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!