood pressure

I know these may also be the symptoms of Chronic Kidney Disease, but if you have lupus, then they may be symptoms of lupus nephritis. To make things even more complicated, there are five different kinds of lupus nephritis depending upon which part of the kidney is affected.

I was wondering about tests to diagnose lupus nephritis, like we have blood and urine tests to diagnose CKD. Healthline (Now do you see why I was so thrilled to receive their Best Kidney Blogs Award two years in a row?) at https://www.healthline.com/health/lupus-nephritis#diagnosis cleared that up.

Blood tests

Your doctor will look for elevated levels of waste products, such as creatinine and urea. Normally, the kidneys filter out these products.

24-hour urine collection

This test measures the kidney’s ability selectively to filter wastes. It determines how much protein appears in urine over 24 hours.

Urine tests

Urine tests measure kidney function. They identify levels of:

  • protein
  • red blood cells
  • white blood cells

Iothalamate clearance testing

This test uses a contrast dye to see if your kidneys are filtering properly.

Radioactive iothalamate is injected into your blood. Your doctor will then test how quickly it’s excreted in your urine. They may also directly test how quickly it leaves your blood. This is considered to be the most accurate test of kidney filtration speed.

Kidney biopsy

Biopsies are the most accurate and also most invasive way to diagnose kidney disease. Your doctor will insert a long needle through your abdomen and into your kidney. They’ll take a sample of kidney tissue to be analyzed for signs of damage.

Ultrasound

Ultrasounds use sound waves to create a detailed image of your kidney. Your doctor will look for anything abnormal in the size and shape of your kidney.

Yes, I know these are the same tests that are used to diagnose CKD, but if you have lupus, they also can diagnose lupus nephritis.

Okay, now the biggie: How do you treat it if you do have it? The MayoClinic at  https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lupus-nephritis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20446438 had some sobering news for us:

“There’s no cure for lupus nephritis. Treatment aims to:

  • Reduce symptoms or make symptoms disappear (remission)
  • Keep the disease from getting worse
  • Maintain remission
  • Avoid the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant

Conservative treatments

In general, doctors may recommend these treatments for people with kidney disease:

  • Diet changes. Limiting the amount of protein and salt in your diet can improve kidney function.
  • Blood pressure medications. Drugs called angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) can help control blood pressure. These drugs also prevent protein from leaking from the kidneys into the urine. Drugs called diuretics can help you get rid of excess fluid.

However, conservative treatment alone isn’t effective for lupus nephritis.

Immune suppressants

For severe lupus nephritis, you might take drugs that slow or stop the immune system from attacking healthy cells, such as:

  • Steroids, such as prednisone
  • Cyclosporine
  • Tacrolimus
  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Azathioprine (Imuran)
  • Mycophenolate (CellCept)
  • Rituximab (Rituxan)

When immunosuppressive therapies don’t lead to remission, clinical trials may be available for new therapies.

Treatment options for kidney failure

For people who progress to kidney failure, treatment options include:

  • Dialysis. Dialysis helps remove fluid and waste from the body, maintain the right balance of minerals in the blood, and manage blood pressure by filtering your blood through a machine.
  • Kidney transplant. You may need a new kidney from a donor if your kidneys can no longer function.”

Help! Running out of room (but we’re done anyway),

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Get the Lead Out

In case you haven’t heard yet, my youngest and her husband are having a little boy at the end of the month. I’ve noticed that, as millennials, their generation shares what they already have instead of running out to buy new as my generation – the baby boomers – did. One thing that was shared with them was a 16 year old crib in ace condition.

I thought it was painted white and got nervous about lead in the paint until I did a little digging. Luckily, the anti-lead paint laws came into existence 41 years ago in 1978.

Then I started to wonder what sustained lead exposure could do to someone with Chronic Kidney Disease and turned to one of my favorite sites to find out. According to the National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/lead-exposure-and-kidney-function,

“Having too much lead in your body can affect all the organs in your body, including the kidneys. When it affects your kidneys, medical experts call it ‘lead-related nephrotoxicity.’  (‘Nephro’ refers to your kidneys, and ‘toxicity’ refers to poison.’) Kidney damage from lead exposure is very uncommon in the United States.  In fact, most experts believe that kidney damage from lead is rare nowadays, especially in the United States and Europe.

It’s believed that lead exposure causes less than 1% of all cases of kidney failure.  It is usually related to jobs where workers are exposed to very high levels of lead, such as stained glass artists, metal smelters, and people who work in battery factories or remodel old homes. The low levels of lead found in drinking water, house paint, dirt, dust, or toys rarely causes kidney damage.

But if it does happen, it is usually only after many years of lead exposure (5 to 30 years).  Also, it is more likely to affect people who are already at risk for kidney disease, or those who already have kidney disease. In children, however, even mild exposure over many years can lead to health effects later in life, including kidney damage.”

Let’s say (Heaven forbid!) that you were among the “less than 1% of all cases of kidney failure” caused by lead exposure. How would you even know you had lead poisoning? The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at  https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/lead/health.html had an answer ready for us.

“Lead poisoning can happen if a person is exposed to very high levels of lead over a short period of time. When this happens, a person may feel:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipated
  • Tired
  • Headachy
  • Irritable
  • Loss of appetite
  • Memory loss
  • Pain or tingling in the hands and/or feet
  • Weak

Because these symptoms may occur slowly or may be caused by other things, lead poisoning can be easily overlooked. Exposure to high levels of lead may cause anemia, weakness, and kidney and brain damage. Very high lead exposure can cause death.

Lead can cross the placental barrier, which means pregnant women who are exposed to lead also expose their unborn child. Lead can damage a developing baby’s nervous system. Even low-level lead exposures in developing babies have been found to affect behavior and intelligence. Lead exposure can cause miscarriage, stillbirths, and infertility (in both men and women).

Generally, lead affects children more than it does adults. Children tend to show signs of severe lead toxicity at lower levels than adults. Lead poisoning has occurred in children whose parent(s) accidentally brought home lead dust on their clothing. Neurological effects and mental retardation have also occurred in children whose parent(s) may have job-related lead exposure.…”

Did you catch the mention of kidney disease? Now what? How is lead poisoning treated? Let’s see what another favorite site of mine, The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lead-poisoning/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354723   has to say:

“The first step in treating lead poisoning is to remove the source of the contamination. If you can’t remove lead from your environment, you might be able to reduce the likelihood that it will cause problems. For instance, sometimes it’s better to seal in rather than remove old lead paint. Your local health department can recommend ways to identify and reduce lead in your home and community. For children and adults with relatively low lead levels, simply avoiding exposure to lead might be enough to reduce blood lead levels.

Treating higher levels For more-severe cases, your doctor might recommend:

  • Chelation therapy. In this treatment, a medication given by mouth binds with the lead so that it’s excreted in urine. Chelation therapy might be recommended for children with a blood level of 45 mcg/dL or greater and adults with high blood levels of lead or symptoms of lead poisoning.
  • EDTA chelation therapy. Doctors treat adults with lead levels greater than 45 mcg/dL of blood and children who can’t tolerate the drug used in conventional chelation therapy most commonly with a chemical called calcium disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA). EDTA is given by injection.”

Is that safe for your kidneys? Uh-oh, according to WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/what-is-chelation-therapy, it may not be.

“When chelation therapy is used the right way and for the right reason, it can be safe. The most common side effect is burning in the area where you get the IV. You might also experience fever, headache, and nausea or vomiting. Chelating drugs can bind to and remove some metals your body needs, like calcium, copper, and zinc. This can lead to a deficiency in these important substances. Some people who’ve had chelation therapy also have low calcium levels in the blood and kidney damage.”

It looks like this is another case when you’ll have to present the information to your nephrologist and see what he or she advises in your particular case. If it’s a primary care doctor who is treating you for lead poisoning, be certain to tell him or her that you CKD.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

It’s Like the Sahara in There

I like my dentist, especially when he tells me something I didn’t know. When I went to see him last time, I told him my chemo experience and how dry my mouth was. I thought they might be related. He patiently gave me the same information as the Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dry-mouth/symptoms-causes/syc-20356048.

“Dry mouth, or xerostomia (zeer-o-STOE-me-uh), refers to a condition in which the salivary glands in your mouth don’t make enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. Dry mouth is often due to the side effect of certain medications or aging issues or as a result of radiation therapy for cancer. Less often, dry mouth may be caused by a condition that directly affects the salivary glands.

Saliva helps prevent tooth decay by neutralizing acids produced by bacteria, limiting bacterial growth and washing away food particles. Saliva also enhances your ability to taste and makes it easier to chew and swallow. In addition, enzymes in saliva aid in digestion.

Decreased saliva and dry mouth can range from being merely a nuisance to something that has a major impact on your general health and the health of your teeth and gums, as well as your appetite and enjoyment of food.

Treatment for dry mouth depends on the cause.”

The joke’s on me. I developed dry mouth before the radiation treatments began. At least my salivary glands weren’t having any issues of their own. It seems we discussed xerostomia at the right time.

Wait a minute. Something is pulling on my memory. Something about Chronic Kidney Disease and dry mouth. Of course, periodontics and CKD. The Journal Of Clinical Periodontology at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/action/doSearch?AllField=chronic+kidney+disease&SeriesKey=1600051x had just what I was trying to remember. By the way, this is a fascinating free online library by John Wiley, a publisher I remember well from when I worked as an educator.

“Periodontitis had significant direct effect, and indirect effect through diabetes, on the incidence of CKD. Awareness about systemic morbidities from periodontitis should be emphasized.”

In other words, if you have CKD or diabetes, make certain your dentist knows so he or she can monitor you for the beginning of periodontic problems. Just as with any other medical issue, the sooner you start treatment, the better. I can attest to this since I caught my pancreatic cancer early, which gave me a much better chance of eradicating it from my body.

The treatment for dry mouth seems simple enough, as explained by Healthline (Thank you again for the two awards!) at https://www.healthline.com/symptom/dry-mouth.

“Dry mouth is usually a temporary and treatable condition. In most cases, you can prevent and relieve symptoms of dry mouth by doing one or more of the following:

  • sipping water often
  • sucking on ice cubes
  • avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco
  • limiting your salt and sugar intake
  • using a humidifier in your bedroom when you sleep
  • taking over-the-counter saliva substitutes
  • chewing sugarless gum or sucking on sugarless hard candy
  • over- the-counter toothpastes, rinses, and mints

If your dry mouth is caused by an underlying health condition, you may require additional treatment. Ask your doctor for more information about your specific condition, treatment options, and long-term outlook.”

The sugarless gum works well for me and, as an added benefit, quelled the nausea from the radiation treatments, too. While I don’t drink or smoke, I will have an occasional half cup of coffee when I can tolerate it. I didn’t know this was something to be avoided. As both a CKD patient and a type 2 diabetic (Thanks, pancreatic cancer.), I was already avoiding salt and sugar. So, without realizing it, I was already helping myself deal with dry mouth. Lucky me.

That got me to thinking. What other problems could dry mouth cause? I went to NHS Inform at https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/mouth/dry-mouth to look for an answer. Indeed, this is a Scottish website, but a mouth is a mouth no matter where it’s located, right?

  • “a burning sensation or soreness in your mouth
  • dry lips
  • bad breath (halitosis)
  • a decreased or altered sense of taste
  • recurrent mouth infections, such as oral thrush
  • tooth decay and gum disease
  • difficulty speaking, eating or swallowing”

On a personal note, I found the halitosis embarrassing and the altered sense of taste frustrating. And here, I’d been blaming the chemo for that. Maybe it was the chemo, although my age could also be the cause of my dry mouth. I do admit that 72 could be considered “aging.” My husband orders the groceries and we now have a pantry full of food I used to love but all taste, well, funny now. Poor guy, he was just trying to get me to eat when he ordered the food. He knew calorie intake is important when you’re dealing with cancer.

I wondered what the symptoms of dry mouth were… well, other than a dry mouth, that is.

“Common symptoms include:

  • A sticky, dry feeling in the mouth
  • Frequent thirst
  • Sores in the mouth; sores or split skin at the corners of the mouth; cracked lips
  • A dry feeling in the throat
  • A burning or tingling sensation in the mouth and especially on the tongue
  • A dry, red, raw tongue
  • Problems speaking or trouble tasting, chewing, and swallowing
  • Hoarseness, dry nasal passages, sore throat
  • Bad breath

Thank you to WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/dental-health-dry-mouth#1 for the above information.

Will you look at that! Just as diabetes can cause CKD and CKD can cause diabetes, bad breath (halitosis), soreness or burning sensation in the mouth can both be symptoms of dry mouth and problems caused by dry mouth.

Let’s see now. What else can I tell you about dry mouth? DentistryIQ at https://www.dentistryiq.com/clinical/oral-cancer/article/16356305/facts-about-dry-mouth is a new site for me. They describe themselves as “… a leading source of information that helps dental professionals achieve excellence in their positions, whether that position is dentist, dental practice owner, dental hygienist, dental office manager, dental assistant, or dental school student.” I went there to find out just how many people suffer from dry mouth.

“It is estimated to affect millions of people in the United States, particularly women and the elderly…. Current research indicates that approximately one in four adults suffer from dry mouth, and this figure increases to 40 percent in populations over the age of 55….”

This was back in 2006, and unfortunately are the most current figures I could find. Please let us know if you can find more current numbers.

Personal note: Tomorrow I will be having surgery to remove the pancreatic cancerous tumor I’ve been dealing with since last February. The blogs will be posted right on time, but comments, emails, etc. probably won’t be answered for a while. I’ve been told this is an arduous surgery with a long, slow recovery period. Keep well until we can communicate again.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Which Comes First?

Periodically, a blog will actually be the response to a reader’s question. I’ve received several questions lately. The first thing I do when I receive a question is to be sure the reader understands that I am not a doctor and that no matter what I research for them, they must clear the information with their nephrologist before taking any action. Today’s question was asked by a long time reader who already understands my terms for researching for her.

That’s a pretty big build up for a common sense question. But, at least now you understand how I handle reader questions and may want to ask one (or more) of your own.

Back to the question at hand: What is the connection between PTH and creatinine and which causes a problem with the other?

What’s PTH, you ask. Let’s find out. You and your Hormones: an educational source from the Society of Endocrinology at https://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/parathyroid-hormone/ was a great deal of help here:

“Alternative names for parathyroid hormone

PTH; parathormone; parathyrin

What is parathyroid hormone?

The parathyroid glands are located in the neck, just behind the butterfly-shaped thyroid gland.

Parathyroid hormone is secreted from four parathyroid glands, which are small glands in the neck, located behind the thyroid gland. Parathyroid hormone regulates calcium levels in the blood, largely by increasing the levels when they are too low. It does this through its actions on the kidneys, bones and intestine:

  1. Bones – parathyroid hormone stimulates the release of calcium from large calcium stores in the bones into the bloodstream. This increases bone destruction and decreases the formation of new bone.
  2. Kidneys – parathyroid hormone reduces loss of calcium in urine. Parathyroid hormone also stimulates the production of active vitamin D in the kidneys.
  3. Intestine – parathyroid hormone indirectly increases calcium absorption from food in the intestine, via its effects on vitamin D metabolism

Got it? Okay then let’s remind ourselves what creatinine is. I wrote the following in last December 24th’s blog:

“A good place to start is always at the beginning. By this, I wonder if I mean the beginning of my Chronic Kidney Disease awareness advocacy as the author of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease and the blog or if I mean the basics about creatinine. Let’s combine them all. The following definition is from the book which became the earliest blogs:

Creatinine clearance: Compares the creatinine level in your urine with that in your blood to provide information about your kidney function’

Hmmm, that didn’t exactly work. Let’s try again. Bingo! It was in SlowItDownCKD 2014,

Creatinine: chemical waste product that’s produced by our muscle metabolism and to a smaller extent by eating meat. {MayoClinic.org}”

That was nine years ago, but the information remains the same today.

So now, we know what both PTH and creatinine are, but what’s the connection? According to VIVO Pathophysiology, Colorado State University at http://www.vivo.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/endocrine/thyroid/pth.html :

Suppression of calcium loss in urine: In addition to stimulating fluxes of calcium into blood from bone and intestine, parathyroid hormone puts a brake on excretion of calcium in urine, thus conserving calcium in blood. This effect is mediated by stimulating tubular reabsorption of calcium. Another effect of parathyroid hormone on the kidney is to stimulate loss of phosphate ions in urine.”

To recap so far, we know what both PTH and creatinine are and what the connection between the two is. Now we need to know if one causes the other and, if so, which.

Chronic kidney failure. Your kidneys convert vitamin D into a form that your body can use. If your kidneys function poorly, usable vitamin D may decline and calcium levels drop. Chronic kidney failure is the most common cause of secondary hyperparathyroidism.”

Thank you to the Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyperparathyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20356194 for this information.

 

Whoops! You may need a few reminders to understand the Mayo Clinic’s information, so here they are. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium properly. Calcium is necessary for strong bones and teeth. Many people don’t know it’s also necessary for blood clotting, nerves and heart. “Hyper” means over or, in this case, high as in above the necessary. Remember that when calcium or vitamin D is low, PTH rises. In my mind’s eye, I see a scale balancing the two out.

I did not find any information about PTH causing high creatinine. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any. It just means there isn’t any I could access. I found a journal site that looked promising, but it turned out to be for endocrinologists only. Too bad for us.

I do hope I’ve answered my reader’s question to her satisfaction. I know I enjoyed learning all this new information. You’re right: that’s my signal for a topic change.

“The Kidney Project is a national research initiative with a goal to create a small, surgically implanted, and free-standing bioartificial kidney to treat renal failure. RSN Founder and President Lori Hartwell catches up with Dr. Shuvo Roy who is a bioengineer professor at the University of California San Francisco to learn what is next for the Kidney Project and when clinical trials might begin. Dr. Shuvo Roy is passionate about this device that will mimic the kidneys and take the place of dialysis. Listen in to this exciting and hopeful show.

Listen in to the first conversation about the Kidney Project with Dr. Shuvo Roy.

 Learn more about the Kidney Project and Dr. Shuvo Roy

It’s an exciting time in the world of Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness right now. Even the government has acknowledged it’s time to deal with CKD patients. Keep on the lookout for more and more updates.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Platelets, Blood, and RSNHope or a Little Bit of This and a Little Bit of That

A reader from India asked me why I kept writing about chemotherapy. I explained that I have pancreatic cancer and that was part of my treatment. Chronic Kidney Disease patients may develop kidney cancer, although this type of cancer is not restricted to CKD patients. They also may develop another type of cancer that has nothing to do with the kidneys. Everyone’s experience with chemotherapy is different, but I thought one person’s experience was better than none. Here’s hoping you never have to deal with any kind of cancer or chemotherapy, however.

While we’re on explanations, I have a correction to make. The nurses at the Pancreatic Cancer Research Institute here in Arizona are a fount of knowledge. One of them heard me talking to my daughter about a platelet infusion and corrected me. It seems it’s a platelet transfusion, just as it’s a blood transfusion.

According to The Free Medical Dictionary at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/infusion

“in·fu·sion

(in-fyū’zhŭn),

  1. The process of steeping a substance in water, either cold or hot (below the boiling point), to extract its soluble principles.
  2. A medicinal preparation obtained by steeping the crude drug in water.
  3. The introduction of fluid other than blood, for example, saline solution, into a vein.”

The same dictionary, but at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/transfusion , tells us:

“Transfusion is the process of transferring whole blood or blood components from one person (donor) to another (recipient).”

Therein lays the difference. Platelets are part of the blood, so it’s a platelet transfusion. I’m glad that’s straightened out.

While we’re on this topic, here’s a chart of compatible blood types for transfusions… always a handy thing to have.

Blood Type of Recipient Preferred Blood Type of Donor If Preferred Blood Type Unavailable, Permissible Blood Type of Donor
A A O
B B O
AB AB A, B, O
O O No alternate types

O is the universal blood type and, as you’ve probably noticed, is compatible with all blood types. The plus or minus sign after your blood type refers to being RH negative or positive. For example, my blood type is B+. That means I have type B blood and am RH positive.

I’ve had platelet transfusions several times since I was leaking blood here and there. Nothing like eating lunch and having nasal blood drip into your salad. Ugh! You also become weak and your hemoglobin goes down. Not a good situation at all. You know I’m hoping you never need one, but who knows what can happen in the future. Just in case you’ve forgotten what platelets are, Macmillan Cancer Support at https://www.macmillan.org.uk/information-and-support/treating/supportive-and-other-treatments/supportive-therapies/platelet-transfusions.html#18772 is here to help us out.

“Platelets are tiny cells in your blood which form clots to help stop bleeding. They develop from stem cells in the bone marrow (the spongy material inside the bones). They are then released from your bone marrow into your blood and travel around your body in your bloodstream. Platelets usually survive for 7–10 days before being destroyed naturally in your body or being used to clot the blood.”

You’ll probably notice the term “RH Positive” (unless you’re RH Negative, of course) written on the platelet transfusion bag. You know I had to find out why.  Memorial Sloan Cancer Center at https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/patient-education/frequently-asked-questions-about-blood-transfusion offers this information about your blood that will help us understand:

“Your blood type is either A, B, AB, or O. It’s either Rh positive (+) or Rh negative (-).

Your blood type is checked with a test called a type and crossmatch. The results of this test are used to match your blood type with the blood in our blood bank. Your healthcare provider will check to make sure that the blood is the correct match for you before they give you the transfusion.”

The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/rh-factor/about/pac-20394960 clarifies just what Rh Positive means:

“Rhesus (Rh) factor is an inherited protein found on the surface of red blood cells. If your blood has the protein, you’re Rh positive. If your blood lacks the protein, you’re Rh negative.

Rh positive is the most common blood type. Having an Rh negative blood type is not an illness and usually does not affect your health. However, it can affect your pregnancy. “

What I found especially interesting is that,

“If you have Rh-positive blood, you can get Rh-positive or Rh-negative blood. But if you have Rh-negative blood, you should only get Rh-negative blood. Rh-negative blood is used for emergencies when there’s no time to test a person’s Rh type.”

Thank you to Health Jade at https://healthjade.net/blood-transfusion/#Rh_Rhesus_factor for this information. This is a new site for me. You might want to take a look since their illustrations make so much clear.

Switching topics now. Are you aware of RSNHope.org? Lori Hartwell is one of the most active CKD and dialysis people I’ve met in the entire nine years I’ve been writing about CKD. For example, she has this wonderful salad bar help for the renal diet:

“Choose:  lettuce escarole, endive, alfalfa sprouts, celery sticks, cole slaw, cauliflower, cucumbers, green beans, green peas, green peppers, radishes, zucchini, better, eggs (chopped), tuna in spring water, parmesan cheese, Chinese noodles, gelatin salads, Italian low calorie dressing, vinaigrette, low fat dressing.

Avoid:  avocado, olives, raisins, tomatoes, pickles, bacon bits, chickpeas, kidney beans nuts, shredded cheddar cheese, three bean salads, sunflower seeds, Chow Mein noodles, fried bread croutons, potato salad, thick salad dressing, relishes”

What could be easier than printing this out and sticking it in your wallet? But Lori is not just about the renal diet. She also posts CKD & dialysis podcasts at KidneyTalk 24/7 Podcast Radio Show. All this and more are on the website. I must admit I look forward to the RSNHope magazine each quarter.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

No Longer a Transfusion Virgin

I’ve been thinking about the similarities between Chronic Kidney Disease treatment and Pancreatic Cancer treatment… or, at least, my Pancreatic Cancer treatment. Some are superficial, like going to the Research Institute several days a week for chemotherapy and those on dialysis going to the dialysis center several days a week for dialysis.

Some are not. A current topic of similarity was an eye opener for me. I am 72 years old and have never had a transfusion before last Monday. I’d gone to the Research Institute where I’m part of a clinical trial for a simple non-chemotherapy day checkup. This supposedly two hour appointment turned into almost eight hours. Why?

If you can understand these labs, you’ll know. If not, no problem. You know I’ll explain.

Component Your Value Standard Range
  RBC 2.23 10ˆ6/uL 3.50 – 5.40 10ˆ6/uL
Hemoglobin 6.8 g/dL 12.0 – 16.0 g/dL
Hematocrit 19.7 % 36.0 – 48.0 %
RDW 16.0 % 11.5 – 14.5 %
Platelets 15 K/uL 130 – 450 K/uL

Let’s start at the top of the list. RBC stands for red blood cells. MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=5260 tells us:

“Red blood cells: The blood cells that carry oxygen. Red cells contain hemoglobin and it is the hemoglobin which permits them to transport oxygen (and carbon dioxide). Hemoglobin, aside from being a transport molecule, is a pigment. It gives the cells their red color (and their name).

The abbreviation for red blood cells is RBCs. Red blood cells are sometime simply called red cells. They are also called erythrocytes or, rarely today, red blood corpuscles.”

So it makes sense that if RBC is below the standard range (column on the right), the hemoglobin will also be. And where are RBCs produced? Let’s trot on over to the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Disease (NIKKD) at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/anemia for the answer to that one:

“Healthy kidneys produce a hormone called erythropoietin (EPO). A hormone is a chemical produced by the body and released into the blood to help trigger or regulate particular body functions. EPO prompts the bone marrow to make red blood cells, which then carry oxygen throughout the body.

What causes anemia in chronic kidney disease?

When kidneys are diseased or damaged, they do not make enough EPO. As a result, the bone marrow makes fewer red blood cells, causing anemia. When blood has fewer red blood cells, it deprives the body of the oxygen it needs.”

Now, this is not saying all CKD patients will have anemia, although it is common is the later stages of the disease. Chemotherapy had a lot to do with this, too.

What about this hematocrit? What is that? I went to the University of Rochester’s Health Encyclopedia at https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=167&contentid=hematocrit for help here:

“This test measures how much of your blood is made up of red blood cells.

Normal blood contains white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets, and the fluid portion called plasma. The word hematocrit means to separate. In this test, your red blood cells are separated from the rest of your blood so they can be measured.

Your hematocrit (HCT) shows whether you have a normal amount of red blood cells, too many, or too few. To measure your HCT, your blood sample is spun at a high speed to separate the red blood cells.”

MedicalNewsToday at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321568.php helps us understand the RDW or red cell distribution width:

“If the results of a CBC [Gail here: that’s the complete blood count.] show low levels of red blood cells or hemoglobin, this usually suggests anemia. Doctors will then try to determine the cause of the condition using the RDW and other tests.”

So, we’re back to anemia. By the way, cancer is one of the diseases that can cause high numbers on your RDW. CKD is not, but diabetes – one of the primary causes of CKD – is.

I added platelets to the list since they are such an integral part of your blood. MedLinePlus at https://medlineplus.gov/plateletdisorders.html explains succinctly just what they are and what they do:

“Platelets, also known as thrombocytes, are small pieces of blood cells. They form in your bone marrow, a sponge-like tissue in your bones. Platelets play a major role in blood clotting. Normally, when one of your blood vessels is injured, you start to bleed. Your platelets will clot (clump together) to plug the hole in the blood vessel and stop the bleeding. You can have different problems with your platelets:

If your blood has a low number of platelets, it is called thrombocytopenia. This can put you at risk for mild to serious bleeding. The bleeding could be external or internal. There can be various causes. If the problem is mild, you may not need treatment. For more serious cases, you may need medicines or blood or platelet transfusions….”

I had my second infusion of platelets along with my first transfusion last week.

I’ve offered a multitude of definitions today. The point here is that both CKD patients and chemotherapy patients (and others suffering from a host of maladies) may need transfusions.

Right. I haven’t discussed what a transfusion is yet. Dictionary.com at https://www.dictionary.com/browse/transfusion defines it a little simplistically for us:

“the direct transferring of blood, plasma, or the like into a blood vessel.”

The MayoClinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/blood-transfusion/about/pac-20385168 adds:

“Your blood will be tested before a transfusion to determine whether your blood type is A, B, AB or O and whether your blood is Rh positive or Rh negative. The donated blood used for your transfusion must be compatible with your blood type.”

That’s when we discovered my son-in-law and I have the same blood type. Nice to know… just in case, you understand.

Before I leave you today, I want to remind my USA readers that this is Memorial Day. Having married a veteran, I now understand that we are honoring those who gave their saves to preserve ours no matter how long ago or how recent. Please give them a moment of your thoughts.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

To Continue…

National Kidney Month is just flying by. This is actually the last week and I doubt I’ll be able to post the rest of the 1in9 chapter before next month. But then again, it’s always Kidney Month for those of us with Chronic Kidney Disease. By the way, thank you to the reader who made it a point of telling me she can’t wait to read the rest of the chapter. Sooooo, let’s get started!

***

Nephrologist switch. The new one was much better for me. He explained again and again until I understood and he put up with a lot of verbal abuse when this panicky new patient wasn’t getting answers as quickly as she wanted them. Luckily for me, he graciously accepted my apology.

After talking to the nephrologist, I began to realize just how serious this disease was and started to wonder why my previous nurse practitioner had not caught this. When I asked her why, she responded, “It was inconclusive testing.” Sure it was. Because she never ordered the GFR tested; that had been incidental! I feel there’s no sense crying over spilled milk (or destroyed nephrons, in this case), but I wonder how much more of my kidney function I could have preserved if I’d known about my CKD earlier.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are 13 early signs of chronic kidney disease. I never experienced any of them, not even one. While I did have high blood pressure, it wasn’t uncontrollable which is one of the early signs. Many, like me, never experienced any noticeable symptoms. Unfortunately, many, like me, may have had high blood pressure (hypertension) for years before CKD was diagnosed. Yet, high blood pressure and diabetes are the two leading causes of CKD. I find it confusing that uncontrollable high blood pressure may be an early sign of CKD, but hypertension itself is the second leading cause of CKD.

Here’s the part about my researching. I was so mystified about what was happening and why it was happening that I began an extensive course of research. My nephrologists did explain what everything meant (I think), but I was still too shocked to understand what they were saying. I researched diagnoses, descriptions of tests, test results, doctors’ reports, you name it. Slowly, it began to make sense, but that understanding only led to more questions and more research.

You’ve probably already guessed that my world changed during that first appointment. I began to excuse myself for rest periods each day when I went back East for a slew of family affairs right after. I counted food groups and calories at these celebrations that summer. And I used all the errand running associated with them as an excuse to speed walk wherever I went and back so I could fit in my exercise. Ah, but that was just the beginning.

My high blood pressure had been controlled for 20 years at that time, but what about my diet? I had no clue there was such a thing as a kidney diet until the nutritionist explained it to me. I’m a miller’s granddaughter and ate anything – and I do mean anything – with grain in it: breads, muffins, cakes, croissants, all of it. I also liked lots of chicken and fish… not the five ounces per day I’m limited to now.

The nutritionist explained to me how hard protein is on the kidneys… as is phosphorous… and potassium… and, of course, sodium. Out went my daily banana—too high in potassium. Out went restaurant burgers—larger than my daily allowance of protein. Chinese food? Pizza? Too high in sodium. I embraced an entirely new way of eating because it was one of the keys to keeping my kidneys functioning in stage 3.

I was in a new food world. I’d already known about restricting sodium because I had high blood pressure, but these other things? I had to keep a list of which foods contain them, how much was in each of these foods, and a running list of how much of each I had during the day so I knew when I reached my limit for that day.

Another critical piece of slowing down CKD is medication. I was already taking meds to lower my blood pressure when I was first diagnosed with CKD. Two more prescriptions have been added to this in the last decade: a diuretic that lowers my body’s absorption of salt to help prevent fluid from building up in my body (edema), and a drug that widens the blood vessels by relaxing them. I take another drug for my brand new diabetes. (Bye-bye, sugars and most carbs.) The funny thing is now my favorite food is salad with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I never thought that would happen: I was a chocoholic!

Exercise, something I loved until my arthritis got in the way, was also important. I was a dancer. Wasn’t that enough? Uh-uh, I had to learn about cardio and strength training exercise, too. It was no longer acceptable to be pleasantly plumb. My kidneys didn’t need the extra work. Hello to weights, walking, and a stationary bike. I think I took sleep for granted before CKD, too, and I now make it a point to get a good night’s sleep. A sleep apnea device improved my sleep—and my kidney function rose.

I realized I needed to rest, too. Instead of giving a lecture, running to an audition, and coming home to meet a deadline, I slowly started easing off until I didn’t feel like I was running on empty all the time. The result was that I ended up graciously retiring from both acting and teaching at a local college, which gave me more time to work on my CKD awareness advocacy.

***

There’s so much more to tell you about my personal CKD journey… and you’ll read more of it next week. Although, I should remind you that the entire book is available in print and digital on both Amazon.com and B&N.com, just as the entire SlowItDownCKD series of books is.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Pancreas + Kidneys = ?

31 years ago, my father died of pancreatic cancer. For some reason, I remember him asking me what electrolytes were as soon as he was diagnosed. I didn’t know. I do now, but I don’t know if there’s a connection between the pancreas and the kidneys. Of course, I mean other than the fact that they are all organs in your body.

Oh, sorry, I didn’t give you the definition. This is from Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/electrolytes  :

“’Electrolyte’ is the umbrella term for particles that carry a positive or negative electric charge ….

In nutrition, the term refers to essential minerals found in your blood, sweat and urine.

When these minerals dissolve in a fluid, they form electrolytes — positive or negative ions used in metabolic processes.

Electrolytes found in your body include:

  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Chloride
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphate
  • Bicarbonate

These electrolytes are required for various bodily processes, including proper nerve and muscle function, maintaining acid-base balance and keeping you hydrated.”

Ummm, you have Chronic Kidney Disease. These are the electrolytes you need to keep an eye on, especially sodium, potassium, and phosphate. But why did Dad ask me about them?

I plunged right in to find the answer and immediately found a journal article… on a pay site. Not being one to pay for what can be found for free (and is 30 years old, by the way), I decided to look for as much information on the pancreas as I could find and see what we could figure out together.

Let’s start at the beginning. According to the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center of Johns Hopkins Medicine – Pathology at http://pathology.jhu.edu/pc/basicoverview1.php?area=ba:

“What is the pancreas?

The pancreas is a long flattened gland located deep in the belly (abdomen). Because the pancreas isn’t seen or felt in our day to day lives, most people don’t know as much about the pancreas as they do about other parts of their bodies. The pancreas is, however, a vital part of the digestive system and a critical controller of blood sugar levels.

Where is the pancreas?

The pancreas is located deep in the abdomen. Part of the pancreas is sandwiched between the stomach and the spine. The other part is nestled in the curve of the duodenum (first part of the small intestine). To visualize the position of the pancreas, try this: touch your right thumb and right ‘pinkie’ fingers together, keeping the other three fingers together and straight. Then, place your hand in the center of your belly just below your lower ribs with your fingers pointing to your left. Your hand will be the approximate shape and at the approximate level of your pancreas.”

I tried that. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

So now we sort of know what and where it is, but what does it do? No problem, Columbia University Irving Medical Center has just the info we need at http://columbiasurgery.org/pancreas/pancreas-and-its-functions:

“Exocrine Function:

The pancreas contains exocrine glands that produce enzymes important to digestion. These enzymes include trypsin and chymotrypsin to digest proteins; amylase for the digestion of carbohydrates; and lipase to break down fats. When food enters the stomach, these pancreatic juices are released into a system of ducts that culminate in the main pancreatic duct. The pancreatic duct joins the common bile duct to form the ampulla of Vater which is located at the first portion of the small intestine, called the duodenum. The common bile duct originates in the liver and the gallbladder and produces another important digestive juice called bile. The pancreatic juices and bile that are released into the duodenum, help the body to digest fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.

Endocrine Function:

The endocrine component of the pancreas consists of islet cells (islets of Langerhans) that create and release important hormones directly into the bloodstream. Two of the main pancreatic hormones are insulin, which acts to lower blood sugar, and glucagon, which acts to raise blood sugar. Maintaining proper blood sugar levels is crucial to the functioning of key organs including the brain, liver, and kidneys.”

The kidneys? Now it’s starting to make sense. We need whatever specific electrolyte balance our lab work tells us we need to keep our kidneys working in good stead and we need a well-functioning pancreas to regulate our blood sugars. Hmmm, diabetes is one of the two leading causes of CKD. It seems the pancreas controls diabetes since it creates insulin.

What could happen if the pancreas wasn’t doing its job, I wondered.  This is from the Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pancreatitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20360227,

“Pancreatitis [Me here: that’s an inflammation of the pancreas] can cause serious complications, including:

  • Pseudocyst. Acute pancreatitis can cause fluid and debris to collect in cystlike pockets in your pancreas. A large pseudocyst that ruptures can cause complications such as internal bleeding and infection.
  • Infection. Acute pancreatitis can make your pancreas vulnerable to bacteria and infection. Pancreatic infections are serious and require intensive treatment, such as surgery to remove the infected tissue.
  • Kidney failure. Acute pancreatitis may cause kidney failure, which can be treated with dialysis if the kidney failure is severe and persistent.
  • Breathing problems. Acute pancreatitis can cause chemical changes in your body that affect your lung function, causing the level of oxygen in your blood to fall to dangerously low levels.
  • Diabetes. Damage to insulin-producing cells in your pancreas from chronic pancreatitis can lead to diabetes, a disease that affects the way your body uses blood sugar.
  • Malnutrition. Both acute and chronic pancreatitis can cause your pancreas to produce fewer of the enzymes that are needed to break down and process nutrients from the food you eat. This can lead to malnutrition, diarrhea and weight loss, even though you may be eating the same foods or the same amount of food.
  • Pancreatic cancer. Long-standing inflammation in your pancreas caused by chronic pancreatitis is a risk factor for developing pancreatic cancer.

Did you catch kidney failure and diabetes? I believe we now know how the kidneys and pancreas are related to each other. Ah, if only I’d known how to research 31 years ago….

Until next week,

Keep living your life!