Have You Heard of This?

Fabry’s Disease. I’ve noticed some posts on Facebook about this and now I’ve been invited to join the Kidneys and Fabry’s Disease group on Facebook. It’s amazing timing since I had decided the day before being asked to join the group that I’d be writing about it for today’s blog. The fun part for me is that I know absolutely nothing about this disease, so I get to explore it. 

The first thing I learned is that it has multiple names. The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) at https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/fabry-disease/ lists them as: 

  • “alpha-galactosidase A deficiency 
  • Anderson-Fabry disease 
  • angiokeratoma corporis diffusum 
  • angiokeratoma diffuse 
  • GLA deficiency” 

We’ll use the name Fabry’s Disease for this blog. 

Let’s start at the beginning with an explanation of what it is. You’re going to have to read this slowly and carefully… or, at least, I did. It’s from The National Fabry Disease Organization at https://www.fabrydisease.org/index.php/about-fabry-disease/what-is-fabry-disease

“Fabry disease is a rare genetic disorder caused by a defective gene (the GLA gene) in the body. In most cases, the defect in the gene causes a deficient quantity of the enzyme alpha-galactosidase A. This enzyme is necessary for the daily breakdown (metabolism) of a lipid (fatty substance) in the body called globotriaosylceramide abbreviated GL-3 or GB-3. When proper metabolism of this lipid and other similar lipids does not occur, GL-3 accumulates in the majority of cells throughout the body. The resulting progressive lipid accumulation leads to cell damage. The cell damage causes a wide range of mild to severe symptoms including potentially life-threatening consequences such as kidney failure, heart attacks and strokes often at a relatively early age. Fabry disease is a progressive, destructive and potentially life-threatening disease. Fabry disease can affect males and females of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds.” 

That does not sound good. I wondered if there were symptoms. Remember that sometimes – like in my case – Chronic Kidney Disease doesn’t have symptoms. WebMd at https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/fabry-disease#1 tells us you may experience the following: 

“Pain and burning in your hands and feet that get worse with exercise, fever, hot weather, or when you’re tired 

Small, dark red spots usually found between your bellybutton and knees 

Cloudy vision 

Hearing loss 

Ringing in the ears 

Sweating less than normal 

Stomach pain, bowel movements right after eating” 

This is definitely something I wouldn’t want to play around with. Remember we discovered earlier in the blog that it’s genetic. That means you inherit it. Cedars-Sinai, a Los Angeles nonprofit academic healthcare organization at https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/f/fabrys-disease.html informs us: 

“There is no cure for Fabry’s disease. However, in some cases the disease can be stopped from progressing if treated early enough. The first treatment generally is an enzyme replacement therapy which works to normalize the body’s ability to break down the fat.” 

Healthline (Yes, that Healthline) at https://www.healthline.com/health/fabry-disease explains that Fabry’s Disease can be very serious: 

“…. It’s progressive and can be life-threatening. People with FD have a damaged gene that leads to a shortage of an essential enzyme. The shortage results in a buildup of specific proteins in the body’s cells, causing damage to the: 

heart 

lungs 

kidneys 

skin 

brain 

stomach 

The disease affects both men and women in all ethnic groups, but men are usually more severely affected.” 

Hopefully, you noticed ‘kidneys’ in the list above. That is why I’ve included this disease in the kidney disease blogs. I want to remind you that this is a rare disease and that the purpose of the blog is to inform, not frighten. 

Further complicating our explanation is that there are two kinds of Fabry’s Disease. I turned to Fabry Disease News at https://fabrydiseasenews.com/type-2-fabry-disease/ for more information. 

“Fabry disease primarily has two recognized forms — type 1 (classical form) is the most severe and is associated with very little or no alpha-galactosidase activity, while type 2 (late-onset form) is milder with some residual enzyme activity.” 

This makes me think of Diabetes. Type 1 occurs when there is no insulin produced, while Type 2 occurs when there is insulin resistance and is a milder form of Diabetes. 

I wanted more about kidney disease and Fabry’s Disease so I kept poking around and I found it on The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences’ Genetic and Rare Disease Information Center (That is one long title.) at https://bit.ly/325QD8K,  

ACE inhibitors may be used to treat decreased kidney function (renal insufficiency). ACE inhibitors can reduce the loss of protein in the urine (proteinuria). If kidney function continues to decrease dialysis and/or kidney transplantation may be necessary. A kidney transplanted successfully into a person with Fabry disease will remain free of the harmful build up of the fatty acid GL3 and therefore will restore normal kidney function. However it will not stop the buildup of GL3 in other organs or systems of the body. In addition, all potential donors that are relatives of the person with known Fabry disease should have their genetic status checked to make sure they do not have a pathogenic variant (mutation) in the GLA gene (even if they do not have symptoms).” 

Does this sound familiar? It’s also what can happen in CKD without involving the other organs, of course. 

The National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at https://bit.ly/35RQ6Ze offers opportunities to join clinical trials and provides Fabry Disease patient organizations. The organizations listed presently are: 

Fabry Support & Information Group 

 
National Fabry Disease Foundation 

 
National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) 

 
National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association 

My head is spinning with all this new information right now and I suppose yours is, too. Maybe it’s time to stop and let us both digest it. 

Until next week, 

Keep living your life! 

Cellulitis, CKD, and Diabetes

My uncle-in-law had it. My children’s father had it. My husband had it. Now the question is what is cellulitis? 

WebMd at https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/cellulitis#1 answers: 

“Cellulitis is a common infection of the skin and the soft tissues underneath. It happens when bacteria enter a break in the skin and spread. The result is infection, which may cause swelling, redness, pain, or warmth.” 

Alright, but what does that have to do with Chronic Kidney Disease. By the way, only one of the men mentioned in the first paragraph has CKD.  

According to the NHS (National Health Service) in the United Kingdom at https://bit.ly/2IJJrbT: 

“You’re more at risk of cellulitis if you: 

  • have poor circulation in your arms, legs, hands or feet – for example, because you’re overweight 
  • find it difficult to move around 
  • have a weakened immune system because of chemotherapy treatment or diabetes [Gail here: I bolded that.] 
  • have bedsores (pressure ulcers) 
  • have lymphoedema, which causes fluid build-up under the skin 
  • inject drugs 
  • have a wound from surgery 
  • have had cellulitis before” 

Two of the men above were overweight, but one of these did not have CKD. The overweight man who had CKD also had diabetes. One had a wound from surgery which was the cause of his cellulitis. Another had had cellulitis before. (Does this sound like one of those crazy math word questions?) 

CKD is not a cause? Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Wait just a minute here. Let’s remember that CKD gives you the lovely present of a compromised immune system. A compromised immune system means it doesn’t do such a great job of preventing illnesses and infections. 

Also remember that diabetes is the leading cause of CKD and diabetes can also weaken your immune system. I needed more information about diabetes doing that and I got it from The University of Michigan’s Michigan Medicine at https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uq1148abc:    

“High blood sugar from diabetes can affect the body’s immune system, impairing the ability of white blood cells to come to the site of an infection, stay in the infected area, and kill microorganisms. Because of the buildup of plaque in blood vessels associated with diabetes, areas of infection may receive a poor blood supply, further lowering the body’s ability to fight infections and heal wounds.” 

Remember that cellulitis is an infection. Reading the above, I became aware that I didn’t know anything about plague in the blood vessels and diabetes, so I went right to what I consider the source for vascular information, Vascular.org. This time at https://bit.ly/31dZ0yI:  

“Peripheral artery (or arterial) disease, also known as PAD, occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries and reduces blood flow to the feet and legs. Fairly common among elderly Americans, PAD is even more likely among those with diabetes, which increases plaque buildup.” 

All three of these men were elderly, if you consider in your 70s elderly. Of course, I don’t since I’m in my 70s, but we are talking science here. 

Hmmm, we don’t know yet how cellulitis is treated, do we? Let’s find out. I turned to my old buddy, The MayoClinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cellulitis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20370766:  

“Cellulitis treatment usually includes a prescription oral antibiotic. Within three days of starting an antibiotic, let your doctor know whether the infection is responding to treatment. You’ll need to take the antibiotic for as long as your doctor directs, usually five to 10 days but possibly as long as 14 days. 

In most cases, signs and symptoms of cellulitis disappear after a few days. You may need to be hospitalized and receive antibiotics through your veins (intravenously) if: 

Signs and symptoms don’t respond to oral antibiotics 

Signs and symptoms are extensive 

You have a high fever 

Usually, doctors prescribe a drug that’s effective against both streptococci and staphylococci. It’s important that you take the medication as directed and finish the entire course of medication, even after you feel better. 

Your doctor also might recommend elevating the affected area, which may speed recovery…. 

Try these steps to help ease any pain and swelling: 

Place a cool, damp cloth on the affected area as often as needed for your comfort. 

Ask your doctor to suggest an over-the-counter pain medication to treat pain. [Gail again: no NSAIDS, you have CKD.] 

Elevate the affected part of your body.” 

Now the obvious question is how, as CKD patients and possibly diabetics, do we avoid that infection in the first place? 

“Cellulitis cannot always be prevented, but the risk of developing cellulitis can be minimised by avoiding injury to the skin, maintain [sic] good hygiene and by managing skin conditions like tinea and eczema. 

A common cause of infection to the skin is via the fingernails. Handwashing is very important as well as keeping good care of your nails by trimming and cleaning them. Generally maintaining good hygiene such as daily showering and wearing clean clothes may help reduce the skin’s contact with bacteria. 

If you have broken skin, keep the wound clean by washing daily with soap and water or antiseptic. Cover the wound with a gauze dressing or bandaid every day and watch for signs of infection. 

People who are susceptible to cellulitis, for example people with diabetes or with poor circulation, should take care to protect themselves with appropriate footwear, gloves and long pants when gardening or bushwalking, when it’s easy to get scratched or bitten. Look after your skin by regularly checking your feet for signs of injury, moisturising the skin and trimming fingernails and toenails regularly.” 

Thank you to Australia’s HealthDirect at https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/cellulitis-prevention for these common sense reminders. Actually, we need to keep washing our hands while Covid-19 is at our door anyway, so we’ve already got that part of the prevention covered. I suspect that many of us don’t bother to deal with small wounds, but it looks like we’d better start. 

What if you do develop cellulitis? How will you be treated? My old buddy, The Mayo Clinic at https://mayocl.in/2FDxUtf tells us: 

“Cellulitis treatment usually includes a prescription oral antibiotic. Within three days of starting an antibiotic, let your doctor know whether the infection is responding to treatment. You’ll need to take the antibiotic for as long as your doctor directs, usually five to 10 days but possibly as long as 14 days. 

In most cases, signs and symptoms of cellulitis disappear after a few days. You may need to be hospitalized and receive antibiotics through your veins (intravenously) if: 

Signs and symptoms don’t respond to oral antibiotics 

Signs and symptoms are extensive 

You have a high fever 

Usually, doctors prescribe a drug that’s effective against both streptococci and staphylococci. It’s important that you take the medication as directed and finish the entire course of medication, even after you feel better. 

Your doctor also might recommend elevating the affected area, which may speed recovery.” 

Until next week, 

Keep living your life! (Safely, please) 

 

“klot” + “id” 

No, that’s not the result of misplacing my fingers on the keyboard. According to https://youglish.com/pronounce/clotted/english, this is the correct two syllable pronunciation of the word clotted. My all-time favorite dictionary, the Merriam-Webster, at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/clotted defines the adjective (word describing a noun) clotted as:

“1: a portion of a substance adhering together in a thick nondescript mass (as of clay or gum)

2 a: a roundish viscous lump formed by coagulation of a portion of liquid or by melting

b: a coagulated mass produced by clotting of blood”

You’re right – it’s the second definition we’ll be dealing with today. Why? A long-time reader was telling me about his blood clot when I suddenly realized I had no idea if there were any connection at all between Chronic Kidney Disease and blood clots.

As it turns out, there is.  The following is from the National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/sites/default/files/Blood_Clots_And_CKD_2018.pdf:

“CKD may put you at higher risk for VTE. The reasons for this are not well understood. The connection may depend on what caused your CKD and how much kidney damage you have. No matter the reason, CKD may make it easier for your body to form blood clots. The risk for VTE is seen more often in people with nephrotic syndrome (a kidney problem that causes swelling, usually of the ankles, a high level of protein in the urine, and a low level of a protein called albumin in the blood).”

I have a question already. What is VTE? I found World Thrombosis Day’s explanation at www.worldthrombosisday.org › issue › vte the most helpful.

“Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a condition in which a blood clot forms most often in the deep veins of the leg, groin or arm (known as deep vein thrombosis, DVT) and travels in the circulation, lodging in the lungs (known as pulmonary embolism, PE).”

How could I have CKD for over a dozen years and not know this? Many thanks to my reader and online friend for bringing it up. 

Well, it’s back to the beginning for us. How is VTE diagnosed? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at www.cdc.gov › ncbddd › dvt › diagnosis-treatment was helpful here.

“Duplex ultrasonography is an imaging test that uses sound waves to look at the flow of blood in the veins. It can detect blockages or blood clots in the deep veins. It is the standard imaging test to diagnose DVT. A D-dimer blood test measures a substance in the blood that is released when a clot breaks up.”

Let’s take a closer look at the D-dimer blood test. That’s another new one for me. My old standby, MedlinePlus (This time at https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/d-dimer-test/.) offered the following which more than satisfactorily answered my question.

“A D-dimer test looks for D-dimer in blood. D-dimer is a protein fragment (small piece) that’s made when a blood clot dissolves in your body.

Blood clotting is an important process that prevents you from losing too much blood when you are injured. Normally, your body will dissolve the clot once your injury has healed. With a blood clotting disorder, clots can form when you don’t have an obvious injury or don’t dissolve when they should. These conditions can be very serious and even life-threatening. A D-dimer test can show if you have one of these conditions.”

By the way, MedlinePlus is part of the U.S. National Library of Medicine which, in turn, is part of the National Institutes of Health.

This brings me to another question. How would you or your doctor even know you may need this test?

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about half of people with DVT don’t have symptoms. Any symptoms that do occur will be in the affected leg or the area where the clot is found. Symptoms can include:

pain

redness of the skin

warmth of the skin

swelling of the area

If the clot moves into the lungs and you develop PE, you may have symptoms such as:

chest pain, which may get worse when you breathe deeply or cough

coughing

coughing up blood

dizziness or even fainting

rapid shallow breathing, or tachypnea

rapid heartbeat

irregular heartbeat

shortness of breath”

Thank you to Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/health/dvt-vs-pulmonary-embolism for the above information.

Now we know what VTE is, what symptoms you may experience, and the test to take to confirm that you do, indeed, have VTE. You know what comes next. How do we treat VTE once it’s confirmed?

These are some, but not all, of the treatments that may be recommended. I discovered them on WebMD’s site at https://www.webmd.com/dvt/what-is-venous-thromboembolism.

“Blood thinners. These drugs don’t break up the clot, but they can stop it from getting bigger so your body has time to break it down on its own. They include heparin, low-molecular-weight heparin, apixaban (Eliquis), edoxaban (Savaysa), rivaroxaban (Xarelto), and warfarin (Coumadin).

Clot-busting drugs. These medicines are injections that can break up your clot. They include drugs like tPA (tissue plasminogen activator).

Surgery. In some cases, your doctor may need to put a special filter into a vein, which can stop any future clots from getting to your lungs. Sometimes, people need surgery to remove a clot.

Even after you recover from a VTE and you’re out of the hospital, you’ll probably still need treatment with blood thinners for at least 3 months. That’s because your chances of having another VTE will be higher for a while.”

I’m still wondering how to avoid VTE. This is what The National Blood Clot Alliance at https://www.stoptheclot.org/learn_more/prevention_of_thrombosis/ suggested:

“Ask your doctor about need for ‘blood thinners’ or compression stockings to prevent clots, whenever you go to the hospital

Lose weight, if you are overweight

Stay active

Exercise regularly; walking is fine

Avoid long periods of staying still

Get up and move around at least every hour whenever you travel on a plane, train, or bus, particularly if the trip is longer than 4 hours

Do heel toe exercises or circle your feet if you cannot move around

Stop at least every two hours when you drive, and get out and move around

Drink a lot of water and wear loose fitted clothing when you travel

Talk to your doctor about your risk of clotting whenever you take hormones, whether for birth control or replacement therapy, or during and right after any pregnancy

Follow any self-care measures to keep heart failure, diabetes, or any other health issues as stable as possible”

And we have yet another reason to be extra cautious if you have CKD.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

The Dye is Cast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is Contrast Induced Nephropathy (CIN)?

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

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

What is Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis (NSF)?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

How Sweet It Isn’t

Hello again. Last week when I was writing about Bipolar Disorder and Chronic Kidney Disease, I mentioned nephrogenic diabetes insipidus. During the week I realized how little I know about that.

Let’s start by going back and reviewing what I wrote last week:

“What is nephrogenic diabetes insipidus?
The most common problem from taking lithium is a form of diabetes due to kidney damage called nephrogenic diabetes insipidus. This type of diabetes is different than diabetes mellitus caused by high blood sugar. In nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, the kidneys cannot respond to anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), a chemical messenger that controls fluid balance. This results in greater than normal urine out-put and excessive thirst. It can be hard to treat nephrogenic diabetes insipidus.”

Frankly, that’s not enough information for me, although it’s pretty clear. Former English teacher here. Let’s take a look at the words themselves. Keep in mind, this is what I learned along the years.

Nephro = kidneys

Genic = Beginning in

So we know this disease begins in the kidneys. And diabetes? According to Michigan State University at https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/how_diabetes_got_its_name,

“The ancient Greek word for diabetes means, ‘passing though; a large discharge of urine.’ The meaning is associated with frequent urination, which is a symptom of diabetes.”

And finally insipidus. I found myself turning to Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diabetes_insipidus#:~:text=”Insipidus”%20comes%20from%20Latin%20language,or%20zest%3B%20not%20tasty for help with this.

” ‘Insipidus’ comes from Latin language insipidus (tasteless), from Latin: in- ‘not’ + sapidus ‘tasty’ from sapere ‘have a taste’ — the full meaning is ‘lacking flavor or zest; not tasty’.”

This one I didn’t quite get. Back to the above link to figure out what tasteless has to do with this disease.

“Application of this name to DI arose from the fact that diabetes insipidus does not cause glycosuria (excretion of glucose into the urine).”

Ah, so the urine is not sweet. Reminder: Diabetes can be diagnosed by the doctor tasting the urine. While this was more common in the 1600s, I have read about doctors tasting urine for diabetes more recently and even currently. If the urine is sweet, diabetes is present.

This is interesting. I’d never considered a form of diabetes that didn’t deal with blood glucose, which may also be called blood sugar, so sweet. Of course, I then began to wonder if taking lithium was the only way to develop this disease. The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes-insipidus/symptoms-causes/syc-20351269#:~:text=Nephrogenic%20diabetes%20insipidus%20occurs%20when,or%20a%20chronic%20kidney%20disorder was quite a bit of help here:

“Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus occurs when there’s a defect in the kidney tubules — the structures in your kidneys that cause water to be excreted or reabsorbed. This defect makes your kidneys unable to properly respond to ADH.

The defect may be due to an inherited (genetic) disorder or a chronic kidney disorder. Certain drugs, such as lithium or antiviral medications such as foscarnet (Foscavir), also can cause nephrogenic diabetes insipidus.”

This is a lot of new information to understand unless we get more help. Let’s take a look at kidney tubules now. I turned to my old favorite Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/health/human-body-maps/kidney#nephrons and found the following:

“Each tubule has several parts:

  • Proximal convoluted tubule. This section absorbs water, sodium, and glucose back into the blood.
  • Loop of Henle. This section further absorbs potassium, chloride, and sodium into the blood.
  • Distal convoluted tubule. This section absorbs more sodium into the blood and takes in potassium and acid.

By the time fluid reaches the end of the tubule, it’s diluted and filled with urea. Urea is byproduct of protein metabolism that’s released in urine.”

That makes sense, but what about this ADH? What is that?  My Health Alberta Ca at https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=hw211268 tells us:

“Antidiuretic hormone (ADH) is a chemical produced in the brain that causes the kidneys to release less water, decreasing the amount of urine produced. A high ADH level causes the body to produce less urine. A low level results in greater urine production.

Normally, the amount of ADH in the body is higher during the night. This helps prevent urination while you are sleeping. But if the levels of ADH remain low during the night, the body will produce large amounts of urine, so urination during the night is more likely.”

We know how you can develop nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, but how do you treat it once you’ve been diagnosed? WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/guide/nephrogenic-diabetes-insipidus-symptoms-causes-and-treatments offers us the following:

“If a drug like lithium is responsible, switching medicines might improve nephrogenic diabetes insipidus.

Most adults with nephrogenic diabetes insipidus are able to keep up with fluid losses by drinking water. For some people, though, the symptoms of near-constant thirst and urination can become intolerable. Some treatments can reduce the symptoms of nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, at least somewhat:

All adults and children with nephrogenic diabetes insipidus should take frequent bathroom breaks. This helps to avoid over-distending the bladder, which can cause long-term problems, though rarely.

The most important treatment for nephrogenic diabetes insipidus is to ensure constant access to lots of water. Not keeping up with fluid losses can lead to dehydration or electrolyte imbalances, which can sometimes be severe. Seek medical help if symptoms don’t improve after rehydrating, eating fresh fruit, and taking a multivitamin.”

Now, the biggie…. Is this rare disease curable? Unfortunately it isn’t, although,

“For individuals with acquired NDI treating the underlying cause (e.g., correcting metabolic imbalances or discontinuing drug use) can reverse the kidneys resistance to vasopressin. [Gail here again: Vasopressin is another name for ADH as far as I can tell.] However, this reversal may take weeks. In some cases caused by the use of drugs such as lithium, it may take years for the kidneys to respond to vasopressin again or it can become irreversible.”

Thank you to National Organization for Rare Diseases (NORD) at https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/nephrogenic-diabetes-insipidus/ for the above information.

I feel like I’ve been down the rabbit hole with Alice with all this new information about a rare disease that your already existing kidney disease may cause. Hopefully, you won’t be one of its victims.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Echo… Echo… Echo…

Remember that golden time I’ve mentioned before? The time when I problem solve and write in my head just as I’m waking up? Well, today the word was echo at that time. Echo? As in echo chamber? Echo Canyon? No, doesn’t feel right. Got it! Echocardiogram.

The English teacher in me is already delighted. Why? I know what most of the word means through my college study of Greek and Latin roots. Card means heart, io is simply a connective, and gram means write. What about echo you ask? I think we all know what that means in common usage, but in conjunction with cardiogram? Yep, time for some help.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, still my favorite, at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ echocardiography tells us an echocardiogram is,

“the use of ultrasound to examine the structure and functioning of the heart for abnormalities and disease”

Let’s put in a little reminder of what an ultrasound is here. This is from MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=5897:

“A test in which high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) are bounced off tissues and the echoes are converted into a picture (sonogram).”

Oh, like the picture of my grandson growing in his mom’s womb. Great, now what does this have to do with Chronic Kidney Disease? I just had an echocardiogram because my oncologist was concerned about the great distance between my diastolic (lower) and systolic (upper) numbers on my blood pressure readings. It was fine, but it did get me to thinking about what CKD and the heart have in common.

Here’s a reminder from Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/health/diastole-vs-systole#:~:text=Your%20systolic%20blood%20pressure%20is,bottom%20number%20on%20your%20reading of what the two numbers mean:

“Your systolic blood pressure is the top number on your reading. It measures the force of blood against your artery walls while your ventricles — the lower two chambers of your heart — squeeze, pushing blood out to the rest of your body.

Your diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number on your reading. It measures the force of blood against your artery walls as your heart relaxes and the ventricles are allowed to refill with blood. Diastole — this period of time when your heart relaxes between beats — is also the time that your coronary artery is able to supply blood to your heart.”

Got it. This next quote is a little medicalese, but basically it’s saying there are specific difficulties if you have both CKD and high blood pressure. It’s from Kidney International at https://www.kidney-international.org/article/S0085-2538(19)30276-5/fulltext :

“In CKD and ESKD, risk factors for HF include long-standing hypertension with often worsened blood pressure (BP) control as CKD worsens, salt and water retention causing excessive preload, and cardiomyopathic factors including left ventricular (LV) hypertrophy and fibrosis. In addition, there are CKD- and ESKD-specific factors that affect afterload (increased arterial stiffness and high output shunting through arteriovenous fistulae or grafts) as well as load-independent factors (neurohormonal activation, impaired iron utilization, anemia, demand ischemia, profibrotic factors [e.g., fibroblast growth factor 23 {FGF-23}], inflammation, etc.)…. Arteriovenous fistulae or grafts have been reported to worsen right ventricular hypertrophy, increase pulmonary pressures, associate with significant right ventricular dilatation, and reduce right ventricular function, which are closely linked to survival….”

An echocardiogram can show in real time if all the ventricles of your heart are working correctly as far as pumping blood and and/or leaking when your heart should be at rest.

Well, why get an echocardiogram if you already know you have CKD and high blood pressure? Here’s WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/guide/diagnosing-echocardiogram#4’s response.  You can find much more information there, too, as is true of all the sites mentioned.

“An echocardiogram can help your doctor diagnose several kinds of heart problems, including:

  • An enlarged heart or thick ventricles (the lower chambers)
  • Weakened heart muscles
  • Problems with your heart valves
  • Heart defects that you’ve had since birth
  • Blood clots or tumors”

Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/echocardiogram/about/pac-20393856 offers an easily understandable explanation of the actual process. There are many types of echocardiograms, but this is the most usual.

Transthoracic echocardiogram

In this standard type of echocardiogram:

  • A technician (sonographer) spreads gel on a device (transducer).
  • The sonographer presses the transducer firmly against your skin, aiming an ultrasound beam through your chest to your heart.
  • The transducer records the sound wave echoes from your heart.
  • A computer converts the echoes into moving images on a monitor.”

This is yet another reminder of why we need to have both the heart and kidneys functioning well. This one is from Heart.org at https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/health-threats-from-high-blood-pressure/how-high-blood-pressure-can-lead-to-kidney-damage-or-failure#:~:text=The%20:

  • Damaged kidney arteries do not filter blood well. Kidneys have small, finger-like nephrons that filter your blood. Each nephron receives its blood supply through tiny hair-like capillaries, the smallest of all blood vessels. When the arteries become damaged, the nephrons do not receive the essential oxygen and nutrients — and the kidneys lose their ability to filter blood and regulate the fluid, hormones, acids and salts in the body.
  • Damaged kidneys fail to regulate blood pressure. Healthy kidneys produce a hormone called aldosterone to help the body regulate blood pressure. Kidney damage and uncontrolled high blood pressure each contribute to a negative spiral. As more arteries become blocked and stop functioning, the kidneys eventually fail.”

The American Journal of Kidney Disease at https://www.ajkd.org/article/S0272-6386(18)30598-5/fulltext gives us these final words on why an echocardiogram could be necessary for certain CKD patients:

“Abnormal cardiac structure and function are common in chronic kidney disease (CKD) and end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and linked with mortality and heart failure.”

Topic change: We tried Flavis’s high protein spaghetti and found it just as light and delightful as their penne. This, I can endorse.

Oh, before I forget. I like to read… a lot. One of the books I read recently was Ray Flynt’s Transplanted Death. I don’t want to tell you too much about it, except that it is a well-written murder mystery with a good story that revolves around transplant recipients, two of them kidney recipients. I am recommending this book.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Saving CKD Lives

Last week, I wrote about Covid-19 and a little about precautions explaining why we – as Chronic Kidney Disease patients – need to take extra care. A reader in Ireland was shocked that this was all we had in the way of protecting ourselves (as much as possible) from contacting the virus here in the United States. The precautions weren’t that much different than the precautions for everyone else.

There are a few things going on here. First is that we have no leadership from Mr. Trump who seems to have decided this is not his responsibility. That leaves us with the governors of each of the fifty United States and, in some cases, the mayors of individual cities in each of these states to lead us. They may have very different ideas.

There is this post I found on Facebook that exemplifies our situation in the U.S. Unfortunately, it is not attributed to anyone. I would love to give credit where credit is due.

“WE ARE NOT IN THE SAME BOAT …

I heard that we are all in the same boat, but it’s not like that. We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Your ship could be shipwrecked and mine might not be. Or vice versa.

For some, quarantine is optimal. A moment of reflection, of re-connection, easy in flip flops, with a cocktail or coffee. For others, this is a desperate financial & family crisis.

For some that live alone they’re facing endless loneliness. While for others it is peace, rest & time with their mother, father, sons & daughters.

With the $600 weekly increase in unemployment some are bringing in more money to their households than they were working. Others are working more hours for less money due to pay cuts or loss in sales.

Some families of 4 just received $3400 from the stimulus while other families of 4 saw $0.

Some were concerned about getting a certain candy for Easter while others were concerned if there would be enough bread, milk and eggs for the weekend.

Some want to go back to work because they don’t qualify for unemployment and are running out of money. Others want to kill those who break the quarantine.

Some are home spending 2-3 hours/day helping their child with online schooling while others are spending 2-3 hours/day to educate their children on top of a 10-12 hour workday.

Some have experienced the near death of the virus, some have already lost someone from it and some are not sure if their loved ones are going to make it. Others don’t believe this is a big deal.

Some have faith in God and expect miracles during this 2020. Others say the worst is yet to come.

So, friends, we are not in the same boat. We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different.

Each of us will emerge, in our own way, from this storm. It is very important to see beyond what is seen at first glance. Not just looking, actually seeing.

We are all on different ships during this storm experiencing a very different journey.”

Let’s take a look at the Chronic Kidney Disease boat to see what I can find out for us. I immediately went to the National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/coronavirus/kidney-disease-covid-19. If you’ve read last week’s blog, then you already know we are more vulnerable to Covid-19 and why.

Are there special precautions that someone with kidney disease should take?

Older adults and people with kidney disease or other severe chronic medical conditions seem to be at higher risk for more serious COVID-19 illness. If you are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, you should:

  • Stock up on supplies
  • Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others
  • When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact
  • Wash your hands often
  • Avoid crowds as much as possible
  • During an outbreak in your area, stay home as much as possible.

Please remember that if you are on dialysis, you should not miss your treatments. Contact your clinic if you feel sick or have any questions or concerns.

If you have a kidney transplant, it is important to remember to keep taking your anti-rejection medicines, maintain good hygiene and follow the recommendations from your healthcare team. Contact your healthcare team with any questions or concerns….

Should CKD patients wear masks in public?

It is best to stay home, unless you need to attend a dialysis treatment. If you must go out in public, ask your healthcare provider if it is necessary as a CKD patient to wear a face mask since each individual case is different.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends face masks for those who are infected with COVID-19, have symptoms of COVID-19, or taking care of someone with COVID-19.

The CDC also recommends wearing cloth face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19 in areas where community-based transmission is significant. These homemade cloth face coverings are not masks and do not replace the President’s Coronavirus Guidelines. (Gail here: As you can see, Trump doesn’t have much more to offer than what we already know. To be fair, this site hasn’t been updated since March 16th, over a month ago. Wait a minute! Why isn’t this site updated daily?)

Tips for using a mask include a snug but comfortable fit covering the bridge of the nose and the entire mouth. Also, be sure to be laundered [sic] the cloth mask after use each outdoor use, ideally without damage to the shape or structure of the mask. … The CDC also recommends coffee filters as an alternative. Use of any mask is in addition to practicing social distancing or at least 6 feet from others to limit coronavirus spread. All patients at high risk, such as immunosuppressed transplant recipients or people receiving dialysis should follow the directions of their clinicians regarding the type of face covering that should be used outside of a clinic setting.

When in public it is important to practice social distancing by staying 6 feet away from other people and to also avoid touching your face. Wash your hands immediately after you have been in public.”

This is still paltry information at best. Emedicine at https://www.emedicinehealth.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=228849 gives us just a bit more insight about patients on dialysis according to the CDC:

“The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidance recommends that for medically stable patients facilities give the option of waiting in a personal vehicle or outside the facility and to be contacted by mobile phone when they are ready to be seen.

  • Dialysis facilities should have space allocated to allow patients who are ill to sit separately from other patients by at least 6 feet.
  • Patients experiencing respiratory symptoms should promptly be taken to appropriate treatment areas to reduce time in waiting areas.
  • For those with symptoms, ideally, dialysis treatment should be provided in a separate room from other patients, with the door closed.
  • If a separate room is not available, the masked patient should be treated at a corner or end-of-row station not near the main traffic flow. A separation of at least 6 feet should be maintained between masked, symptomatic patients and other patients during treatment.
  • Use of hepatitis B isolation rooms should only be considered for patients with respiratory symptoms if the patient has hepatitis B or if no patients treated at the facility have hepatitis B.

Healthcare personnel caring for patients with undiagnosed respiratory infections should further observe standard contact and droplet precautions with eye protection unless a suspected diagnosis such as tuberculosis requires airborne precautions, according to the guidance.

Precautions should include using gloves, facemasks, eye protection, and isolation gowns.”

And transplantees? I am so frustrated by the lack of more concrete information that might be more helpful than that given to non-kidney patients. UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing) at https://optn.transplant.hrsa.gov/governance/policy-notices/ offers the following information:

COVID-19 Policy Actions Implemented

The table below contains information for actions taken to address OPTN operational issues in the COVID-19 crisis.

Policy Summary Documents & supporting resources Effective date
Policy 1.4.F: Updates to Candidate Data during 2020 COVID-19 Emergency This emergency policy will allow transplant programs to refresh candidate clinical data with data obtained through previous testing in order to maintain current waitlist priority.

This policy prevents candidates who cannot undergo routine testing due to the COVID-19 crisis from being adversely affected on the waitlist.

OPTN Policy Notice March 17, 2020
Policy 3.7.D: Applications for Modifications of Kidney Waiting Time during 2020 COVID-19 Emergency This emergency policy allows transplant programs to submit a waiting time modification application to retroactively initiate waiting time for affected candidates.

This policy prevents potential non-dialysis candidates who meet creatinine clearance or glomerular filtration rate (GFR) criteria from being disadvantaged because they cannot obtain other testing required.

OPTN Policy Notice April 3, 2020
Policy 18.1: Data Submission Requirements
Policy 18.2: Timely Collection of Data
Policy 18.5.A: Reporting Requirements after Living Kidney Donation
Policy 18.5.B: Reporting Requirements after Living Liver Donation
This emergency policy change relaxes requirements for follow-up form submission.

The intent of the policy is to prevent unnecessary exposure risk to transplant recipients and living donors, and also to alleviate data burden for centers in the midst of COVID-19 crisis.

 

Longer blog or not today – and it is much longer – I wish you all would adhere to these conditions. Are they restricting? Possibly. Are they uncomfortable? Could be. Are they lifesaving? It seems they are. Be safe.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Saving Lives

Last week, I promised to write about COVID-19 and Chronic Kidney Disease for today’s blog. This topic has touched me personally since one of my daughters was sent to the hospital when it was suspected she’d contacted the virus. Without the COVID-19 test, we still don’t know if she has the virus. We do know she still has the cough. Luckily, an x-ray proved her lungs were clear, so she was sent home with a Z-pack and orders to take Tylenol. No, she doesn’t have CKD, but her treatment at the hospital left me with a lot of questions for those of us who do.

Once again, I’m rushing headlong into the topic. Let’s slow down and start at the beginning. Why is it called COVID-19 anyway? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html,

“On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan China. The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as ‘2019 novel coronavirus’ or ‘2019-nCoV.’”

There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused be [sic] a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. The name of this disease was selected following the World Health Organization (WHO) best practice for naming of new human infectious diseases.”

I don’t know about you, but I want to know about corona viruses. How did they get that name? So I went to Dictionary.com at https://www.dictionary.com/browse/coronavirus where I hoped to find that information. This is what was there.

“any of various RNA-containing spherical viruses of the family Coronaviridae, including several that cause acute respiratory illnesses.”

To be honest, all I understood was that it “causes acute respiratory illnesses.” Like my daughter’s coughing. But why would she be given a Z-pack for that? Healthcare-Online at www.healthcare-online.org/What-Is-A-Z-Pack.html confirmed my belief that antibiotics are for bacterial infections, not viral ones. Curiouser and curiouser.

Drugs.com at https://www.drugs.com/medical-answers/antibiotics-kill-coronavirus-3534867/ had the answer.

“The World Health Organization (WHO) is very clear that antibiotics do not work against viruses, only bacteria, and yet health care providers are using antibiotics in some patients with COVID-19. This is because:

  • Patients with viral pneumonia can develop a secondary bacterial infection that may need to be treated with an antibiotic, although, this complication is reported to be uncommon early on in the course of COVID-19 pneumonia.
  • Also known as Azithromycin, a Z-pack is a medication used for treating serious and severe infections caused by bacteria. It contains macrolide antibiotic, which helps in stopping all forms of growth caused bantibiotic, although, this complication is reported to be uncommon early on in the course of COVID-19 pneumonia.If treatment is required for a secondary bacterial infection then a range of antibiotics can be used such as penicillins (ampicillin plus sulbactam [Unasyn], piperacillin plus tazobactam [Zosyn]), macrolides (azithromycin), cephalosporins (ceftriaxone [Rocephin]), aminoglycosides (tobramycin) and glycopeptides (vancomycin [Vancocin HCL]) for example. Often a combination of two different antibiotics is used.
  • Azithromycin is also thought to have antiviral and anti-inflammatory activity and may work synergistically with other antiviral treatments. In in vitro laboratory studies azithromycin has demonstrated antiviral activity against Zika virus and against rhinoviruses, which cause the common cold.”

Time to deal with CKD when you have COVID-19. I wanted to understand how CKD could make you more vulnerable to this disease. I turned to Prevention at https://www.prevention.com/health/a31245792/coronavirus-high-risk-groups/ for more information.

“People with underlying health conditions are at a higher-than-normal risk of developing severe forms of COVID-19…. When your body is already dealing with a separate health condition, it has less energy to put toward fighting an acute infection…. The CDC says these conditions include:

  • Blood disorders, such as sickle cell disease or taking blood thinners
  • Chronic kidney disease, as defined by your doctor
  • Chronic liver disease, as defined by your doctor
  • Compromised immune system, including undergoing cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation, having received an organ or bone marrow transplant, or taking     high doses of corticosteroids or other immunosuppressant medications, and HIV or AIDS
  • Current or recent pregnancy in the last two weeks
  • Endocrine disorders, such as diabetes
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease, including asthma
  • Neurological and neurologic and neurodevelopment conditions”

This is definitely not a case of misery loves company. Not only do I have CKD, but I am undergoing chemotherapy. Oh, and I have diabetes. To all others in the high risk group, I’m so sorry we all belong to this particular community right now.

Hmmm, do we need to do something more than everyone else needs to do to avoid COVID-19? After spending more time than usual surfing the web, I admit I was surprised that there were no extra precautions other than those for everyone else. What are those you ask? Back to the CDC for their infograph at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/COVID19-What-You-Can-Do-High-Risk.pdf which makes it easy for us to understand. It also defines who is higher risk. Unfortunately, it could not be reproduced, so you’ll have to go to the website directly.

I always seem to feel better when I understand what might be a threat to me or anyone in one of my communities. The purpose of today’s blog was to help you understand so that you may also feel better. Make no mistake: This is serious. I only go out to Chemotherapy every other week. Even young, not high risk people from my dancing community are being safe. They are not going out either (unless they are essential workers). Do yourself a favor and save your life by staying in.

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!

Kevin Got His Preemptive Kidney Transplant

Several years ago,  I was invited to a kidney disease meeting. That’s where I first met Kevin Fowler, Principal of The Voice of the Patient, Inc. I liked listening to his ideas. Later, we walked into each other at an AAKP conference. This time I thoroughly enjoyed his company, but had quite a few questions about pre-emptive transplants. Kevin was good enough to explain his story, which answers my questions, in this guest blog during National Kidney Month. Take it away, Kevin! 

Kidney disease has always been a part of my life.  When I was growing up, my mom told me stories about her father who had suffered from Autosomal Polycystic Kidney Disease ( ADPKD), a disease which prompts the growth of cysts on the kidneys. My mom was the oldest of three sisters, and had great love and affection for my grandfather, Hubert Duvall.  I never had a chance to meet him because he died before I was born. It was the late 1950s when he was admitted to the hospital because he was not feeling well. Unknown to him, he was experiencing uremia, the inability of the kidneys to rid themselves of waste products such as urea, as he went into kidney failure. Shortly after his hospital admission he died.  As he neared death, he learned that ADPKD was the cause of his kidney failure. 

My grandfather’s patient journey had a profound impact upon his three daughters: Mary Ann, Ruth, and Laverne in that his genetic disease was passed on to each of them.  My mom, Mary Ann, was diagnosed after the birth of her third child. Imagine the joy of giving birth to a child while being diagnosed with a disease with limited scientific knowledge and a very uncertain future.  My mom and dad faced the unknown with a positive attitude, but with very little professional guidance.

As a young boy, I was very close to my mom.  I felt her unconditional love for me, and her whole life was dedicated to her three children.  As her ADPKD advanced, I saw her suffer with the disease. I saw her experience constant back pain, routine exhaustion and nausea.  All of this physical suffering was difficult to understand as a young child. Moreover, what was really difficult was the look on her face as she faced a nebulous future.

Eventually, my mom’s kidneys failed.  Unlike my grandfather, hemodialysis was available as a treatment option to sustain her life.  She started hemodialysis at the age of 48. While she approached dialysis with optimism, her future was never clear to her or our family.  I saw my mom struggle to survive on dialysis. I saw her return home from dialysis feeling exhausted and tired. I saw that when she had a rough hemodialysis session, it would take her longer to recover from the treatment.  She never bemoaned her fate, and provided us the legacy of her example.

After four and a half years on hemodialysis, my mom died at the age of 52.  Her dialysis experience left an indelible impression upon me. From that point on, I lived in fear that I would face the same fate.  I choose to never determine if I had the same disease. In many ways, it was a rational decision. Interventions were not able to slow down the progression of ADPKD.  If I were diagnosed with ADPKD, I would be penalized. I would face difficulty obtaining health and life insurance. The fear of facing the same patient journey as my mom was always hanging over my head, and I didn’t have the courage to determine if I too had ADPKD.  

I was married to my wife, Kathy, in 1995, and in less than five years we had two children.  During this time, I was being seen by a primary care physician who was aware of my ADPKD family history.  My kidney function was tested on my annual appointments, and he told me that my kidney function was fine. He stated that if I had ADPKD, there was not much that could be done to slow down the progression.  Later that same year near the Christmas season, I experienced deep flank (the side of your body between the bottom rib and the hip) pain. Initially, I attributed it to moving some furniture. The pain persisted, and because of my additional responsibilities as a husband and father, I called my primary care physician requesting an ultrasound test.  The ultrasound test would determine once and for all whether I too had ADPKD.

On a cold and sunny day in January 2001, my physician administered the ultrasound test. Watching his reaction told me all I needed to know.  At the age of 39, I was informed that I would be in kidney failure within the next three to five years. He offered to make a nephrology referral, but I declined.  Since he had not demonstrated competence managing my condition, I intuitively sensed that I could not trust his referral would serve my best interests. 

At that time, I was working in the pharmaceutical industry, so I called a physician friend at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis seeking a nephrology recommendation.  On my mother’s birthday, I met with my nephrologist – who had a profound impact on my life. He informed me that it was not necessary to be on dialysis, and that I could have a preemptive kidney transplant.  Because of my fear, I had never taken the time to learn about the different End Stage Kidney Disease treatment options. I was incredibly fortunate to receive the best treatment option.

On this recently past World Kidney Day, the theme was prevention due to detection.  In the United States approximately 90% of those with Stage 3 Chronic Kidney Disease are unaware of their condition.  This is no longer acceptable. The American Kidney Health Executive Order has initiated a public campaign to detect kidney disease earlier.  In fact, the National Kidney Foundation and CVS Kidney Care launched their public awareness campaign this month, National Kidney Month.  Unlike when I was diagnosed, there are now approved treatments to slow down the progression of kidney diseases.  There are potentially additional treatments in the pipeline for ADPKD, Diabetic Kidney Disease, FSGS, IGAN, etc. For many people there is no longer a need to live in fear.  There is a very real possibility that their patient journey may change for the better.

Thank you, Kevin, for sharing your personal kidney journey with us. Kevin may be reached via email at kevinjohnfowler@gmail.com or on Twitter as @gratefull080504.

 

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Just in Time

I woke up this morning thinking about Audre Lorde. She was the New York State Poet at one time and considered herself a “lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,”but more importantly to me, my writing mentor and friend… and I miss her terribly. Thinking about Audre led me to thinking about my younger daughter (Abby) who won the Black History Month Essay Contest in her elementary school several years in a row by writing about Audre’s and my friendship.

That stopped me for a moment. Audre, Abby, Black History Month. This is Black History Month and it’s half over. Time to write about Black History in Nephrology today.

As Andrea Wurtzburger wrote in People Magazine (I knew there was a reason I grabbed this first each time I waited in one medical office or another.) in the February 13, 2020 issue which was also posted at https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/black-history-month-explained-started-175250248.html,

Black History Month is an entire month devoted to putting a spotlight on African Americans who have made contributions to our country. Originally, it was seen as a way of teaching students and young people about the contributions of Black and African Americans in school, as they had (and still have) been often forgotten or left out of the narrative of the growth of America. Now, it is seen as a celebration of those who’ve impacted not just the country, but the world with their activism and achievements.”

Now that we know what Black History Month is, let’s see how we can apply it to the field of nephrology. This is what I wrote in SlowItDownCKD 2017 (February 7th) about Dr. Kountz:

“Samuel L. Kountz, M.D was another innovative contributor to Nephrology from the Black Community. As Blackpast.org tells us:

“In 1961 Kountz and Roy Cohn, another leading surgeon, performed the first successful kidney transplant between two people who were close relatives but not twins.  Over the next decade Kountz researched the process of kidney transplants on dogs.  He discovered that monitoring blood flow into the new kidney and administering methylprednisolone to the patient after surgery allowed the body to accept the new organ.

In 1966 Kountz joined the faculty at Stanford University Hospital and Medical School and in 1967 he became the chief of the kidney transplant service at University of California at San Francisco (UCSF).  There he worked with Folker Belzer to create the Belzer kidney perfusion machine.  This innovation kept kidneys alive for 50 hours after being removed from the donor.  Through Kountz’s involvement at UCSF, the institution’s kidney transplant research center became one the best in the country.  Kountz also created the Center for Human Values at UCSF, to discuss ethical issues concerning transplants.”

Kidney News Online at https://www.kidneynews.org/careers/resources/opinion-re-establishing-trust-and-improving-outcomes-in-nephrology introduced me to someone who should be noted in Black History Month in the future since the general public needs to be aware of Chronic Kidney Disease in order to be tested and, ultimately, treated. Dr. Bignall echoes my own thoughts.

“O. N. Ray Bignall II, MD is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Nephrology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University College of Medicine. He is also a member of the American Society of Nephrology’s Policy and Advocacy Committee.

‘To re-establish trust and improve outcomes, we must carry health equity from “the bedside to the curbside.” From research and discovery, to policy and advocacy, nephrologists must engage directly with community members, stakeholders, and lawmakers. Minority communities need to see nephrologists in their schools, houses of worship, block parties, and community centers. We can increase our involvement in community-based participatory research (CBPR) that engages community members in the design, study, and implementation of evidence-based discovery. Nephrologists should also be taking our message to city halls, state houses, and our nation’s Capital to promote kidney disease research and advocacy for all our patients – especially those with disparate outcomes.’ ”

I felt compelled to include Dr. Charles DeWitt Watts who, while not a nephrologist, was eminent in breaking racial barriers so we could have Black nephrologists available to us. The following is from Duke University Medical Center and Library at https://guides.mclibrary.duke.edu/BlackHistoryMonth.

“Dr. Watts spent more than 50 years advocating for civil and human rights and for the quality of medical care for all residents of Durham, especially the poor and underserved. He broke racial barriers when he pushed for certification of black medical students.

First African American to be certified by a surgical specialty board in North Carolina.

Played key role in founding Lincoln Community Health Center, a free standing clinic, which served people regardless of their ability to pay.

Joined the staff of Lincoln Hospital as Chief of Surgery in 1950. Lincoln was one of the few American hospitals at the time that granted surgical privileges to African-American physicians.

Completed his surgical training at Freedman’s Hospital in Washington, DC under the tutelage of Dr. Charles Drew.

Worked to prepare Lincoln’s interns and residents for board certification and convinced Duke University Medical School to oversee Lincoln’s training program so that students could get board certified.

Fought along with other community leaders for the creation of one integrated public health care facility, Durham Regional Hospital, built in Durham in 1967. This led to the closing of both Watts and Lincoln hospitals.

Served as Adjunct Clinical Professor of Surgery at Duke and Director of Student Health at North Carolina Central University.

Served for 28 years as Vice President and Medical Director for North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Co., the largest African-American managed insurer in the country.

Member of the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine, a fellow in the American College of Surgeons, and an active participant in the National Medical Association.”

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Why Wait?

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Joe Russell. He works on health care policy issues for my Arizona Senator Sinema in Washington D.C., along with his colleague Sylvia Lee, policy advisor. He was letting me know both Sylvia and he would be in Arizona the following week, and holding a roundtable discussion with patients suffering from kidney disease, along with their providers, caregivers, and family members. They wanted to discuss a series of legislative proposals their office would be working on in the coming months, as well as gain a better understanding of the unique challenges patients with kidney disease face in Arizona. The National Kidney Foundation of Arizona recommended they reach out to me, given my work and experience on this topic.

Are you kidding, I thought. I’ve been trying to get someone in Arizona interested in the growth of CKD locally… and, of course, everywhere else, for over 12 years. Now, mind you, by 3:30 I’m exhausted (Damn chemo!), but I vowed to go even though it was later in the day (3 p.m.). And I did.

When I arrived, who did I see sitting at Senator Sinema’s table, but Raymond and Analyn Scott. They are the compilers of The 1 in 9 Tribe to which I had contributed a chapter. There were people from the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona, a transplant patient, my very own nephrologist (who is also Raymond’s) and Senator Sinema’s delegation.

Oh boy, I remember thinking, this is going to be good. And it was. Each person spoke to their own stage of CKD with Dr. DeSai (Raymond’s and my nephrologist) and the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona people speaking about all stages of CKD. I kept steering the discussion back to early stage treatment and awareness for all. It seemed all were in agreement with my ideas or, at least, they were interested.

But I want to let you know why I feel early intervention and general awareness are so important. This is a note I received from a reader.

”Please help. I just got blood results back from my yearly physical and saw that my eGFR was 55 and my creatinine was 1.09. After speaking to my GP she told me my results were nothing to ‘be concerned about’. Since the 2 above mentioned results were highlighted in red I figured perhaps I should ‘concern’ myself about it and research what it could possibly mean. I was shocked to read that it indicated kidney disease. When I told my doctor of my findings, she again pushed it off as nothing to worry about. Am I over reacting? Thanks for any help you can give me.”

Now we don’t know this reader’s age. That’s important because you lose one point off your Glomerular Filtration Rate every year once you hit the age of 40. For example, I turned 73 yesterday (Yes, it was a fun birthday with my family and friends despite the effects of chemo.). Subtract 40 from that and I have lost 33 points off my GFR simply by being alive and growing older. Considering the highest GFR is 120, although we usually use 100 for ease of figuring, my perfect GFR would be 87. But it’s not. It’s 55, so we know I have CKD, stage 3A just like this reader.

Nuts! I’m going on and on as if everyone reading this knew both what GFR is and the stages of CKD. Well, we’ll just correct that right now. According to MedlinePlus, part of the U.S. National Library of Medicine which, in turn, is part of the National Institutes of Health, at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007305.htm.

Glomerular filtration rate

Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is a test used to check how well the kidneys are working. Specifically, it estimates how much blood passes through the glomeruli each minute. Glomeruli are the tiny filters in the kidneys that filter waste from the blood.

How the Test is Performed

blood sample is needed.

The blood sample is sent to a lab. There, the creatinine level in the blood sample is tested. Creatinine is a chemical waste product of creatine. Creatine is a chemical the body makes to supply energy, mainly to muscles.

The lab specialist combines your creatinine level with several other factors to estimate your GFR. Different formulas are used for adults and children. The formula includes some or all of the following:

  • Age
  • Blood creatinine measurement
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Height
  • Weight”

Nor do we know the reader’s ethnicity. The National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/sites/default/files/docs/12-10-4004_abe_faqs_aboutgfrrev1b_singleb.pdf explains why this is important:

“This is due to higher average muscle mass and creatinine generation rate in African Americans.”

So, why then, is it important to know if you’re only in stage 2 of CKD? Let me put it this way:

When I was first diagnosed with CKD, I was at a GFR of 39. That’s pretty low. Had I been tested earlier, I would have had more time to preserve more of my kidney function. While I’m now at about 55 GFR (just like my reader), it took years and years of hard work as far as diet, exercise, rest, sleep, avoiding anxiety, not drinking or smoking and making sure I paid special attention to my labs.

Imagine if I had known earlier that I had CKD. I could have started protecting my kidneys earlier, which may have meant I could avoid dialysis for longer… or maybe at all. It may have meant I wouldn’t reach the place where I needed a transplant, if I ever needed one.

If you are routinely checked via a blood test and urine test each time you see your family doctor – just like your heart and lungs are checked – you may be able to avoid being told you were in need of dialysis seemingly out of the blue. But you wouldn’t know to ask for these tests unless everyone is made aware of CKD and just how prevalent it is. Think about it.

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!

Nephritis without the Lupus


Recently, I wrote about Lupus Nephritis. As one reader pointed out, it is possible to have Nephritis without Lupus. Let’s take a look at how that works.

According to MedicalNewsToday at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/312579.php,

“Nephritis is a condition in which the nephrons, the functional units of the kidneys, become inflamed. This inflammation, which is also known as glomerulonephritis, can adversely affect kidney function.

The kidneys are bean-shaped organs that filter the blood circulating the body to remove excess water and waste products from it.

There are many types of nephritis with a range of causes. While some types occur suddenly, others develop as part of a chronic condition and require ongoing management.”

Of course! ‘Itis’ means inflammation, while ‘neph’ means kidney. It’s amazing what you can remember learning in college over 50 years ago when you’re 72.

Hmmm, what do they mean by “many types of nephritis”? DoctorsHealthPress at doctorshealthpress.com/vital-organs/kidneys/types-nephritis-causes-symptoms-prevention/lists them for us:

1. Interstitial Nephritis                    

Interstitial nephritis is characterized by swelling between the tubules and kidneys. The kidney tubules reabsorb water and important substances from kidney filtration, and substances are secreted through urination.

Interstitial nephritis can be acute or chronic in nature. Acute interstitial nephritis is typically the result of an allergic reaction. Over 100 different medications cause interstitial nephritis, such as antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and proton pump inhibitors.

Non-allergic interstitial nephritis causes include high calcium levels, low potassium levels, and autoimmune disorders.

  1. Pyelonephritis

Acute pyelonephritis is a severe and sudden kidney infection. Consequently, the kidneys will swell, which may lead to permanent damage. Frequent occurrences are known as chronic pyelonephritis.

The infection will begin in the lower urinary tract in the form of a urinary tract infection (UTI). Bacteria enter the body through the urethra and spread to the bladder. At that point, bacteria will travel from the ureters to the kidneys.

  1. Glomerulonephritis

Glomerulonephritis refers to a range of kidney conditions that cause inflammation in the very small blood vessels in the kidneys, which are called glomeruli.

It is also called glomerular disease or glomerular nephritis. When the glomeruli become damaged, the kidney can no longer efficiently remove excess fluids and waste.

  1. Lupus Nephritis [Gail here: This is they type I recently wrote about.]

Lupus nephritis is inflammation of kidneys caused by the autoimmune disease known as systemic lupus erythematous (SLE)—also called lupus. This is where the body’s immune system targets its own tissues.

As many as 60% of lupus patients will later get lupus nephritis. The most common symptoms include dark urine, weight gain, high blood pressurefoamy urine, and the need for nighttime urination.

  1. IgA Nephropathy (Berger’s Disease)

IgA (immunoglobulin A) nephropathy is also called Berger’s disease. The kidney disease occurs when the antibody IgA lodges within the kidneys.

Over time, this leads to local inflammation, which interferes in the kidneys’ ability to filter waste from the blood. It is a progressive disease that may lead to end-stage kidney failure.

  1. Alport Syndrome

Alport syndrome is an inherited disease caused by genetic mutations to the protein collagen. It can lead to kidney failure, hearing problems, and vision issues.

It will often run in families, and the severity is greater in men. Common symptoms include high blood pressure, protein in the urineblood in the urine, and swelling in the ankle, legs, feet, and around the eyes.

The genetic types of Alport syndrome include X-linked Alport syndrome (XLAS), autosomal recessive Alport syndrome (ARAS), and autosomal dominant Alport syndrome (ADAS).”

I usually move on to symptoms next but – as you can see – DoctorsHealthPress already took care of that for us. Thank you to DoctorsHealthPress.

Healthline (Yep, that’s the same Healthline that awarded SlowItDownCKD a place among the top six kidney disease blogs in both 2016 & 2017.) at https://www.healthline.com/health/acute-nephritic-syndrome#types offered more detail about the cause of several acute nephritis diseases:

Interstitial nephritis

In interstitial nephritis, the spaces between the kidney tubules become inflamed. This inflammation causes the kidneys to swell.

Pyelonephritis

Pyelonephritis is an inflammation of the kidney, usually due to a bacterial infection. In the majority of cases, the infection starts within the bladder and then migrates up the ureters and into the kidneys. Ureters are two tubes that transport urine from each kidney to the bladder.

Glomerulonephritis

This type of acute nephritis produces inflammation in the glomeruli. There are millions of capillaries within each kidney. Glomeruli are the tiny clusters of capillaries that transport blood and behave as filtering units. Damaged and inflamed glomeruli may not filter the blood properly. Learn more about glomerulonephritis.

What causes acute nephritis?

Each type of acute nephritis has its own causes.

Interstitial nephritis

This type often results from an allergic reaction to a medication or antibiotic. An allergic reaction is the body’s immediate response to a foreign substance. Your doctor may have prescribed the medicine to help you, but the body views it as a harmful substance. This makes the body attack itself, resulting in inflammation.

Low potassium in your blood is another cause of interstitial nephritis. Potassium helps regulate many functions in the body, including heartbeat and metabolism.

Taking medications for long periods of time may damage the tissues of the kidneys and lead to interstitial nephritis.

Pyelonephritis

The majority of pyelonephritis cases results fromE.coli bacterial infections. This type of bacterium is primarily found in the large intestine and is excreted in your stool. The bacteria can travel up from the urethra to the bladder and kidneys, resulting in pyelonephritis.

Although bacterial infection is the leading cause of pyelonephritis, other possible causes include:

  • urinary examinations that use a cystoscope, an instrument that looks inside the bladder
  • surgery of the bladder, kidneys, or ureters
  • the formation of kidney stones, rocklike formations consisting of minerals and other waste material

Glomerulonephritis

The main cause of this type of kidney infection is unknown. However, some conditions may encourage an infection, including:

  • problems in the immune system
  • a history of cancer
  • an abscess that breaks and travels to your kidneys through your blood

It certainly looks like there’s a lot more to nephritis than we’d thought.

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!

Is it Blood Sugar or the Pancreas?

We all know diabetes raises your risk of developing Chronic Kidney Disease. But why? What’s the mechanism behind the fact? As far as I’m concerned, it’s time to find out.

Let’s start with diabetes. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which in turn is part of The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes offers this explanation.

“Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy. Sometimes your body doesn’t make enough—or any—insulin or doesn’t use insulin well. Glucose then stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells.

Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause health problems. Although diabetes has no cure, you can take steps to manage your diabetes and stay healthy.

Sometimes people call diabetes ‘a touch of sugar’ or ‘borderline diabetes.’”

Having just had a tumor removed from my pancreas, I’m well aware that it produces insulin as well as digestive enzymes. Without a pancreas to produce insulin, you would need insulin injections several times a day.

I got what diabetes is, but how it causes CKD was still not clear.

Well, not until I read the following from The American Diabetes Association at https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/complications/kidney-disease-nephropathy.

“When our bodies digest the protein we eat, the process creates waste products. In the kidneys, millions of tiny blood vessels (capillaries) with even tinier holes in them act as filters. As blood flows through the blood vessels, small molecules such as waste products squeeze through the holes. These waste products become part of the urine. Useful substances, such as protein and red blood cells, are too big to pass through the holes in the filter and stay in the blood.

Diabetes can damage this system. High levels of blood sugar make the kidneys filter too much blood. All this extra work is hard on the filters. After many years, they start to leak and useful protein is lost in the urine. Having small amounts of protein in the urine is called microalbuminuria.

When kidney disease is diagnosed early, during microalbuminuria, several treatments may keep kidney disease from getting worse. Having larger amounts of protein in the urine is called macroalbuminuria. When kidney disease is caught later during macroalbuminuria, end-stage renal disease, or ESRD, usually follows.

In time, the stress of overwork causes the kidneys to lose their filtering ability. Waste products then start to build up in the blood. Finally, the kidneys fail. This failure, ESRD, is very serious. A person with ESRD needs to have a kidney transplant or to have the blood filtered by machine (dialysis).”

Hmmm, now that we know what diabetes is and how it can cause CKD, maybe we need to look at ways to attempt to avoid diabetes.

  • Losing weight and keeping it off. Weight control is an important part of diabetes prevention. You may be able to prevent or delay diabetes by losing 5 to 10 percent of your current weight. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, your goal would be to lose between 10 to 20 pounds. And once you lose the weight, it is important that you don’t gain it back.
  • Following a healthy eating plan. It is important to reduce the amount of calories you eat and drink each day, so you can lose weight and keep it off. To do that, your diet should include smaller portions and less fat and sugar. You should also eat a variety of foods from each food group, including plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. It’s also a good idea to limit red meat, and avoid processed meats.
  • Get regular exercise. Exercise has many health benefits, including helping you to lose weight and lower your blood sugar levels. These both lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. Try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week. If you have not been active, talk with your health care professional to figure out which types of exercise are best for you. You can start slowly and work up to your goal.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking can contribute to insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. If you already smoke, try to quit.
  • Talk to your health care provider to see whether there is anything else you can do to delay or to prevent type 2 diabetes. If you are at high risk, your provider may suggest that you take one of a few types of diabetes medicines.”

This is a list from NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases posted on MedLinePlus at https://medlineplus.gov/howtopreventdiabetes.html. Notice it’s mentioned that this is for type 2 diabetes.

There are 11 different kinds of diabetes. Types 1 and 2 are the most common. WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/guide/types-of-diabetes-mellitus#1 explains what type 1 and 2 are.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition. It’s caused by the body attacking its own pancreas with antibodies. In people with type 1 diabetes, the damaged pancreas doesn’t make insulin…. With Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas usually produces some insulin. But either the amount produced is not enough for the body’s needs, or the body’s cells are resistant to it. Insulin resistance, or lack of sensitivity to insulin, happens primarily in fat, liver, and muscle cells.”

This is all starting to make sense.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

HIV and CKD

Every morning, although I don’t have enough energy yet to create original posts, I peruse the Facebook Chronic Kidney Disease pages, Twitter, Instagram, and even LinkedIn for current information about CKD. I was surprised to see a post seeming to claim that Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) can cause CKD. How had I never heard about this before?

As usual when I don’t know or understand something, I decided to investigate. My first stop was The National Institutes of Health at https://aidsinfo.nih.gov/understanding-hiv-aids/fact-sheets/26/99/hiv-and-kidney-disease.

  • “The kidneys are two fist-sized organs in the body that are located near the middle of the back on either side of the spine. The main job of the kidneys is to filter harmful waste and extra water from the blood. (We know that already.)
  • Injury or disease, including HIV infection, can damage the kidneys and lead to kidney disease.
  • High blood pressure and diabetes are the leading causes of kidney disease. In people with HIV, poorly controlled HIV infection and coinfection with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) also increase the risk of kidney disease.
  • Some HIV medicines can affect the kidneys. Health care providers carefully consider the risk of kidney damage when recommending specific HIV medicines to include in an HIV regimen.
  • Kidney disease can advance to kidney failure. The treatments for kidney failure are dialysis and a kidney transplant. Both treatments are used to treat kidney failure in people with HIV.”

Well, I knew there was a possibility of Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) leading to CKD, but HIV? What’s that? Oh, sorry, of course I’ll explain what HIV is. Actually, it’s not me doing the explaining, but the Center for Disease Control (CDC) at https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/whatishiv.html.

“HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS if not treated. Unlike some other viruses, the human body can’t get rid of HIV completely, even with treatment. So once you get HIV, you have it for life.

HIV attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells (T cells), which help the immune system fight off infections. Untreated, HIV reduces the number of CD4 cells (T cells) in the body, making the person more likely to get other infections or infection-related cancers. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. These opportunistic infections or cancers take advantage of a very weak immune system and signal that the person has AIDS, the last stage of HIV infection.

No effective cure currently exists, but with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. The medicine used to treat HIV is called antiretroviral therapy or ART.  If people with HIV take ART as prescribed, their viral load (amount of HIV in their blood) can become undetectable. If it stays undetectable, they can live long, healthy lives and have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex. Before the introduction of ART in the mid-1990s, people with HIV could progress to AIDS in just a few years. Today, someone diagnosed with HIV and treated before the disease is far advanced can live nearly as long as someone who does not have HIV.”

So, it’s not only HIV itself that can cause CKD, but also the drugs used to treat HIV.

The National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/hiv-and-chronic-kidney-disease-what-you-need-know  offers some ideas about how to avoid CKD if you have HIV:

“Many people with HIV do not get kidney disease or kidney failure. Talk to your health care provider about your chances of getting kidney disease. If you have HIV, you can lower your chances by:

  • Checking your blood pressure as often as your doctor recommends and taking steps to keep it under control
  • Taking all your HIV medications as prescribed
  • Asking your doctor about HIV drugs that have a lower risk of causing kidney damage
  • Controlling your blood sugar if you have diabetes
  • Taking medicines to control your blood glucose, cholesterol, anemia, and blood pressure if your doctor orders them for you
  • Asking your doctor to test you for kidney disease at least once each year if you:
    • Have a large amount of HIV in your blood
    • Have a low level of blood cells that help fight HIV (CD4 cells)
    • Are African American, Hispanic American, Asian, Pacific Islander, or American Indian
    • Have diabetes, high blood pressure, or hepatitis C”

It seems to me that avoiding CKD if you have HIV is almost the same as taking care of your CKD if you didn’t have HIV, except for the specific HIV information.

I now understand why it’s so important to take the hepatitis C vaccine. I turned to UpToDate at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/treatment-of-chronic-hepatitis-c-virus-infection-in-the-hiv-infected-patient for further information about hepatitis C and HIV.

“The consequences of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in HIV-infected patients are significant and include accelerated liver disease progression, high rates of end-stage liver disease, and shortened lifespan after hepatic decompensation, in particular among those with more advanced immunodeficiency …. In the era of potent antiretroviral therapy, end-stage liver disease remains a major cause of death among HIV-infected patients who are coinfected with HCV ….”

Remember that drugs leave your body via either your liver or kidneys. If your kidneys are already compromised by HIV or the medications used to treat your HIV, you need a high functioning liver. If your liver is compromised by hepatitis C, you need high functioning kidneys. I was unable to determine just what high functioning meant as far as your kidneys or liver, so if you find out, let us know.

Please be as careful as possible to avoid HIV, and if you do have it, pay special attention to being treated for it. I’d like it if you were one of the people who is “diagnosed with HIV and treated before the disease is far advanced [so that you] can live nearly as long as someone who does not have HIV.”

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Sodium Bicarbonate, Anyone?

I belong to a number of social media Chronic Kidney Disease support groups. Time and time again, I’ve seen questions about sodium bicarbonate use. I never quite understood the answers to members’ questions about this. It’s been years, folks. It’s time for me to get us some answers.

My first question was, “What is it used for in conjunction with CKD?” Renal & Urology News at https://www.renalandurologynews.com/home/conference-highlights/era-edta-congress/sodium-bicarbonate-for-metabolic-acidosis-slows-ckd-progression/ had a current response to this. Actually, it’s from last June 19th.

“Sodium bicarbonate treatment of metabolic acidosis in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) improves renal outcomes and survival, researchers reported at the 56th European Renal Association-European Dialysis and Transplant Association Congress in Budapest, Hungary.

In a prospective open-label study, patients with CKD and metabolic acidosis who took sodium bicarbonate (SB) tablets were less likely to experience a doubling of serum creatinine (the study’s primary end point), initiate renal replacement therapy (RRT), and death than those who received standard care (SC).”

It may be current but what does it mean? Let’s start with metabolic acidosis. Medline Plus, part of the U.S. National Library of Medicine which, in turn, is part of the National Institutes of Health at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000335.htm explains it this way:

“Metabolic acidosis is a condition in which there is too much acid in the body fluids.”

But why is there “too much acid in the body fluid?”

I like the simply stated reason I found at Healthline (https://www.healthline.com/health/acidosis), the same site that deemed SlowItDownCKD among the Best Six Kidney Disease Blogs for 2016 and 2017.

“When your body fluids contain too much acid, it’s known as acidosis. Acidosis occurs when your kidneys and lungs can’t keep your body’s pH in balance. Many of the body’s processes produce acid. Your lungs and kidneys can usually compensate for slight pH imbalances, but problems with these organs can lead to excess acid accumulating in your body.”

In case you’ve forgotten, pH is the measure of how acid or alkaline your body is. So, it seems that when the kidneys (for one organ) don’t function well, you may end up with acidosis. Did you know the kidneys played a part in preventing metabolic acidosis? I didn’t.

I went to MedicalNewsToday at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263834.php in an attempt to find out if metabolic syndrome has any symptoms. By the way, AHA refers to the American Heart Association.

“According to the AHA, a doctor will often consider metabolic syndrome if a person has at least three of the following five symptoms:

  1. Central, visceral, abdominal obesity, specifically, a waist size of more than 40 inches in men and more than 35 inches in women
  2. Fasting blood glucose levels of 100 mg/dL or above
  3. Blood pressure of 130/85 mm/Hg or above
  4. Blood triglycerides levels of 150 mg/dL or higher
  5. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels of 40 mg/dL or less for men and 50 mg/dL or less for women

Having three or more of these factors signifies a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack or stroke, and type 2 diabetes.”

Well! Now we’re not just talking kidney (and lung) involvement, but possibly the heart and diabetes involvement. Who knew?

Of course, we want to prevent this, but how can we do that?

“You can’t always prevent metabolic acidosis, but there are things you can do to lessen the chance of it happening.

Drink plenty of water and non-alcoholic fluids. Your pee should be clear or pale yellow.

Limit alcohol. It can increase acid buildup. It can also dehydrate you.

Manage your diabetes, if you have it.

Follow directions when you take your medications.”

Thank you to WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-metabolic-acidosis#2  for the above information.

Let’s say – hypothetically, of course – that you were one of the unlucky CKD patients to develop metabolic acidosis. How could you treat it?

I went directly to the National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/metabolic-acidosis to find out. This is what they had to say:

“We all need bicarbonate (a form of carbon dioxide) in our blood. Low bicarbonate levels in the blood are a sign of metabolic acidosis.  It is a base, the opposite of acid, and can balance acid. It keeps our blood from becoming too acidic. Healthy kidneys help keep your bicarbonate levels in balance.  Low bicarbonate levels (less than 22 mmol/l) can also cause your kidney disease to get worse.   A small group of studies have shown that treatment with sodium bicarbonate or sodium citrate pills can help keep kidney disease from getting worse. However, you should not take sodium bicarbonate or sodium citrate pills unless your healthcare provider recommends it.”

I’m becoming a wee bit nervous now and I’d like to know when metabolic acidosis should start being treated if you, as a CKD (CKF) patient do develop it. Biomed at http://www.biomed.cas.cz/physiolres/pdf/prepress/1128.pdf reassured me a bit.

“Acid–base disorder is commonly observed in the course of CKF. Metabolic acidosis is noted in a majority of patients when GFR decreases to less than 20% to 25% of normal. The degree of acidosis approximately correlates with the severity of CKF and usually is more severe at a lower GFR…. Acidosis resulting from advanced renal insufficiency is called uremic acidosis. The level of GFR at which uremic acidosis develops varies depending on a multiplicity of factors. Endogenous acid production is an important factor, which in turn depends on the diet. Ingestion of vegetables and fruits results in net production of alkali, and therefore increased ingestion of these foods will tend to delay the appearance of metabolic acidosis in chronic renal failure. Diuretic therapy and hypokalemia, which tend to stimulate ammonia production, may delay the development of acidosis. The etiology of the renal disease also plays a role. In predominantly tubulointerstitial renal diseases, acidosis tends to develop earlier in the course of renal insufficiency than in predominantly glomerular diseases. In general, metabolic acidosis is rare when the GFR is greater than 25–20 ml/min (Oh et al. 2004).”

At least I understand why the sodium bicarbonate and I realize it’s not for me… yet.

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!

Stay in the Blood, PLEASE

Let’s finish out this lazy, hazy summer month of August with another reader question. This one was quite straight forward:

“Any advice to slow down protein leaking into urine. Hard to build muscle when you keep excreting protein”

The condition of leaking protein into your urine is called proteinuria. That’s almost self-explanatory. The root of the word actually says protein while the suffix (group of related letters added to the end of a word which changes its meaning) is defined as,

“-uria.

  1. suffix meaning the “presence of a substance in the urine”: ammoniuria, calciuria, enzymuria.
  2. combining form meaning “(condition of) possessing urine”: paruria, polyuria, pyuria.

Thank you to the Medical Dictionary at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/-uria for the definition of uria.

Okay, so we know that protein is leaking into the urine. Not good. Why? We need it in our blood, not excreted in our urine. The following is from a previous blog on proteinuria. I used the dropdown menu in “Topics” on the right side of the blog page to find it or any other topic listed there. You can, too.

“According to WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/men/features/benefits-protein#1:

‘Protein is an important component of every cell in the body. Hair and nails are mostly made of protein. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.’”

Got it. Our reader is correct; it is hard to build muscle if you’re “excreting protein.” Now what? I usually stick to medical sites but this comment from Healthfully at https://healthfully.com/170108-how-to-reduce-excess-protein-in-the-kidney.html caught my eye.

“Continue monitoring how much protein your kidneys are spilling for several months. Since colds and infections can cause transient increases in protein, you will want at least several months of data.”

As Chronic Kidney Disease patients, we usually have quarterly urine tests… or, at least, I do. My urine protein level is included. I did not know that colds and infections are a factor here. Here’s an old urine analysis of mine. You can see Protein, Urine fourth from the bottom.

Component Your Value Standard Range
Color, Urine Yellow Colorless, Light Yellow, Yellow, Dark Yellow, Straw
Clarity, Urine Clear Clear
Glucose, Urine Negative mg/dL Negative mg/dL
Bilirubin, Urine Negative Negative
Ketones, Urine Negative mg/dL Negative mg/dL
Specific Gravity, Urine 1.013 1.007 – 1.026
Blood, Urine Negative Negative
pH, Urine 7.0 5.0 – 8.0
Protein, Urine Negative mg/dL Negative mg/dL
Urobilinogen, Urine <2.0 mg/dL <2.0 mg/dL
Nitrite, Urine Negative Negative
Leukocyte Esterase, Urine Negative Negative

 

Let’s say our reader did not have a cold or infection. What else could she do to slow down this loss of protein via her urine?

The American Kidney Fund at http://www.kidneyfund.org/kidney-disease/kidney-problems/protein-in-urine.html suggests the following:

“If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, the first and second most common causes of kidney disease, it is important to make sure these conditions are under control.

If you have diabetes, controlling it will mean checking your blood sugar often, taking medicines as your doctor tells you to, and following a healthy eating and exercise plan. If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may tell you to take a medicine to help lower your blood pressure and protect your kidneys from further damage. The types of medicine that can help with blood pressure and proteinuria are called angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors) and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs).

If you have protein in your urine, but you do not have diabetes or high blood pressure, an ACE inhibitor or an ARB may still help to protect your kidneys from further damage. If you have protein in your urine, talk to your doctor about choosing the best treatment option for you.”

So far, we’ve discovered that frequent urine testing, determining if you have a cold or infection, keeping your diabetes and blood pressure under control, and/or ACE inhibitors may be helpful. But here’s my eternal question: What else can slow down the spilling of protein into our urine?

The Kidney & Urology Foundation of America, Inc. at http://www.kidneyurology.org/Library/Kidney_Health/Proteinuria.php has some more ideas about that:

“In addition to blood glucose and blood pressure control, restricting dietary salt and protein intake is recommended. Your doctor may refer you to a dietitian to help you develop and follow a healthy eating plan.”

As CKD patients, we know we need to cut down on salt intake. I actually eliminate added salt and have banned the salt shakers from the kitchen. No wonder no one but me likes my cooking. You do lose your taste for salt eventually. After all these years, I taste salt in restaurant food that makes that particular food unpalatable to me.

Hmmm, it seems to me that a list of high protein foods might be helpful here.

POULTRY…

  • Skinless chicken breast – 4oz – 183 Calories – 30g Protein – 0 Carbs – 7g Fat
  • Skinless chicken (Dark) – 4 oz – 230 Calories – 32g Protein – 0 Carbs – 5g Fat
  • Skinless Turkey (White) – 4 oz – 176 Calories – 34g Protein – 0 Carbs – 3.5g Fat
  • Skinless Turkey (Dark) – 4 oz – 211 Calories – 31g Protein – 0 Carbs – 8.1 g Fat

FISH…

  • Salmon – 3 oz – 119 Calories – 17g Protein – 0 Carbs – 5.5g Fat
  • Halibut – 3 oz – 91 Calories – 18g Protein – 0 Carbs – 3g Fat
  • Tuna – 1/4 cup – 70 Calories – 18g Protein – 0 Carbs – 0g Fat
  • Mackerel – 3 oz – 178 Calories – 16.1g Protein – 0 Carbs – 12g Fat
  • Anchovies (packed in water) – 1 oz – 42 Calories – 6g Protein – 1.3g Fat
  • Flounder – 1 127g fillet – 149 Calories – 30.7g Protein – 0 Carbs – 0.5g Fat (High Cholesterol)
  • Swordfish – 1 piece 106g – 164 Calories – 26.9g Protein – 0 Carbs – 1.5g Fat (High Cholesterol)
  • Cod – 1 fillet 180g – 189 Calories – 41.4g protein – 0 Carbs – 0.3g Fat (High Cholesterol)
  • Herring – 1 fillet 143g – 290 Calories – 32.9g Protein – 0 Carbs – 3.7g Fat (High Cholesterol)
  • Haddock – 1 fillet 150g – 168 Calories – 36.4g Protein – 0 Carbs – 0.3g Fat (High Cholesterol)
  • Grouper – fillet 202g – 238 Calories – 50.2g Protein – 0 Carbs – 0.6g Fat (High Cholesterol)
  • Snapper – 1 fillet 170g – 218 Calories – 44.7g Protein – 0 Carbs – 0.6g Fat (High Cholesterol)

BEEF…

  • Eye of round steak – 3 oz – 276 Calories – 49g Protein – 2.4g Fat
  • Sirloin tip side steak – 3 oz -206 Calories – 39g Protein – 2g Fat
  • Top sirloin – 3 oz – 319 Calories – 50.9g Protein – 4g Fat
  • Bottom round steak – 3 oz – 300 Calories – 47g Protein – 3.5g Fat
  • Top round steak – 3 oz – 240 Calories – 37g Protein – 3.1g Fat

PORK…

  • Pork loin – 3 oz – 180 Calories – 25g Protein – 0 Carbs – 2.9g Fat (High in cholesterol)
  • Tenderloin– 3 oz – 103 Calories – 18g Protein – 0.3g Carbs – 1.2g Fat (High in cholesterol)

GAME MEATS…

  • Bison – 3 0z – 152 Calories – 21.6g Protein – 0 Carbs – 3g Fat
  • Rabbit – 3 oz – 167 Calories – 24.7g Protein – 0 Carbs – 2.0g Fat
  • Venison (Deer loin broiled) – 3 oz – 128 Calories – 25.7g Protein – 0 Carbs – 0.7g Fat

GRAINS…

  • Cooked Quinoa – 1/2 cup – 115 Calories – 4.1g Protein – 22 Carbs – 2g Fat
  • Cooked Brown Rice – 1/2 cup – 106 Calories – 2.7g Protein – 23 Carbs – 0.7g Fat
  • Regular Popcorn (Air Popped no oil) – 1 cup – 60 Calories – 2g Protein – 11 Carbs – 0.6g Fat
  • Steel cut Oatmeal – 1 cup – 145 Calories – 7g Protein – 25g Carbs – 2.5g Fat
  • Multi grain bread – 1 slice – 68.9 Calories – 3.5g Protein – 11.3g Carbs – 0.2g Fat

BEANS (All nutrition values calculated for cooked beans)…

  • Tofu – 1/2 cup – 98 Calories – 11g Protein – 2g Carbs – 6g Fat
  • Lentils – 1/2 cup – 119 Calories – 9g Protein – 20g Carbs – 0.3g Fat
  • Black beans – 1/2 cup – 115 Calories – 7.8g Protein – 20 Carbs – 0.4g Fat
  • Kidney beans – 1/2 cup – 111 Calories – 7.2g Protein – 20.2 Carbs – 0.4g Fat
  • Lima beans – 1/2 cup – 110 Calories – 7.4g Protein – 19.7 Carbs – 0.3g Fat
  • Soy beans – 1/2 cup – 133 Calories – 11g Protein – 10 Carbs – 5.9g Fat

DAIRY…

  • Skim milk – 1 cup – 90 Calories – 9g Protein – 12g Carbs – 4.8g Fat
  • Low fat Yogurt – 1 cup – 148 Calories – 12g Protein – 17Carbs – 3.2g Fat
  • Non fat Yogurt – 1 cup – 130 Calories – 13g Protein – 16.9 Carbs – 0.4 Fat
  • Cheddar cheese – 1 oz – 116 Calories – 7g Protein – 0.4 Carbs – 9.2g Fat
  • Low fat Cottage Cheese – 1/2 cup – 82 Calories – 14g Protein – 3.1g Carbs – 0.7g Fat
  • One large egg – 73 Calories – 6.6g Protein – 0 Carbs – 6g Fat
  • Low fat Milk – 1 cup – 119 Calories – 8g Protein – 12 Carbs – 4.6g Fat

NUTS & SEEDS…

  • Raw Almonds – 1 oz about 22 whole – 169 Calories – 22g Carbs – 6.2g Protein – 1.1g Fat
  • Raw Pistachios – 1 oz about 49 Kernels – 157 Calories – 7.9g Carbs – 5.8g Protein – 1.5g Fat
  • Pumpkin seeds – 1 oz – 28g about 100 hulled seeds – 151 Calories – 5g Carbs – 6.0g Protein – 2.4g Fat
  • Raw Macadamia nuts – 1 oz about 10- 12 kernels – 203 Calories – 4g Carbs – 2.2g Protein – 3.4g Fat
  • Chia seeds – 1 oz – 137 Calories – 12.3g Carbs – 4.4g Protein – 0.9g Fat
  • Walnuts – 1 cup in shell about 7 total – 183 Calories – 3.8g Carbs – 4.3g Protein – 1.7g Fat
  • Raw Cashews1oz – 28g – 155 Calories – 9.2g Carbs – 5.1g Protein – 2.2g Fat

MORE HIGH PROTEIN FOODS…

  • Natural peanut butter – 1 oz – 146 Calories – 7.3g Protein – 10g Carbs – 1.6g Fat
  • Natural almond butter – 1 tbsp – 101 Calories – 2.4g Protein – 3.4 Carbs – 0.9g Fat
  • Natural cashew butter – 1 tbsp – 93.9 Calories – 2.8g Protein – 4.4 Carbs – 1.6g Fat
  • Hummus – 1 oz – 46.5 Calories – 2.2g Protein – 4.0g Carbs – 0.4g Fat
  • Tempeh Cooked – 1 oz – 54 Calories – 5.1g Protein – 2.6g Carbs – 1.0g Fat

There’s a vegan list on the same site. Be leery of protein sources that are not on your kidney diet.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

Diabetic Neuropathy or Not: I WILL Dance Again

I come from a family of dancers. My parents and their siblings were all light on their feet and danced from the time they were teens right up until just before their deaths. It was a delight to watch them. The tradition continued with me… and my youngest who actually taught blues dancing for several years.

Ah, but then my neuropathy appeared. This was years before the diabetes diagnosis. Hmmm, there’s still a question as to whether or not the diabetes was caused by the pancreatic cancer. After all, the pancreas does produce insulin.

I just reread the above two paragraphs and see so much that needs some basic explanation. Let’s start with those explanations this week. How many of you know what neuropathy is? I didn’t either until I was diagnosed with it. According to my favorite dictionary since college a million years ago, The Merriam-Webster Dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/neuropathy defines neuropathy as:

“damage, disease, or dysfunction of one or more nerves especially of the peripheral nervous system that is typically marked by burning or shooting pain, numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness or atrophy, is often degenerative, and is usually caused by injury, infection, disease, drugs, toxins, or vitamin deficiency “

If you clicked though on ‘peripheral nervous system’ in the dictionary definition, you know it means,

“the part of the nervous system that is outside the central nervous system and comprises the cranial nerves excepting the optic nerve, the spinal nerves, and the autonomic nervous system”

Since the neuropathy was so minor before the pancreatic cancer, I wasn’t even aware of it until my neurologist did some testing. I knew my feet were tingly sometimes, but I thought they had fallen asleep. It did sort of feel like that.

Then, I started chemotherapy in March. The tingling became so bad that I couldn’t feel my feet under me and had to rely on a cane to keep my balance. We thought it was the chemo drugs causing the neuropathy. Uh-oh, that was just about when my hands became affected, too, and my A1C (Remember that one? It’s the blood test for the average of your blood glucose over a three month period.) rose all the way to 7.1.

Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes/ac1-test#understanding-the-results tells us,

“Someone without diabetes will have about 5 percent of their hemoglobin glycated [Gail here: that means glucose bonded to hemoglobin]. A normal A1C level is 5.6 percent or below, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

A level of 5.7 to 6.4 percent indicates prediabetes. People with diabetes have an A1C level of 6.5 percent or above.”

Mind you, during chemotherapy I’d been ordered to eat whatever I could. Getting in the calories would cut down on the expected weight loss. In all honesty, I’m the only person I know what gained weight while on chemotherapy.

Now, what is this about the pancreas producing insulin? Might as well get a definition of insulin while we’re at it. MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=3989 offered the simplest explanation:

“A natural hormone made by the pancreas that controls the level of the sugar glucose in the blood. Insulin permits cells to use glucose for energy. Cells cannot utilize glucose without insulin.”

That would explain why my energy is practically nil, but it also seems to indicate that I won’t be able to do anything about it until after the surgery to remove the tumor. Although, when I start radiation next week, I may be able to go back to the diabetic diet. By the way, after following the Chronic Kidney Disease diet for 11 years, none of the new – off the CKD diet – foods I tried are appealing to me.

But I digress. So, what now? I need to dance; it’s part of who I am. My oncologist referred me to Occupational Therapy. Now I have exercises and tactile surfaces to explore that may be helpful. But what about those who are not going through chemotherapy, but do have diabetic neuropathy? Remember diabetes is the number cause of CKD.

Oh, my goodness. It looks like there are as many ways to treat neuropathy as there are different kinds of neuropathy. I hadn’t expected that. EverydayHealth at https://www.everydayhealth.com/neuropathy/guide/treatment/ gives us an idea of just how complicated choosing the proper treatment for your neuropathy can be:

What Are the Main Ways That Neuropathy Is Treated?

Treating neuropathy in general focuses first on identifying and then addressing the underlying condition to help prevent further damage and give nerves the time they need to heal to the extent that they can.

“The treatment for the neuropathy is to reverse whatever it is that is causing the neuropathy,” says Clifford Segil, DO, a neurologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “We try to reverse the insult to the nerves first and then do symptomatic control.”

For people with diabetic neuropathy, the first step physicians take is getting the person’s blood glucose level under control, says Matthew Villani, DPM, a podiatrist at Central Florida Regional Hospital in Sanford, Florida.

This treatment approach aims to remove the “insult” created by the excess sugar to peripheral nerves throughout the body — but especially the extremities, Dr. Segil explains.

Here are some other ways diabetic neuropathy may be treated:

  • Numbness or complete loss of sensation can lead to complications such as ulcers, sores, and limb amputations. It is addressed by monitoring the affected areas — often the feet — for injuries and addressing wounds before they become more serious, as well as prescribing protective footwear and braces.
  • Orthostatic hypotension (a drop in blood pressure upon standing up), which is an autonomic symptom, can be treated with increased sodium intake, a vasopressor such as ProAmatine (midodrine) to constrict blood vessels, a synthetic mineralocorticoid such as fludrocortisone to help maintain the balance of salt in the body, or a cholinesterase inhibitor such as pyridostigmine, which affects neurotransmitters.
  • Gastroparesis, a delayed emptying of the stomach, is another autonomic symptom, which can be treated with medication to control nausea and vomiting, such as Reglan (metoclopramide), Ery-Tab (erythromycin), antiemetics, and antidepressants, as well as pain medication for abdominal discomfort.
  • Motor neuropathy symptoms can include weakness and muscle wasting, particularly in the lower extremities, as well as deformities of the feet and loss of the Achilles’ heel tendon reflex. Treatments can include physical therapy to regain strength, as well as braces and orthotics.

I’ve got to think about this. Any questions? Well, then,

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Like Life?

A word I hear every few weeks at chemotherapy is Neulasta. I looked it up since I was being given an injection each time I heard the word. I went directly to the manufacturer’s website at https://www.neulasta.com/learn-about-neulasta/ to find out just what it was:

“Neulasta® is a prescription medicine used to help reduce the chance of infection due to a low white blood cell count, in people with certain types of cancer (non-myeloid), who receive anti-cancer medicines (chemotherapy) that can cause fever and low blood cell count.”

But then I needed to define ‘non-myeloid’ for myself. No problem. I called up my old standby The Merriam-Webster Dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/nonmyeloid:

“not being, involving, or affecting bone marrow”

Okay, got it. Neulasta reduces low white blood cell count infection in cancer that doesn’t affect the bone marrow. By the way, this is accomplished by forcing white blood cells – the infection fighting blood cells – to mature quickly.

No sooner did I get that straight in my mind than I started hearing a different word: Udenyca. It turned out that Udenya is a biosimilar for Neulasta. Now we get to the meat of the matter.

Just what is a biosimilar? I took a former English teacher’s stab at the definition and decided it meant ‘like life.’ But does it? The Free Medical Dictionary at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/biosimilarity helped us out here:

“biosimilar

(bī′ō-sĭm′ə-lər)

adj.

Highly similar in function and effect to an existing biological product,

especially to a biologic that has al-ready been clinically tested and approved for use.

n.

A biological product that is biosimilar to an existing product,

especially to a biologic”

Keep in mind that an adjective (adj.) describes a noun, while a noun (n.) is a person, place, thing, or idea.

Frankly, I didn’t find this very helpful. So I did what I considered the logical thing and looked to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website at https://www.fda.gov/media/108905/download for more explanation:

“A biosimilar is a biological product

FDA-approved biosimilars have been compared to an FDA-approved biologic, known as the reference product. Reference and biosimilar products are:

Large and generally complex molecules

Produced from living organisms

Carefully monitored to ensure consistent quality

Meet FDA’s rigorous standards for approval

Are manufactured in FDA-licensed facilities

Are tracked as part of post-market surveillance to ensure continued safety

A biosimilar is highly similar to a reference product

For approval, the structure and function of an approved biosimilar were compared to a reference product, looking at key characteristics such as:

Purity

Molecular structure

Bioactivity

The data from these comparisons must show that the biosimilar is highly similar to the reference product.

A biosimilar has no clinically meaningful differences from a reference product

Studies were performed to show that biosimilars have no clinically meaningful differences in safety, purity or potency (safety and effectiveness) compared to the reference product:

Pharmacokinetic and, if needed, armacodynamic studies

Immunogenicity assessment

Additional clinical studies as needed

Studies may be done independently or combined.

A biosimilar is approved by FDA after rigorous evaluation and testing by the applicant

Prescribers and patients should have no concerns about using these medications instead of reference products because biosimilars:

Meet FDA’s rigorous standards for approval

Are manufactured in FDA-licensed facilities

Are tracked as part of post-market surveillance to ensure continued safety”

Okay! Now we’re talking. Pretty simple to understand, isn’t it? Well, maybe there’s a word or three we might need defined. Let’s take another look. These two definitions are from Dictionary.com.

“Pharmacokinetic – the branch of pharmacology that studies the fate of pharmacological substances in thebody, as their absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination.

Immunogenicity – causing or capable of producing an immune response.”

Wikipedia offered this interesting difference between Pharmacokinetic and Pharmacodynamics.

“Pharmacodynamics is the study of how a drug affects an organism, whereas pharmacokinetics is the study of how the organism affects the drug. Both together influence dosing, benefit, and adverse effects.”

The point here is that the synthetic drug and biosimilars are not the same. Maybe my guess at their definition is far off the mark.  And lest you’re beginning to think this is a cancer blog rather than a Chronic Kidney Disease blog, biosimilars are used in CKD, too.

This snippet from the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN) at https://cjasn.asnjournals.org/content/early/2018/08/03/CJN.01980218 will give you the idea:

“Most recognizable to nephrologists is the biologic recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO). Considerably more expensive to develop and produce, biologics are more structurally complex than small-molecule drugs. By 2020, biologics will constitute an estimated 27% of spending on worldwide pharmacologics.”

Remember erythropoietin, more commonly known among CKD patients as epo? Not to worry; MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/erythropoietin/article.htm will remind us:

Erythropoietin (EPO) is a hormone produced by the kidney that promotes the formation of red blood cells by the bone marrow. The kidney cells that make erythropoietin are sensitive to low oxygen levels in the blood that travels through the kidney.”

Un-oh, I almost forgot to explain the difference between biosimilars and biologics. According to the Congressional Research Service at https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R44620.pdf:

“A biological product, or biologic, is a preparation, such as a drug or a vaccine, that is made from living organisms. Compared with conventional chemical drugs, biologics are relatively large and complex molecules. They may be composed of proteins (and/or their constituent amino acids), carbohydrates (such as sugars), nucleic acids (such as DNA), or combinations of these substances.

Biologics may also be cells or tissues used in transplantation. A biosimilar, sometimes referred to as a follow-on biologic, is a therapeutic drug that is highly similar but not structurally identical, to a brand-name biologic (i.e., the reference product). This is in contrast to a generic chemical drug, which is an exact copy of a brand-name chemical drug (i.e., the reference listed drug). Because biologics are more complex than chemical drugs, both in composition and method of manufacture, biosimilars will not be exact replicas of the brand-name product, but may instead be shown to be highly similar. However, for many years, the drug industry and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have coped with the inherent variability in biological products from natural sources. FDA maintains that the batch-to-batch and lot-to-lot variability that occurs for both brand-name biologics and biosimilars can be assessed and managed effectively.”

Hmmm, looks like I’ve made a fairly simple concept terribly complex.

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!

Don’t Know Much about FSGS…

Being on chemotherapy is very tiring, so I stay home a lot and delve into anything that catches my eye, like FSGS. I’ve seen the letters before and had sort of a vague idea of what it might be, but what better time to explore it and whatever it may have to do with Chronic Kidney Disease than now?

Let’s start at the beginning. FSGS is the acronym for focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. Anything look familiar? Maybe the ‘glomerul’ part of glomerulosclerosis? I think we need to know the definition of glomerulosclerosis to be able to answer that question. The National Institutes of Health’s U.S. National Library of Congress’s Medline Plus at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000478.htm defines it this way:

“Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis is scar tissue in the filtering unit of the kidney. This structure is called the glomerulus. The glomeruli serve as filters that help the body get rid of harmful substances. Each kidney has thousands of glomeruli.

‘Focal’ means that some of the glomeruli become scarred. Others remain normal. ‘Segmental’ means that only part of an individual glomerulus is damaged.”

So, we do know what the ‘glomerul’ part of glomerulosclerosis means. It refers to the same filters in the kidneys we’ve been discussing for the past eleven years: the glomeruli. This former English teacher can assure you that ‘o’ is simply a connective between the two parts of the word. ‘Sclerosis’ is a term you may have heard of in relation to the disease of the same name, the one in which the following occurs (according to Encarta Dictionary):

“the hardening and thickening of body tissue as a result of unwarranted growth, degeneration of nerve fibers, or deposition of minerals, especially calcium.”

Wait a minute. When I first started writing about CKD, I approached NephCure Foundation… not being certain what it was, but seeing Neph in its name. They were kind enough to ask me to guest blog for them on 8/21/11. By the way, as of August 15, 2014, NephCure Foundation became NephCure Kidney International. That makes the connection to our kidneys much more clear.

Back to FSGS. The NephCure Kidney International website at https://nephcure.org/ offers us this information:

“How is FSGS Diagnosed?

FSGS is diagnosed with renal biopsy (when doctors examine a tiny portion of the kidney tissue), however, because only some sections of the glomeruli are affected, the biopsy can sometimes be inconclusive.

What are the Symptoms of FSGS?

Many people with FSGS have no symptoms at all.  When symptoms are present the most common include:

Proteinuria – Large amounts of protein ‘spilling’ into the urine

Edema – Swelling in parts of the body, most noticeable around the eyes, hands and feet, and abdomen which causes sudden weight gain.

Low Blood Albumin Levels because the kidneys are removing albumin instead of returning it to the blood

High Cholesterol in some cases

High Blood Pressure in some cases and can often be hard to treat

FSGS can also cause abnormal results of creatinine in laboratory tests. Creatinine is measured by taking a blood sample. Everyone has a certain amount of a substance called creatinine floating in his or her blood. This substance is always being produced by healthy muscles and normally the kidneys constantly filter it out and the level of creatinine stays low. But when the filters become damaged, they stop filtering properly and the level of creatinine left in the blood goes up.”

Whoa! Look at all the terms we’ve used again and again in the last eleven years of SlowItDownCKD’s weekly blog: proteinuria, edema, albumin, cholesterol, high blood pressure, and creatinine. This is definitely something that we, as CKD patients, should know about.

Okay. Let’s say you are diagnosed with FSGS. Now what? The National Kidney Organization at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/focal was helpful here:

How is FSGS treated?

The type of treatment you get depends on the cause. Everyone is different and your doctor will make a treatment plan that is right for your type of FSGS. Usually, treatments for FSGS include:

  • Corticosteroids (often called “steroids”)
  • Immunosuppressive drugs
  • ACE inhibitors and ARBs
  • Diuretics
  • Diet change

Corticosteroids and immunosuppressive drugs: These medications are used to calm your immune system (your body’s defense system) and stop it from attacking your glomeruli.

ACE inhibitors and ARBs: These are blood pressure medications used to reduce protein loss and control blood pressure.”

Diuretics: These medications help your body get rid of excess fluid and swelling. These can be used to lower your blood pressure too.

Diet changes:  Some diet changes may be needed, such as reducing salt (sodium) and protein in your food choices to lighten the load of wastes on the kidneys.”

I think we need another definition here. Yep, it’s Plasmapheresis. Back to the Encarta Dictionary.

“a process in which blood taken from a patient is treated to extract the cells and corpuscles, which are then added to another fluid and returned to the patient’s body.”

Let’s go back to The NephCure Kidney International website at https://nephcure.org/ for a succinct summary of FSGS Facts.

“More than 5400 patients are diagnosed with FSGS every year, however, this is considered an underestimate because:

  • a limited number of biopsies are performed
  • the number of FSGS cases are rising more than any other cause of Nephrotic Syndrome…

NephCure estimates that there are currently 19,306 people living with ESRD due to FSGS…, in part because it is the most common cause of steroid resistant Nephrotic Syndrome in children,… and it is the second leading cause of kidney failure in children…

NephCure estimates that people of African ancestry are at a five times higher diagnosis rate of FSGS…

About half of FSGS patients who do not respond to steroids go into ESRD each year, requiring dialysis or transplantation…

Approximately 1,000 FSGS patients a year receive kidney transplants… however, within hours to weeks after a kidney transplant, FSGS returns in approximately 30-40% of patients….”

As prevalent and serious as this sounds, please remember that FSGS is a rare kidney disease. Knowing what we now know just may help you keep your eyes open for it.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Chemo and My Kidneys

 As most of you know, I am extremely protective of my kidneys. When I was first diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease 11 years ago, my eGFR was only 39. Here’s a quick reminder of what the eGFR is from my first CKD book, What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease:

“GFR: Glomerular filtration rate [if there is a lower case ‘e’ before the term, it means estimated glomerular filtration rate] which determines both the stage of kidney disease and how well the kidneys are functioning.”

39. That’s stage 3B, the lower part of stage 3B. During the intervening 11 years, I’ve been able to raise it to 50 (and sometimes higher for short periods) via vigorously following the renal diet, exercising, avoiding stress as much as possible, maintaining adequate sleep, and paying strict attention to the medications prescribed for me. While the medications were the ones I had been taking for high blood pressure prior to being diagnosed with CKD, they worked in my favor.

This excerpt from The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) part of the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM), a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK492989/ will explain why:

“The decision of whether to reduce blood pressure levels in someone who has chronic kidney disease will depend on

  • how high their blood pressure is (when untreated),
  • whether they have diabetes, and
  • how much protein is in their urine (albumin level).

A person with normal blood pressure who doesn’t have diabetes and hardly has any albumin in their urine will be able to get by without using any blood-pressure-lowering medication. But people who have high blood pressure, diabetes or high levels of albumin in their urine are advised to have treatment with ACE inhibitors (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors) or sartans (angiotensin receptor blockers). In people who have diabetes, blood-sugar-lowering medication is also important.”

When I was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer early last month, it changed my medical priorities. With my nephrologist’s blessing, my primary focus was the cancer… not my kidneys. It took constant reminders to myself not to be so quick to say no to anything that I thought would harm my kidneys. In other words, to those things I’d been saying no to for the last 11 years.

For example, once diagnosed with CKD, I ate very little protein keeping to my five ounce daily limitation. Not anymore. Protein is needed to avoid muscle wasting during chemotherapy with a minimum requirement of eight ounces a day. I even tried roast beef and other red meats. After 11 years, they no longer agreed with me so I eat ground turkey, chicken, cheese, and am considering soy.

Another change: I preferred not to eat carbohydrates, but was warned not to lose weight if I could help it. All of a sudden I’m eating Goldfish, bread, and pasta. I can’t say that I’m enjoying them, but I am keeping my weight loss to a minimum. Other limitations like those on potassium and phosphorous have also gone by the wayside. I’ve eaten every childhood favorite, foods that I’ve avoided for the last 11 years, and anything that might look tempting in the last month, but none of them really taste that good. I like the foods on the renal diet now.

Oh, the only thing I have not increased is salt. My daughter takes me to my chemotherapy sessions. There’s a Jewish style restaurant across the street and we showed up early one day. I wanted to try a toasted bagel with butter, the way I ate it before CKD. The damned thing was salty! I hadn’t expected that.

Back to chemo and my kidneys. I admit it. I was nervous. What was this combination of poisons going to do to my kidneys? If it was so caustic that I had to have a port in place so that it wouldn’t be injected directly into my veins for fear of obliterating them, what about my kidneys?

I anxiously awaited my first Comprehensive Blood Panel, the blood test that includes your GFR. Oh, oh, oh! My kidney function had risen to 55 and my creatinine had lowered to 1.0. Let me explain just how good this was.

A GFR of 55 is the higher part of stage 3A. 60 is where stage 2 of CKD begins. My kidneys were functioning better on chemo. And the creatinine? Let’s get a quick definition of that first. According to The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd/tests-diagnosis:

“Creatinine. Creatinine is a waste product from the normal breakdown of muscles in your body. Your kidneys remove creatinine from your blood. Providers use the amount of creatinine in your blood to estimate your GFR. As kidney disease gets worse, the level of creatinine goes up.”

Yet, mine went down. How? I asked and it was explained that all the hydration used to clear my veins of the caustic chemotherapy had worked this magic. I had two hours of hydration before the chemo-therapy  itself, two hours afterward, and another two hours the next day. My kidneys had never been this hydrated!

But wait, there’s more. I have diabetes. The pancreas is the organ that produces insulin. Could my diabetes be from the tumor blocking the production of insulin by my pancreas? I truly don’t know, but my glucose level is within the standard range for the first time since I’ve been diagnosed with diabetes.

Would I recommend chemotherapy to raise your GFR, and lower your creatinine and your glucose level? Of course not. But I am feeling so very lucky that my kidneys are not coming to any harm during the chemotherapy necessary to save my life. I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I am.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

CKD and Me

Okay, so I was finally ready to give up World Kidney Day and National Kidney Month. Maybe it’s time to give up the 1in9 chapter contribution, too. Since each contributing author also had their biography accompanying their chapter, I think the best way to do that is to print the biography… although it’s all me, me, me. Indulge me, please.

*****

Ms. Rae-Garwood’s writing started out as a means to an end for a single parent with two children and a need for more income than her career as a NYC teacher afforded. Gail retired from both college teaching and acting – after a bit of soul searching about where her CKD limited energy would be best spent – early in 2013. Since her diagnose, Ms. Rae-Garwood writes most often about Chronic Kidney Disease, although she does write fiction. She has a three time award winning weekly blog (Surprise!) about this topic at https://gailraegarwood.wordpress.com and social media accounts as @SlowItDownCKD.

*****

Hmmm, it seems to me I’ve done a lot more with Chronic Kidney Disease awareness advocacy since I started with this in 2010. Let’s see what else there is. Aha! These are on my website at www.gail-raegarwood.com.

 

Arizona Health & Living  (West Valley)  6/2018

 

MyTherapy Guest Blog    3/8/18

eCareDiary: Coping with Chronic Kidney  Disease  3/06/18

NephJC: One More Patient Voice on CKD Staging and Precision Medicine  12/08/16

 

Center for Science in the Public Interest: Nutrition Action Healthletter   9/16

New York State United Teachers: It’s What We Do   8/9/16

American Kidney Fund: Slowing DownCKD – It Can Be Done   7/14/16

The Edge Podcast  5/19/16

Dear Annie   3/10/14

Renal Diet Headquarters Podcast   2/12/14

 

Accountable Kidney Care Collaborative: Bob’s Blog   1/23/14

Wall Street Journal: Patients Can Do More to Control Chronic Conditions  1/13/14

The Neuropathy Doctor’s News   9/23/13

Series of five Monthly CKD education classes in The Salt River Pima-Maricopa

Indian Community   9/12/13

 

KidneySteps: Gail Rae and SlowItDown  9/11/13

Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community: 4th Annual Men and Women’s Gathering  8/29/13

National Kidney Foundation: Staying Healthy  6/6/13

KidneySteps: Learning Helps with CKD    7/04/12

Life Options Links for Patients and Professionals   5/30/12

It Is Just What It Is    3/9/12

Online with Andrea    03/07/12

 

Working with Chronic Illness  2/17/12

 

Libre Tweet Chat with Gail Rae   1/10/12

Kevinmd.com   1/1/12

Improve Your Kidney Health with Dr. Rich Snyder, DO   11/21/11

Glendale Community College Gaucho Gazette   8/22/11

 

The NephCure Foundation   8/21/11

Authors Show Radio    8/8/11

Renal Support Network: Another 30 Years  1/11/10

Working with Chronic Illness: Are You Aching to Write    1/11/10

I’m going to keep today’s blog very short so you have the time to click though on the hyperlinked podcasts and articles. When I was teaching college, my students thoroughly enjoyed the time to choose what they’d like to hear or read from a prescribed list. I hope it’s the same for you.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

I’m Finally Ready to Let National Kidney Month Go

As you already know, I’ve been posting the chapter I contributed to the book 1in9 as my contribution to National Kidney Month. This will probably be the final post of that chapter, unless I decide to post the biography that goes along with the chapter at a later date.

Most of you are aware that I now have pancreatic cancer and the chemo effects are getting in my way. I’m hoping that I’ll not be feeling them so severely in the near future and will be able to research some new material for you. Right now, that’s just not possible. You may have noticed that my Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook pages no longer contain original posts. That’s due to the same reason.

But let’s complete the book chapter:

When I was diagnosed back in 2008, there weren’t that many reader friendly books on anything having to do with CKD. Since then, more and more books of this type have been published. I’m laughing along with you, but I don’t mean just SlowItDownCKD 2011, SlowItDownCKD 2012 (These two were The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1, until I realized how unwieldy both the book and the title were – another learning experience), SlowItDownCKD 2013, SlowItDownCKD 2014 (These two were formerly The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2), SlowItDownCKD 2015, SlowItDownCKD 2016, and SlowItDownCKD 2017. By the way, I’m already working on SlowItDownCKD 2018. Each book contains the blogs for that year.

I include guest blogs or book review blogs to get a taste of the currently available CKD news. For example, 1in9 guest blogged this year. Books such as Dr. Mandip S. Kang’s, The Doctor’s Kidney Diets (which also contains so much non-dietary information that we – as CKD patients – need to know), and Drs. Raymond R. Townsend and Debbie L. Cohen’s 100 Questions & Answers about Kidney Disease and Hypertension.

I miss my New York daughter and she misses me, so we sometimes have coffee together separately. She has a cup of coffee and I do at the same time. It’s not like being together in person, but it’s something. You can find support the same way via Facebook Chronic Kidney Disease Support Groups. Some of these groups are:

Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness

Chronic Kidney Disease in India

CKD (Kidney Failure) Support Group International

Dialysis & Kidney Disease

Friends Sharing Positive Chronic Kidney Disease

I Hate Dialysis

Kidney Disease Diet Ideas and Help

Kidney Disease Ideas and Diets1

Kidney Disease is not a Joke

Kidney Disease, Dialysis, and Transplant

Kidney Warriors Foundation

Kidneys and Vets

Mani Trust

Mark’s Private Kidney Disease Group

P2P

People on Dialysis

Sharing your Kidney Journey

Stage 3 ‘n 4 Kidneybeaners Gathering Place

The Transplant Community Outreach

UK Kidney Support

Women’s Renal Failure

Wrap Up Warm for Kidney Disease

What I hit over and over again in the blogs is that diabetes is the foremost cause of CKD with hypertension as the second most common cause. Simple blood and urine tests can uncover your CKD – if you’re part of the unlucky 96% of those in the early stages of the disease who don’t know they have it.

Each time I research, I’m newly amazed at how much there is to learn about CKD…and how many tools you have at your disposal to help slow it down. Diet is the obvious one. But if you smoke or drink, stop, or at least cut down. If you don’t exercise, start. Adequate, good quality sleep is another tool. Don’t underestimate rest either; you’re not being lazy when you rest, you’re preserving whatever kidney function you have left. I am not particularly a pill person, but if there’s a medication prescribed that will slow down the gradual decline of my kidney function, I’m all for it.

I was surprised to discover that writing my SlowItDownCKD book series, maintaining a blog, Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest accounts of the same name are not enough for me for me to spread the word about CKD screening and education. I’m determined to change this since I feel so strongly that NO ONE should have this disease and not be aware of it.

That’s why I’ve brought CKD awareness to every community that would have me: coffee shops, Kiwanis Clubs, independent bookstores, senior citizen centers, guest blogging for the likes of The American Kidney Fund and The National Kidney Foundation, being interviewed by publications like the Wall Street Journal’s Health Matters, The Center for Science in The Public Interest, and The United Federation of Teachers’ New York Teacher, and on podcasts such as The Renal Diet Headquarters, Online with Andrea, The Edge Podcast, Working with Chronic Illness, and Improve Your Kidney Health.

I’ve been very serious about sharing about CKD before it advances to end stage… meaning dialysis. To that end, I gathered a team for the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona Kidney Walk one year. Another year, I organized several meetings at the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Education is vital since so many people are unaware they even have the disease.

You can slow down the progression of the decline of kidney function. I have been spending a lot of time on my health and I’m happy to say it’s been paying off. There are five stages. I’ve stayed at the middle one for over a decade despite having both high blood pressure and diabetes. That’s what this is about. People don’t know about CKD. They get diagnosed. They think they’re going to die. Everybody dies, but it doesn’t have to be of CKD. I am downright passionate about people knowing this.

Thanks for taking the time to finish the chapter. The more people who know about Chronic Kidney Disease, the more people can tell others about it. I’d hate for anyone to be part of the 90% of those with CKD who don’t know they have it.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

National Kidney Month Extended

The chapter I contributed to 1in9 goes on beyond National Kidney Month, so since I think every day should be World Kidney Day, I decided to just keep printing it until it was finished. Gotcha! Bet you thought I was going to write every month should be National Kidney Month. Although, that’s not a bad idea either. So, for those of you just tuning in, this is actually part three of that chapter. You can just scroll back on the blog to read the first two parts. Ready? Let’s go.

*****

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.

But, I had to be oh-so-vigilant with other medical practitioners. One summer I had four different infections and had to quickly research the medications prescribed in the emergency room. One hospital insisted I could take sulfa drugs because I was only stage 2 at the time. My nephrologist disagreed. They also prescribed a pain killer with acetaminophen in it, another no-no for us.  I didn’t return to them when I developed the other infections.

My experience demonstrates that you can slow down CKD. I was diagnosed at stage 3 and I am still there, over a decade later. It takes knowledge, commitment and discipline—but it can be done, and it’s worth the effort. I’m sneaking up on 72 now and know this is where I want to spend my energy for the rest of my life: chronic kidney disease awareness advocacy. I think it’s just that important.

At the time of my diagnosis, I was a college instructor. My favorite course to teach was Research Writing. I was also a writer with an Academic Certificate in Creative Non-Fiction and a bunch of publications under my belt. It occurred to me that I couldn’t be the only one who had no clue what this new-to-me disease was and how to handle living with it. I knew how to research and I knew how to write, so why not share what I learned?

I wasn’t sure of what had to be done to share or how to do it. I learned by trial and error. People were so kind in teaching me, pointing out what might work better, even suggesting others that might be interested in what I was doing. I love people. I’d written quite a few how to(s), study guides, articles, and literary guides so the writing was not new to me. I asked for suggestions as to what to do with my writing and that’s when I learned about unscrupulous, price gouging vanity publishers. I’m still paying for the unwitting mistakes I made, but they were learning experiences.

My less-than-stellar experience with being diagnosed and the first nephrologist are what prompted me to write What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease. Why, I wondered, should any new CKD patient be as terrified as I was? Of course, I constantly remind my readers that I’m not a doctor and they need to consult their nephrologists or renal dietitians before making any changes to their regiment.

I didn’t feel… well, done with sharing or researching once I finished the book so I began writing a weekly blog: SlowItDownCKD. Well, that and because a nephrologist in India told me he wanted his newly diagnosed patients to read my book, but most of them couldn’t afford the bus fare to the clinic, much less a book. I published each chapter as a blog post. The nephrologist translated my posts, printed them and distributed them to his patients—who took the printed copies back to their communities. It would work!

But first I had to teach myself how to blog. I made some boo-boos and lost a bunch of blogs until I got it figured out. So why do I keep blogging? There always seems to be more to share about CKD. Each week, I wonder what I’ll write… and the ideas keep coming. I now have readers in something like 106 different countries who ask me questions I hadn’t even thought of. I research for them and respond with a blog post, reminding them to speak with their nephrologists and/or renal nutritionists before taking any action… and that I’m not a doctor. The blog has won several awards. Basically, that’s because I write in a reader friendly manner. After all, what good is all my researching if no one understands what I’m writing?

Non-tech savvy readers asked if I could print the blogs; hence, the birth of the SlowItDownCKD series of books. Some people think SlowItDownCKD is a business; it’s not. Some think it’s a profit maker; it’s not. So, what is it you ask? It’s a vehicle for spreading awareness of Chronic Kidney Disease and whatever goes along with the disease. Why do I do it? Because I had no idea what it was, nor how I might have prevented the disease, nor how to deal with it effectively once I was diagnosed. I couldn’t stand the thought of others being in the same position.

One of my daughters taught me about social media. What???? You could post whatever you wanted to? And Facebook wasn’t the only way to reach the public at large? Hello, LinkedIn. A friend who is a professional photographer asked me why I wasn’t using my fun photography habit to promote awareness. What??? You could do that? Enter Instagram. My step-daughters love Pinterest. That got me to thinking and suddenly SlowItDownCKD had a Pinterest account. Then someone I met at a conference casually mentioned she offers Twitter workshops. What kind of workshops? She showed me how to use Twitter to raise CKD awareness.

*****

There’s more and you’ll get to read it next week. I hope you’re enjoying your look into how I entered the world of Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness Advocacy.

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!

From a Book…

I was trying to figure out a new angle from which to write about Chronic Kidney Disease during National Kidney Month and decided that my chapter in the newly released 1in9 just might be the way.

By the way, I really don’t like shopping, but did so for a ‘fancy blouse’ for the fancy book launch. The day of the launch turned out to be the day I unexpectedly had anesthesia and I ended up not being able to go. From the pictures I’ve seen of the event, it was a fun event. Now I need another fun event to wear that ‘fancy blouse’ to.  After all, we can’t let a dreaded shopping trip go to waste, can we?

Without further ado, I present the first part of my 1in9 chapter:

My name is Gail Rae-Garwood. I like to think of myself as an average older woman with two adult daughters, a fairly recent husband, and a very protective dog. But I’m not. What makes me a little different is that I have Chronic Kidney Disease… just like the estimated 30 million or 15% of the adult population in the United States. Unlike 96% of those in the early stages of the disease, I know my kidneys are not functioning well.

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, before I’d ever heard the word nephrology, I paid no attention to my kidneys. I had just a vague idea of where they were located because I had big brothers. Every time they watched boxing, one or the other of them would yell, “Oh! Right in the kidneys!” when one guy hit the other on the back, sort of near the waist.  My mother attempted to feed us kidney beans once or twice, but three voices chorusing the 1950’s equivalent of “Uh, gross!” was enough to convince her they weren’t that necessary. My father had a friend who’d moved up in the world and had a kidney shaped pool. Of course, I never had a bird’s eye view of that as a child. So, we were a family pretty much ignorant about kidneys.

When I grew up, I never let my children watch boxing; it was too violent. I never even tried to feed them kidney beans, probably due to some residual abhorrence left over from my own childhood. I had no friends with kidney shaped pools, but I had flown in an airplane and could recognize one if we were flying low. That was the sum total of my kidney education. I didn’t even recall if they were covered in high school biology. My daughters, now grown women, said they were, but I didn’t remember anything about that.

I was blindsided over a decade ago. That’s when I started seeing a new doctor solely because she was both on my insurance plan and so much closer to home than the one I’d been seeing. It seems everything is at least half an hour away in Arizona; her office wasn’t. As a diligent primary care physician, she ordered a whole battery of tests to verify what she found in my files which, by the way, contained a kidney function reading (called the GFR) of 39%. That was something I’d never been told about.

39%. I’d been a high school teacher for 35 years at that point. If a student had scored 39% on a test, we would have talked and talked until we had gotten to the root of the problem that caused such a low score. No one talked to me about my low kidney function until I changed doctors.

“That’s not normal,” said my new doctor as she looked at my blood test results.

I made the supreme effort of tearing my eyes away from the height and weight chart to ask, “What’s not normal?”

“Your GFR,” she told me.  I looked at her blankly. (In retrospect, I can understand how hard it probably was for her not to laugh at my empty eyes and a face without a shred of interest showing on it.) I said nothing. She said nothing.

Finally, I asked, “What’s that?”  She gave me a simple explanation with no indication that I should panic in any way, but of course I did.

“It’s what!  It’s below normal?  My kidneys aren’t functioning to full capacity? Why wasn’t I told? What do I do now? How do I fix the problem? I want them at 100%.”

Her voice rose over mine in a steady, sure manner. “This does not mean there is a problem. It means you must go to a specialist to see if there really is a problem.”

“Oh.” I didn’t believe her, but she not only talked, she had me in a nephrologist’s (kidney and hypertension specialist) office the next day. That’s when I started worrying. Who gets an appointment with a specialist the very next day? I was diagnosed at stage 3; there are only 5 stages. I had to start working to slow down the progression in the decline of my kidney function immediately.

I read just about every book I could find concerning this problem. Surprisingly, very few books dealt with the early or moderate stages of the disease.  Yet these are the stages when CKD patients are most shocked, confused, and maybe even depressed—and the stages at which they have a workable chance of doing something to slow down the progression in the decline of their kidney function.

This first nephrologist might have been reassuring, but I’ll never know. I was terrified; he was patriarchal. All I heard was, “I’ll take care of your kidneys. You just do as I say,” or something to that effect.

Nope, wrong doctor for me. I wanted to know how medication, diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes could help. I didn’t want to be told what to do without an explanation as to why… and when I couldn’t get an explanation that was acceptable to me, I started researching. (More about that later.) You see, I’d already had a terrific Dad who’d known better than to ask me to give up control of myself. I didn’t need a doctor assuming his role… especially in a way I resented.

… to be continued. (This will take several weeks. It is a chapter in book, so it’s longer than my usual 1,000 or so word blog.)

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

World Kidney Day, 2019

Will you look at that? The world keeps moving on no matter what’s going on in our personal lives. And so, I recognize that Thursday of this week is World Kidney Day. In honor of this occasion, I’ve chosen to update last year’s World Kidney Day blog… so sit back and enjoy the read.

…World Kidney Day? What’s that? I discovered this is a fairly new designation. It was only thirteen years ago that it was initiated.

 

According to http://worldkidneyday.org,

World Kidney Day is a global awareness campaign aimed at raising awareness of the importance of our kidneys.”

Sound familiar?  That’s where I’m heading with What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease; SlowItDownCKD 2011; SlowItDownCKD 2012; SlowItDownCKD 2013; SlowItDownCKD 2014; SlowItDownCKD 2015; SlowItDownCKD 2016; SlowItDownCKD 2017; Facebook; Instagram; LinkedIn; Pinterest; Twitter; and this blog. We may be running along different tracks, but we’re headed in the same direction.

The 59 year old International Society of Nephrology (ISN) – a non-profit group spreading over 155 countries – is one part of the equation for their success.  Another is the International Federation of Kidney Foundations with membership in over 40 countries. Add a steering committee and The World Kidney Day Team and you have the makings of this particular concept….

According to their website at https://www.theisn.org/advocacy/world-kidney-day :

“The mission of World Kidney Day is to raise awareness of the importance of our kidneys to our overall health and to reduce the frequency and impact of kidney disease and its associated health problems worldwide.

Objectives:

  • Raise awareness about our ‘amazing kidneys’
  • Highlight that diabetes and high blood pressure are key risk factors for Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
  • Encourage systematic screening of all patients with diabetes and hypertension for CKD
  • Encourage preventive behaviors
  • Educate all medical professionals about their key role in detecting and reducing the risk of CKD, particularly in high risk populations
  • Stress the important role of local and national health authorities in controlling the CKD epidemic.”

While there are numerous objectives for this year’s World Kidney Day, the one that lays closest to my heart is this one: ‘Encourage systematic screening of all patients with diabetes and hypertension for CKD.’

Back to World Kidney Day’s website at https://www.worldkidneyday.org  now, if you please.

This year’s theme is Kidney Health for Everyone Everywhere.

Their site offers materials and ideas for events as well as a map of global events. Prepare to be awed at how wide spread World Kidney Day events are.

Before you leave their page, take a detour to Kidney FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) on the toolbar at the top of the page.  You can learn everything you need to know from what the kidneys do to what the symptoms (or lack thereof) of CKD are, from how to treat CKD to a toolbox full of helpful education about your kidneys to preventative measures.

If only my nurse practitioner had been aware of National Kidney Month or World Kidney Day, she could have warned me immediately that I needed to make lifestyle changes so the decline of my kidney function could have been slowed down earlier. How much more of my kidney function would I still have if I’d known earlier? That was a dozen years ago. This shouldn’t still be happening… but it is.

I received a phone call a few years ago that just about broke my heart.  Someone very dear to me sobbed, “He’s dying.” When I calmed her down, she explained a parent was sent to a nephrologist who told him he has end stage renal disease and needed dialysis or transplantation immediately.

I pried a little trying to get her to admit he’d been diagnosed before end stage, but she simply didn’t know what I was talking about. There had been no diagnose of Chronic Kidney Disease up to this point. There was diabetes, apparently out of control diabetes, but no one impressed upon this man that diabetes is the foremost cause of CKD.

What a waste of the precious time he could have had to do more than stop smoking, which he did (to his credit), the moment he was told it would help with the diabetes.  Would he be where he was then if his medical practitioners had been aware of National Kidney Month or World Kidney Day, especially since this man was high risk due to his age and diabetes?  I fervently believe so.

I have a close friend who was involved in the local senior center where she lives.  She said she didn’t know anyone else but me who had this disease.  Since 1 out of every 7 people does nationally (That’s 15% of the adult population) and being over 60 places you in a high risk group, I wonder how many of her friends were included in the 96% of those in the early stage of CKD who don’t know they have CKD or don’t even know they need to be tested.  I’d have rather been mistaken here, but I’m afraid I wasn’t. National Kidney Month or World Kidney Day could have helped them become aware.

For those of you who have forgotten (Easily read explanations of what results of the different items on your tests mean are in What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease.), all it takes is a blood test and a urine test to detect CKD.  I have routine blood tests every three months to monitor a medication I’m taking.  It was in this test, a test I took anyway, that my family physician uncovered Chronic Kidney Disease as a problem.

There is so much free education about CKD online. Maybe you can start with the blogroll on the right side of the blog or hit “Apps” on the Topics Dropdown. None of us needs to hear another sorrowful, “If only I had known!”

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

National Kidney Month, 2019

Anyone remember LOL? It’s older internet shorthand for Laughing Out Loud. That’s what I’m doing right now. Why? Because, after all these years of blogging, I’ve just realized that I compose my opening paragraph as I’m waking up. Still in bed, mind you. Still half asleep. Isn’t the brain wonderful?

This is my half asleep composition for this morning: March is National Kidney Month. That’s not to be confused with March 14th, which is World Kidney Day. So, today, we address the nation. Next week, the world.

As usual, let’s start at the beginning. What is National Kidney Month? Personalized Cause at https://www.personalizedcause.com/health-awareness-cause-calendar/national-kidney-month has a succinct explanation for us. By the way, while I’m not endorsing them since the site is new to me, I should let you know they sell the green ribbons for National Kidney Month that you’ll probably be seeing hither and yon all month.

“National Kidney Month, observed in March and sponsored by the National Kidney Foundation, is a time to increase awareness of kidney disease, promote the need for a cure, and spur advocacy on behalf of those suffeing (sic) with the emotional, financial and physical burden of kidney disease. The National Kidney Foundation is the leading organization in the U.S. dedicated to the awareness, prevention and treatment of kidney disease for hundreds of thousands of healthcare professionals, millions of patients and their families, and tens of millions of Americans at risk.” That, of course, prompted me to go directly to the National Kidney Foundation’s information about National Kidney Month at https://www.kidney.org/news/monthly/Focus_KidneyMonth.

Focus on the Kidneys During National Kidney Month in March

March is National Kidney Month and the NKF is urging all Americans to give their kidneys a second thought and a well-deserved checkup. Kidneys filter 200 liters of blood a day, help regulate blood pressure and direct red blood cell production. But they are also prone to disease; 1 in 3 Americans is at risk for kidney disease due to diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of kidney failure. There are more than 30 million Americans who already have kidney disease, and most don’t know it because there are often no symptoms until the disease has progressed. During National Kidney Month in March, and in honor of World Kidney Day on March 14, the NKF offers the following health activities to promote awareness of kidneys, risk factors and kidney disease:

  • Free Screenings: On World Kidney Day and throughout the Month of March, NKF is offering free screenings to those most at risk for kidney disease – anyone with diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of kidney failure. Locations and information can be found on the calendar on our website.
  • ‘Are You at Risk’ Kidney Quiz: Early detection can make a difference in preventing kidney disease so it’s important to know if you’re at risk. Take the online kidney quiz!
  • Live Twitter Chat with Dr. Joseph Vassalotti: The National Kidney Foundation’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joseph Vassalotti, will be hosting an interactive kidney Q&A on World Kidney Day, Thursday, March 14, from 12-2 pm ET. Ask your questions at www.twitter.com/nkf using the hash-tag #WorldKidneyDayNKF.”

Wow, so much going on. This is also the month of kidney walks, like the one my daughter Nima participated in on the East Coast in my honor, or the one for which I organized a team several years ago. Actually, it’s the month specifically for anything and everything that will raise awareness of kidney disease. I’ve mentioned that I contributed a chapter to the book 1in9, which is about kidney disease. You’re right. The book launch is this month, March 6th to be specific.

The American Kidney Fund at http://www.kidneyfund.org/take-the-pledge/ is also taking part in National Kidney Month. They have a form to fill out to take a pledge to fight kidney disease.  I signed up; you can, too, if you’d like to. I’m not comfortable with the word “fight,” but I’m not going to let that stop me from spreading awareness of the disease. I wanted to share this quote from the AKF with you, both as a CKD awareness advocate and a woman:

“‘Kidney disease is a silent killer that disproportionately affects women who are often the primary caregivers for loved ones with the disease, are more likely to become living donors but less likely to receive a transplant, and are at higher risk for CKD,’ said LaVarne A. Burton, president and chief executive officer of AKF. ‘Because women with kidney disease may also face other health issues, including infertility, pregnancy complications, bone disease and depression, AKF is using Kidney Month to let women know we are here to support them and to provide resources that will answer their questions and concerns.’”

The Renal Support Network at https://www.rsnhope.org/ is working even more emphatically to spread kidney disease awareness this month, too:

“March is National Kidney Month. This is a special time set aside to raise awareness about kidney health and activities. RSN invites members of the kidney community, our friends and our families to join in the conversation.”

This on top of their usual. For those that are not familiar with this group, the following statement is from their website.

“Since 1993 RSN has created and continues to produce a vast collection of information about kidney disease. Feel free to share our National Kidney Month page, a favorite story, KidneyTalk™ show or awareness image on social media using the hashtag #KidneyMonth and be sure to tag us @RSNhope.”

DaVita Kidney Care at https://www.davita.com/education/resources offers many resources (as the website’s title assures us) to help understand both CKD and dialysis. Some of their offerings are:

If you click through on the link offered above, each item will open on a new page.

As for me, I’ll blog my brains out until more and more people are aware of kidney disease. Same goes for the Instagram, Facebook,Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn accounts. It’s all about kidney disease.

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!

Kidney Anxiety

I clearly remember writing about how depression, grief, and stress affect your kidneys, but not about anxiety. As Bear’s pain worsens, there’s a lot of that in my house recently. I don’t understand why it’s taking so long for his doctors to decide upon a treatment plan for him, but while they do I am one anxious person.

I went directly to my old friend, the Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961 for a set of anxiety symptoms:

“Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:

  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • Having an increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Having difficulty controlling worry
  • Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety”

While I don’t have all these symptoms, there are at least four or five of them I can identify with.

Wait a minute. Maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree. Is my worry about Bear’s pain really causing anxiety? I popped over to Medical News Today at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323456.php for some help in figuring out just what it is that causes anxiety.

  • Environmental factors: Elements in the environment around an individual can increase anxiety. Stress from a personal relationship, job, school, or financial predicament can contribute greatly to anxiety disorders. Even low oxygen levels in high-altitude areas can add to anxiety symptoms.
  • Genetics: People who have family members with an anxiety disorder are more likely to have one themselves.
  • Medical factors: Other medical conditions can lead to an anxiety disorder, such as the side effects of medication, symptoms of a disease, or stress from a serious underlying medical condition that may not directly trigger the changes seen in anxiety disorder but might be causing significant lifestyle adjustments, pain, or restricted movement.
  • Brain chemistry: Stressful or traumatic experiences and genetic factors can alter brain structure and function to react more vigorously to triggers that would not previously have caused anxiety. Psychologists and neurologists define many anxiety and mood disorders as disruptions to hormones and electrical signals in the brain.
  • Use of or withdrawal from an illicit substance: The stress of day-to-day living combined with any of the above might serve as key contributors to an anxiety disorder.

There are items on this list which I hadn’t considered before. Years ago, when I was teaching in an old vocational high school, a student holding one of those long, heavy, solid oak window poles to open very high windows quickly spun around to answer a question and accidentally hit me in the head with the pole. That was certainly traumatic and also one of the few times I’ve been hospitalized.

We’ve pretty much figured out that there is an undiagnosed history of anxiety in the family. I’m referring to people from past generations who faced pogroms, the Depression, and even having to give up babies for adoption since that’s what was done with babies from unwed mothers in that generation. Could these folks have had anxiety disorders rather than environmental anxiety? Of course, we’ll never really know since they are long gone from this earth, but it is a thought.

Lightning Bolt!!! I remember visiting my buddy and her mother in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico not long after my own mother died and being anxious. I attributed it to still being in mourning for my mother. San Miguel de Allende has an elevation of 7,000 feet. Was that one of those “low oxygen levels in high-altitude area?” I didn’t know, but Laura Anderson author of the Gunnison Country Times’ article on Acli-Mate at https://acli-mate.com/living-at-altitude-the-pros-and-cons-of-a-high-altitude-lifestyle/ did:

“Low landers generally aren’t affected by altitude until they reach 4,500 to 5,000 feet. But after that, the affects (sic) of altitude are compounded about every 1,000 feet — so the affects (sic) of going from 6,000 feet to 7000 feet can feel the same as jumping from sea level to 4,500 feet.”

What in heaven’s name is this doing to my kidneys, I wondered. I was surprised to find an answer… in reverse. Rather than anxiety causing a kidney problem, it seems that fear of kidney disease can cause anxiety, or at least that’s what Calm Clinic at https://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/kidney-problems claims. Be aware that they are a business and will try to sell to you if you go to their site.

  • Extra Urination Anxiety can cause more frequent urination. When you experience anxiety, the part of your brain that controls the withholding urination slows down because anxiety requires resources to be sent to other parts of your brain. This can lead to concerns over your renal health, although nothing is wrong.
  • Lower Back Pain Lower back pain is also very common with anxiety. Lower back pain comes from severe stress and tension, and yet it’s associated with some conditions that affect the kidneys as well which can have many people worried about their kidney health.
  • Life Experiences Anyone that suffers from anxiety and has had a friend or family member diagnosed with a terrible kidney condition is at risk for developing anxiety over the idea of poor kidneys. Anxiety can turn life experiences into very real concerns, and so kidney health concerns are one of the issues that can come up when you see it in others.”
  • Urine Color Urine color is another issue that can cause anxiety. Many people check their urine color for diseases habitually, and every once in a while the color of a person’s urine may be very different than what they expect. This can create concerns that the urine color changes are due to kidney problems.”

What I find interesting is that kidney disease can cause frequent urination, too. Kidney disease may also cause lower back pain. If you know any CKD patients, you know we’re always checking the color of our urine to make certain we’re well enough hydrated.

So it seems your fear of kidney disease may cause a symptom of kidney disease… and/or possibly diabetes. All I have to say to that is make sure you take the simple urine and blood test to determine if you do really have Chronic Kidney Disease or diabetes.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

A long time reader mentioned she had a kind of kidney disease I wasn’t familiar with, so I decided to find out what I could about it. Are you aware of Uromodulin Kidney Disease?

This is what the U.S. National Library of Medicine at https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/uromodulin-associated-kidney-disease had to say:

“Uromodulin-associated kidney disease is an inherited condition that affects the kidneys. The signs and symptoms of this condition vary, even among members of the same family.

Many individuals with uromodulin-associated kidney disease develop high blood levels of a waste product called uric acid. Normally, the kidneys remove uric acid from the blood and transfer it to urine. In this condition, the kidneys are unable to remove uric acid from the blood effectively. A buildup of uric acid can cause gout, which is a form of arthritis resulting from uric acid crystals in the joints. The signs and symptoms of gout may appear as early as a person’s teens in uromodulin-associated kidney disease.

Uromodulin-associated kidney disease causes slowly progressive kidney disease, with the signs and symptoms usually beginning during the teenage years. The kidneys become less able to filter fluids and waste products from the body as this condition progresses, resulting in kidney failure. Individuals with uromodulin-associated kidney disease typically require either dialysis to remove wastes from the blood or a kidney transplant between the ages of 30 and 70. Occasionally, affected individuals are found to have small kidneys or kidney cysts (medullary cysts).”

Since this is inherited, I suspect the only way to prevent it is gene editing. I researched gene editing a bit but discovered there is quite a bit of controversy as to the legal and ethical aspects of this procedure right now. However, this doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.

The only other information I could find was far too technical for this lay person to understand, much less explain. Readers, do you have more information?

Something else that was new to me this week: pitaya or dragon fruit. I always buy myself a birthday present and this was mine for this year. By the way, thank you to all the readers who took the time to wish me well on my 72nd yesterday. Back to pitaya.

According to Healthline (Thank you again for the two awards.) at https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/dragon-fruit#what-it-is, pitaya is:

“Dragon fruit is a tropical fruit native to Mexico and Central America. Its taste is like a combination of a kiwi and a pear…. Dragon fruit is a low-calorie fruit that is high in fiber and provides a good amount of several vitamins and minerals…. Dragon fruit contains several antioxidants that protect your cells from damage. These include betalains, hydroxycinnamates, and flavonoids…. Animal studies suggest that dragon fruit may improve insulin resistance, liver fat, and heart health. However, the results of human studies are inconsistent…. To date, there have been two reported cases of a severe allergic reaction to dragon fruit.”

I like that it contains less sugar and calories than other tropical fruits, but I didn’t find the taste appealing. It was bland with just a hint of a woody aftertaste. Was it too ripe? Not ripe enough? Surprisingly, my Utah raised son-in-law loves it and jumped at the chance to finish mine.

I ran into what might have been more new information this past week when the P.A. taking my husband’s blood pressure used a wrist monitor on his right wrist. I was always told an arm cuff monitor was better because the pressure was only taken through one bone, whereas there are two in the wrist. I was also told that the left arm was best because it was closer to the heart. This advice was from my PCP’s nurse and that of my nephrologist. However, this P.A. insisted the wrist monitor measures atomic movement of the blood so it didn’t matter whether a wrist or arm cuff were used, nor which arm was used. It didn’t sound right to me.

This is from SlowItDownCKD 2014 and may be helpful here:

“Well, what about the different kinds of blood pressure monitors? I use a wrist monitor which my PCP is simply not thrilled with.  Her feeling is that I’m taking my pressure through two bones, the radius and the ulna, as opposed to only one bone, the humerus, with an arm device. There’s also the finger monitor, but that could be a problem if you have thin or cold fingers.

There are manual and battery operated versions of these monitors.  If you use an arm monitor, be aware that larger cuffs are available if needed. The one thing most blood pressure sites agree upon is that it’s not a good idea to rely on drugstore monitors for your readings.”

I have been researching for over two hours. I cannot find anything about atomic movement within the blood being measured by a blood pressure monitor of any kind. I’ve been to professional pages, checked studies, and even looked at advertisements. So, unless you have other information, I do believe I’ve been had. I just can’t wait to meet this young man at the follow up appointment in two weeks when I’ll ask him for resources and the monitor manufacturers’ information.

On another note, I’ve written about KDIGO during the last two years. This is from SlowItDownCKD 2017 and was repeated in the Sept. 17th blog in 2018.

“This stands for KIDNEY DISEASE | IMPROVING GLOBAL OUTCOMES. Their homepage at KDIGO.org states:

KDIGO MISSION – Improving the care and outcomes of kidney disease patients worldwide through the development and implementation of global clinical practice guidelines.’”

So why mention it again, you ask? Well, you know how I’m always saying I’m not a doctor and neither are you, but doctors need to know what we, as kidney patients, need to say? KDIGO is now inviting patients – including those with CKD – to join their patient network. What better way to be heard as a kidney patient? I joined and I hope you will, too. The link to join is:

https://sydneypublichealth.au1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_72LdurS2QicQFKd.

This is the announcement the Dr. Joel Topf (on Twitter as @kidney_boy) brought to my attention:

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

I’ll be Glowing!

Not really, but that was my first thought when a nuclear medicine (NM) test was ordered for me. It required radioactive material to be injected into my veins. The test is called NM Hepatobiliary Scan with Pharmacologic Intervention.

Let’s get a definition of hepatobiliary before we do anything else. Thank you MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=19515 for this one:

“Hepatobiliary: Having to do with the liver plus the gallbladder, bile ducts, or bile. For example, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) can be applied to the hepatobiliary system. Hepatobiliary makes sense since “hepato-” refers to the liver and “-biliary” refers to the gallbladder, bile ducts, or bile.”

That’s my kind of definition. Clear and easy for those of us who are not doctors to understand. It makes sense, too, since we were exploring what I called discomfort and my PCP called pain just under the lowest rib on my right side… very close to the gall bladder. The more than occasional nausea helped her to decide this test was necessary.

According to the test report, this is how it works:

“TECHNIQUE:

Frontal standing images of the abdomen and pelvis were obtained immediately and 30 minutes following the intravenous administration of Tc99m IDA. Pharmacologic intervention with CCK (or equivalent) and/or morphine with additional dynamic imaging was also performed.”

I didn’t know what Tc99mIDA or CCK was, so I’m guessing you don’t either.  Wikipedia at

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technetium_(99mTc)_mebrofenin  tells us,

“Technetium (99mTc) mebrofenin is a diagnostic radiopharmaceutical used for imaging of the liver and the gallbladder.”

Hmmm, we could have figured that out from the way the term is used in the context of the technique.

Let’s try CCK. This is also from Wikipedia but this time at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cholecystokinin.

“Cholecystokinin (CCK or CCK-PZ; from Greek chole, “bile”; cysto, “sac”; kinin, “move”; hence, move the bile-sac (gallbladder)) is a peptide hormone of the gastrointestinal system responsible for stimulating the digestion of fat and protein. Cholecystokinin, officially called pancreozymin, is synthesized and secreted by enteroendocrine cells in the duodenum, the first segment of the small intestine.” 

Well, that’s fairly explanatory, but keep in mind that Wikipedia entries can be edited by anyone.

I know, now you want to know the results. Back to the test report:

“HIDA scan:

Gallbladder clearly visualized. Gallbladder ejection fraction calculated at 37% at 30 minutes. Greater than 35% is normal.

Study Result Impression:

Gallbladder clearly visualized. Borderline abnormal gallbladder response to cholecystokinin challenge.”

Here’s where I got lost. If my gall bladder ejection fraction is normal, how can I have a borderline abnormal gall bladder response to cholecystokinin challenge? Yep, it’s time to make an appointment with my family doctor since she ordered these tests and, being who she is, can probably explain that in terms I can understand.  More on that after next week’s liver MRI and an appointment with her to discuss the findings of both tests.

While this is all interesting, what does it have to do with the kidneys? I went back to SlowItDownCKD 2013 to find out what I’d written about that after my New York daughter’s gall bladder was removed.

“After speaking with my daughter, I still wondered what gallstones have to do with Chronic Kidney Disease.  Searching the web only garnered this one article from January, 2009 … and the study only covered Taiwan. Of course, I found it at the National Institutes of Health at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19352299.

‘The prevalence of gallbladder stones in patients with Chronic Kidney Disease is significantly higher than in those without Chronic Kidney Disease. Our findings suggest that increasing age, Chronic Kidney Disease, body mass index > or =27 kg/m {greater than 59 pounds}, metabolic syndrome, and cirrhosis are the related factors for gallbladder stone formation.’

Now think about it another way: you already have a compromised immune system because you have CKD.  Gallstones can cause infection of the gallbladder. As in Nima’s experience, infection causes white blood cell elevation. So you know you have an infection, you might even realize it could be in the bile ducts, too.  But did you check to see if there’s infection in other areas of your body? That would mean you can read your own test results or have the kind of relationship with your doctors – especially your nephrologist – to freely ask questions.

As for what this organ does, this is what MedlinePlus at https://vsearch.nlm.nih.gov/vivisimo/cgi-bin/query-meta?v%3Aproject=medlineplus&v%3Asources=medlineplus-bundle&query=gall+bladder&_ga=2.56082859.126205281.1548540376-1108406265.1544652518 had to say.

‘Your gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ under your liver. It stores bile, a fluid made by your liver to digest fat. As your stomach and intestines digest food, your gallbladder releases bile through a tube called the common bile duct. The duct connects your gallbladder and liver to your small intestine.’

Keep in mind that your liver, the largest organ in your body {The skin is actually the largest organ, but it’s external.} is the other organ that filters your blood.  Since your CKD has been diagnosed, your liver is already working harder. Add losing your gallbladder and you’ve got one very hard working – possibly overworked – liver.”

Needless to say, while I was taking this in stride, especially since my kidney function is the best it’s been in the over a decade since I’ve been diagnosed with CKD, I am now eager to have the liver MRI and get back to my primary care doctor (PCP) so she can explain what a lay person can’t understand from reading the results-  even with further researching.

A few announcements, if you please:

Our friends at @antidote_me are hosting the first of their new free monthly patient focused webinars. This one is about how medical research really works and is this Wednesday, January 30th. It’s a 15 minute webinar.  Register now: https://hubs.ly/H0gc_KV0.

Also, I write the blogs from a U.S. angle since that’s where I live. There is a new Facebook CKD support group which is from the British angle. It’s Chronic Kidney Disease Support Group for UK! Another is CKD Support UK. These are only two of several from across the sea. If you’d like to find the others, go to Facebook and in the search bar on top, enter CKD Support in UK. That little word “in” is what makes it searchable.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Double Whammy

Just as the flu was walking out the door, sinusitis walked in. No fair! Although, I must be feeling better because I’m starting to open all the doors and windows again.

I live in Arizona. We don’t have an actual winter, but we do have a flu season with all its accompanying ailments. Having a compromised immune system is not exactly a first choice, but I have Chronic Kidney Disease.

I know I need to slow down with this explanation. Good thinking. First off, what is the immune system? I went to NCBI, The National Center for Biotechnology Information at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279364/ for an answer.

“The immune system (from the Latin word immunis, meaning: “free” or “untouched”) protects the body like a guardian from harmful influences from the environment and is essential for survival. It is made up of different organs, cells and proteins and aside from the nervous system, it is the most complex system that the human body has.

As long as our body’s system of defense is running smoothly, we do not notice the immune system. And yet, different groups of cells work together and form alliances against just about any pathogen (germ). But illness can occur if the performance of the immune system is compromised, if the pathogen is especially aggressive, or sometimes also if the body is confronted with a pathogen it has not come into contact before.”

Notice the word “compromised” in the last sentence. According to Dictionary.com at https://www.dictionary.com/browse/compromised, that means

“unable to function optimally, especially with regard to immune response, owing to underlying disease, harmful environmental exposure, or the side effects of a course of treatment.”

So when you have a compromised immune system, you are not receiving the full protection against germs that you could be receiving. Well, how does CKD affect the immune system?

My GFR (the numbers above the arc in the photo to the left and defined later in this blog) is usually between 49% and 59%. That means at any given time I’m missing quite a bit of the function normal kidneys would have. In other words, my kidneys are working more than twice as hard as those of someone without kidney disease. This is a fact that’s easy to forget now that I have the renal diet down pat … until I get sick… and it takes me longer to recuperate… or I slide right into another illness.

Let’s take a look at the jobs performed by the kidneys to see exactly why. This is what I wrote in SlowItDownCKD 2014:

“Your kidneys filter toxins and waste products from your blood.  They also regulate electrolyte levels and blood pressure and produce hormones, among their many jobs.”

Let’s say I eat some bad food. It would take me more than twice as long to recover and I could be more than twice as sick since my kidneys are compromised. Or maybe I actually took one of Bear’s medications instead of my own (which will never happen since they’re kept far, far from mine. This is just an example.) Same thing. I only have less than half the ability to remove a toxin from my body as someone with normal kidney function does. As for germs? You guessed it. My compromised immune system leaves me open to far more than I would be if I didn’t have CKD.

Now for sinusitius. I had that one covered in SlowItDownCKD 2013:

“The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/acute-sinusitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351671 has this to say about acute sinusitis:

‘Acute sinusitis (acute rhinosinusitis) causes the cavities around your nasal passages (sinuses) to become inflamed and swollen. This interferes with drainage and causes mucus to build up.

With acute sinusitis, it may be difficult to breathe through your nose. The area around your eyes and face may feel swollen, and you may have throbbing facial pain or a headache.’

Before we get any more detailed here, a few reminders are in order {taken from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease’s Glossary}.

Acute – Extremely painful, severe or serious, quick onset, of short duration; the opposite of chronic.

Antibiotic – Medication used to treat infection.

Chronic – Long term, the opposite of acute.

GFR  – Glomerular filtration rate [if there is a lower case “e” before the term, it means estimated glomerular filtration rate] which determines both the stage of kidney disease and how well
the kidneys are functioning.”

Keeping it plain and simple, that just about covers my double whammy of sliding from the flu into sinusitis.

For those interested in KidneyX, this may be for you:

KidneyX: #RedesignDialysis Twitter Chat
The KidneyX: Redesign Dialysis prize challenge has a total prize purse of $2,625,000 and aims to accelerate the development and commercialization of next-generation dialysis products. Now through February 28, 2019, the KidneyX Redesign Dialysis competition will be accepting proposals for solutions or components of solutions that offer patients significant alternatives to dialysis as it is generally practiced today.
Innovators that are interested in applying for KidneyX: Redesign Dialysis are encouraged to participate in Twitter chat on January 24, 2019 from 1:00pm – 2:00pm EST.
Representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and American Society of Nephrology will be available during the chat to answer your questions and provide more information about KidneyX, the Redesign Dialysis competition, and innovation in kidney care.. To participate and follow the chat, use the #RedesignDialysis hashtag.

For those of you who are caretakers for people with CKD, this may interest you:

Please join us on Wednesday, January 23 at 1 p.m. ET for an educational webinar titled: Taking Care of Yourself While Taking Care of Your Loved Ones – Coping Strategies for Kidney Patient Caregivers!
As a caregiver for a loved one with kidney disease, it is important to remember to take time for yourself. Hear from social worker Renee Bova-Collis, MSW, LCSW, and caregivers Brenda Vasser-Taylor and Ashley Martin … as they share coping strategies to help you take care of yourself so that you can support your loved ones.

 

Click here to Register!

 

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with information on how to join the webinar. To call-in without connecting to a computer, use this #:

United States: +1 (562) 247-8422

You will be asked to enter the following Access Code: 399-056-972#

Audio PIN: Shown after joining the webinar

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

At the Heart of the Matter

Happy New Year! Here’s wishing you all a very healthy one. I, on the other hand, found myself in the cardiologist’s office the very first week of 2019. That was odd for me.

It all started when I asked my very thorough primary care physician what – if anything – it meant that my blood pressure reading was ten points higher in one arm than the other. By the way, she’s the one that suggested I take my blood pressure on a daily basis. Her nurse always used the left arm to take the reading, so I did too. Then I got curious about what the reading on the other arm would be and how much difference there would be between arms. I expected a point or two, not ten.

Although my readings had always been a bit high, they weren’t high enough to warrant extra attention… until I mentioned the ten point difference to my PCP. BAM! I had an appointment with the cardiologist.

This information in last year’s April 23’s blog will explain why:

“We know that hypertension is the number two cause of CKD. Moderating our blood pressure will (hopefully) slow down the progression of the decline of our kidney function. Kidney & Urology Foundation of America, Inc. at http://www.kidneyurology.org/Library/Kidney_Health/High_Blood_Pressure_and_Kidney_Disease.php explains this succinctly:

‘High blood pressure makes your heart work harder and, over time, can damage blood vessels throughout your body. If the blood vessels in your kidneys are damaged, they may stop removing wastes and extra fluid from your body. The extra fluid in your blood vessels may then raise blood pressure even more. It’s a dangerous cycle.’

And heart rate? The conclusion of a study published in the Journal of Nephrology reads:

‘Heart rate is an independent age-dependent effect modifier for progression to kidney failure in CKD patients.’

You can read the entire study at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232714804_Heart_rate

So we know that blood pressure and heart rate are important for Chronic Kidney Disease patients. Just in case you’ve forgotten, heart rate is a synonym for pulse which is the number of times your heart beats a minute.

MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=154135 offers more about what the difference between readings from both arms MAY mean:

“People whose systolic blood pressure — the upper number in their reading — is different in their left and right arms may be suffering from a vascular disease that could increase their risk of death, British researchers report.

The arteries under the collarbone supply blood to the arms, legs and brain. Blockage can lead to stroke and other problems, the researchers noted, and measuring blood pressure in both arms should be routine.

‘This is an important [finding] for the general public and for primary care doctors,’ said Dr. William O’Neill, a professor of cardiology and executive dean of clinical affairs at the University of Miami Miller School Of Medicine.

‘Traditionally, most people just check blood pressure in one arm, but if there is a difference, then one of the arteries has disease in it,’ he said.

The arteries that run under the collarbone can get blocked, especially in smokers and diabetics, he noted. ‘If one artery is more blocked than the other, then there is a difference in blood pressure in the arms,’ O’Neill explained.

‘Doctors should, for adults — especially adult smokers and diabetics — at some point check the blood pressure in both arms,’ he said. ‘If there is a difference it should be looked into further.’

The report appears in the Jan. 30 online edition of The Lancet. ”

Notice I capitalized may. That’s because, in my case, there apparently was no blockage. My cardiologist had a different view of things. He felt there wasn’t a problem unless the difference in readings between your two arms is more than 20 points and that your blood pressure would have to be much higher than my slightly elevated blood pressure before this could be considered a problem.

He made note of my diabetes and congratulated me for taking such good care of myself, especially since I’m a caretaker. I must have looked puzzled because he went on to explain that caretakers sometimes have a sort of martyr complex and are convinced they cannot take the time away from the person they’re caring for to care for themselves. And, yes, he did use the oxygen masks in an airplane analogy to point out how important it is for caretakers to care for themselves first.

Now that I’ve wandered on to the subject of caretakers, seemingly continuing the thread from last week’s blog, here’s a health screening from Path to Wellness that may interest you if you live in Arizona. I urge you to take part yourself and bring anyone you think may be affected or has someone in their lives that may have CKD.

What: The National Kidney Foundation of Arizona will host a FREE health screening, aiming to identify chronic diseases in their early stages in those at highest risk.

When: Saturday, January 26, 2019, 8:30am- 12:00pm (appointments highly recommended**)

Where: Betty Fairfax High School (8225 S. 59th Ave., Laveen, AZ 85339)

Individuals who are 18 years or older and have a family member with diabetes, high blood pressure or chronic kidney disease, OR have high blood pressure or diabetes themselves are urged to attend this important event. Early detection means the possibility of preventing further, life-risking damage to the kidneys.

**Appointments may be scheduled by calling the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona at (602) 840-1644 (English) or (602) 845-7905 / (602)845-7912 (Spanish).

OR

Visit https://azkidney.org/pathtowellness and register online!

This medical screening includes immediate onsite results and medical education and is provided at absolutely no cost. The event is staffed with medical professionals, with the ability to screen 200 attendees.

About Path to Wellness: The Path to Wellness program is the product of a community collaboration between the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona and Cardio Renal Society of America. This January screening is provided in partnership with Adelante Healthcare and the Phoenix Metropolitan Alumnae Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Sorority, Inc., and generously funded by the BHHS Legacy Foundation. Path to Wellness screenings are unique in that they try to target areas of cities where the high demographics of under-insured or at-risk individuals may have an opportunity to detect chronic health problems early on, in a cost-free environment. The screenings also offer the unique advantage of both on-site results, and post-screening education on chronic disease management.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

A Creatinine Christmas Present

Tomorrow is Christmas and a Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate. The day after Christmas Kwanzaa begins, so a Happy Kwanzaa to those of you who celebrate. But back to Christmas right now: today’s blog is a present to a reader who joined me way back when I first started blogging and has since become a close online friend.

You see, her creatinine is rising but she’s barely eating and – since she has multiple physical conditions – can’t exercise. She’s flummoxed and so was I because food and muscle waste are the two usual causes of rising creatinine levels in the blood. I decided to try to help her sort this out now even though she’ll be seeing her nephrologist right after the New Year.

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}”

Red meat? No, that’s not it. My friend doesn’t eat meat at all, as far as I know. Beaumont Hospital Kidney Centre at http://www.beaumont.ie/kidneycentre-forpatients-aguidetokidneydisease-die offers the following information concerning food and creatinine:

“Protein intake from the diet is important during the progression of chronic kidney disease and also when you commence dialysis. The protein we eat is used for tissue repair and growth. Any unused protein is broken down into waste products, including urea and creatinine. As your kidneys are unable to excrete urea and creatinine properly, they build up in your blood and cause symptoms such as nausea and loss of appetite.

By eating large amounts of protein foods e.g. meat, fish, chicken, eggs, cheese, milk and yoghurt before commencing dialysis [Me here, that means those of us who are pre-dialysis like me], you will affect the buildup of urea and creatinine in your blood. An appropriate daily intake of protein should be advised by your dietician.

However, once dialysis treatment has commenced it is important to make sure that your body is getting enough protein to prevent malnutrition. Some of your stores of protein are lost during the haemodialysis and CAPD sessions. How much protein you need depends on your body size and is specific to each individual.”

And the ‘muscle metabolism’ in our definition? This deals with the way muscles use energy. The waste product of this process is creatinine.

Medical News Today at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320113.php had something to say about exercise and creatinine:

“Strenuous exercise, such as weight training or resistance exercise, may cause high creatinine levels.

Muscle activity produces creatinine; the more the muscles work, the more creatinine is in the blood. While regular exercise is essential for good health, overexertion can cause the creatinine levels in the blood to spike.

A 2012 study noted that intense exercise increased creatinine levels in the bloodstream temporarily. It may be best for people to avoid strenuous activity until they have completed any treatment for the cause of the high creatinine levels.

However, people should not avoid exercise altogether, except in some extreme circumstances.

To maintain their exercise regimen, people who like weight training or resistance exercises could switch to yoga and body weight exercises during treatment. People who prefer cardio exercises, such as running or cycling, could consider changing to walking or swimming.”

My friend does not exercise. So what else could it be that is raising her creatinine? I went to New Health Advisor at https://www.newhealthadvisor.com/causes-of-elevated-creatinine.html which was quite comprehensive in answering the question.

“Kidney diseases or disorders can lead to high creatinine levels. Since the kidneys are the filters of wastes from the bloodstream, kidney damage means that there will be a buildup of creatinine beside other waste products in the body. Kidney conditions such as glomerulonephritis, acute tubular necrosis, kidney infection (pyelonephritis) and kidney failure can cause high creatinine levels. Reduced blood flow to the kidneys can also have a similar effect.

Other causes of elevated creatinine levels in blood include shock, dehydration, and congestive heart failure. These conditions lead to a reduction in blood flow to the kidneys, which interferes with their normal functions. High blood pressure, diabetic neuropathy, muscular dystrophy, rhabdomyolysis, eclampsia, and preeclampsia can also cause elevated serum creatinine.

In case a patient with renal dysfunction gets an infection like pneumonia, urinary tract infection, intestinal infection, or a cold, the creatinine level may rise within a short time.

Urine abnormalities such as long-term hematuria and proteinuria can also lead to high creatinine levels.

Taking drugs that have renal toxicity properties can also raise the levels of creatinine in the bloodstream. Such medications include chemotherapy drugs, ACE inhibitors, and NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen among others.”

They also included excessive exercise, too much protein in the diet, fatigue, and inadequate rest.

I noticed each site I looked at mentioned that creatinine increase could be temporary. Perhaps a re-test is in order for my friend.

I know you’re already asking why she was surprised to find this on her lab report. She already has CKD which could be a cause of high creatinine levels. What worried her is that they are rising. Is her CKD getting worse? Or did she neglect to get adequate rest (as one possibility) before this particular blood test?

I can’t answer that since I’m not a doctor, although I hope I’ve been able to alleviate her worry until she gets to go to her nephrologist next week. Here’s hoping this was a welcome Christmas present, my friend.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Say That Again

I have been uttering that phrase for years, maybe even a decade. Each time I went for a hearing test, I was told I was getting there, but I didn’t need hearing aids yet. This year it changed. I’ll bet it’s because I have CKD.

This is from SlowItDownCKD  2011:

“Research shows that hearing loss is common in people with moderate Chronic Kidney Disease. As published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases and highlighted on the National Kidney Foundation web site, a team of Australian researchers found that older adults with moderate Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) have a higher prevalence of hearing loss than those of the same age without CKD.”

How moderate CKD and hearing are connected is another matter, one that apparently isn’t as well documented. Here’s what I found on Timpanogos Hearing and Balance’s website at https://utahhearingaids.com/hearing-loss-likely-individuals-chronic-kidney-disease/ and the other sites I searched. This comes from the same Universtiy of Sydney study I cited in my 2011 blog.  A study that was completed in 2010… eight years ago.

“The link between hearing loss and CKD can be explained by structural and functional similarities between tissues in the inner ear and in the kidney. Additionally, toxins that accumulate in kidney failure can damage nerves, including those in the inner ear. Another reason for this connection is that kidney disease and hearing loss share common risk factors, including diabetes, high blood pressure and advanced age.”

Wait a minute. I wrote about this in SlowItDownCKD 2014, too:

“Suddenly it became clear. If toxins are – well – toxic to our bodies, that includes our ears. My old friend The Online Etymology Dictionary tells us the word toxic is derived directly from late Latin toxicus, which means ‘poisoned.’

Now I got it. Moderate CKD could be poisoning our bodies with a buildup of toxins. Our ears and the nerves in them are part of our body. Damaged nerves may cause hearing loss. I’d just never thought of it that way before. Sometimes all it takes is that one last piece of the puzzle to fall in place.

Hmmm. High blood pressure is the second most common leading cause of CKD and it can also lead to hearing loss. Let’s take a look at that.

According to WebMD

‘Certain illnesses, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, put ears at risk by interfering with the ears’ blood supply.’

I went right to What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease to figure out how since it includes a diagram from The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health that demonstrates how high blood pressure is caused… and if you read on, you’ll read about the problems high blood pressure causes….and this sentence:

‘Humans have 10 pints of blood that are pumped by the heart through the arteries to all the other parts of the bodies.’

That would include the ears. Moderate CKD might mean that blood is tainted by the toxins our compromised kidneys could not rid us of.”

I was frustrated at not finding any more recent research, but sometimes you just have to take what you can get… like now.

I thought of an online hearing test I’d heard (Ouch! Poor word choice there.) about and decided to give it a try since it asked questions rather than having you listen to sounds as you would in an audiologist’s office. Here are my results from the  Better Hearing Institute at http://www.betterhearing.org/check-your-hearing

“SUMMARY

 Your hearing loss would be described as: Mild Hearing Loss. A hearing test may be necessary to monitor your hearing loss.

DETAIL REPORT

 Your Check Score: You scored 21 out of a possible 60 points. The remainder of this report will tell you what your score means.

Your Check Norm: Your score of 21 is at the 19 percentile of people with hearing loss in the United States, where low percentages mean lower hearing losses and high percentages mean more serious hearing losses compared to other people with hearing loss….

Subjective Hearing Loss Description: Based on the responses of more than 10,000 people with hearing loss and their family members, they would describe your hearing loss as: Mild Hearing Loss.

What Your Hearing Loss Means for Your Quality of Life: Research has shown that the higher your predicted hearing loss, the more likely the following quality-of-life factors may be negatively affected:

  • irritability, negativism and anger
  • fatigue, tension, stress and depression
  • avoidance or withdrawal from social situations
  • social rejection and loneliness
  • reduced alertness and increased risk of personal safety
  • impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks
  • reduced job performance and earning power
  • diminished psychological and overall health

What should you do next? Based on your score, we recommend the following: A hearing test may be necessary to monitor your hearing loss. Now hearing loss is situational, and the next step you take is dependent on your need to hear in various listening situations. Some people can live with mild hearing losses. Others, such as teachers and therapists whose auditory skills are very important for their everyday work, require corrective technology — such as hearing aids — even when their hearing loss is at mild levels. It becomes important for them to do something about their hearing loss so they can function adequately in their work environment….

References:

To review the study this report is based on visit:
http://www.betterhearing.org/hearingpedia/bhi-archives/eguides/validity-and-reliability-bhi-quick-hearing-check

To review research on hearing loss and quality of life visit:
www.betterhearing.org/hearingpedia/counseling-articles-tips/impact-treated-hearing-loss-quality-life as well as the following publication conducted by the National Council on the Aging (NCOA):
Hearing Aids and Quality of Life

My audiologist will be introducing me to hearing aids in the new year. I thought I had considered all the ramifications of CKD. And, frankly, I thought I understood what was happening to my kidneys. It looks like I did understand the loss of some kidney function… just not how that would affect the rest of my body.

I don’t know whether to break out the duct tape or the crazy glue to keep this aging body in one piece. Are you laughing? Good, because I wanted to have this Chanukah blog leave you in a good mood. I know, I’ll break out the dreidles in your honor. Happy Chanukah!

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Kidney Transplant: Cure or Treatment? 

I’ve already mentioned that there’s an active network of kidney disease awareness advocates… and that we find each other. I met Steve at a think tank last spring. I wasn’t really sure why I’d been invited, but as soon as he and his wife started talking, I knew why they were.

I hesitated to ask Steve to guest blog since, at the time, I was only writing about Chronic Kidney Disease. Since then, readers have asked me to write about all sorts of topics dealing with the kidneys, not just CKD. So I did. Steve and his thoughts on being a transplant fit right in to this new agenda. When I did ask him to guest blog, I received a return response that was one of the most gracious acceptances… and they’ve all been gracious. I’ll turn the blog over to Steve Winfree now.

The other day I was speaking with some friends and one made mention to me how incredibly lucky I was. I received a new kidney from my wife, Heather, just last year and I was feeling as if I were on top of the world. Given that fact, I had to agree with him, but I inquired further to find out what he meant. He responded that it must be such a relief to be cured and to no longer have to worry about kidney issues, dialysis, and the mess that comes with it.

That really got me thinking about what a kidney transplant actually means outside of the wonderful opportunity for a second chance at a more normal life. It also reminded me that there is a knowledge gap between those close to kidney failure and those who are not.

It is essential that, as a kidney transplant recipient, I clarify the difference between a cure and a treatment. Chronic Kidney Disease is a disease that progresses over time. This is due to the fact that CKD is a disease in which your body attacks your kidneys, or is a genetic disorder (PKD), or is a result of a primary disease such as diabetes and/or high blood pressure. The common factor among the types of kidney disease is that an outside source, not the kidney itself, is the reason for the issues.

This is why receiving a new kidney is a treatment and not a cure. A genetic disorder is still active in your body even when the new kidney is placed. Diabetes and high blood pressure can still be prevalent even with a new kidney, thus causing the implanted kidney to be affected in the same way as the old one. It is due to these reasons that a transplant is a treatment and not a cure. My new kidney has allowed my body to filter out the toxins much more easily, freed me from dialysis, and granted me the ability to get around easier since my arthritis was derived from my kidney disease.

The truth is that while this second opportunity at a much better life is an enormous blessing, the reality is that there is a good chance I will need another transplant one day. The reason is that the cause of my initial kidney failure is still within my body and attacking the new kidney. That is in addition to another main reason that a new kidney is not a final cure: organ rejection.

A new kidney is looked at as a foreign object by your body. Our bodies are designed to keep the body in balance and when something out of the ordinary, such as a virus invading, it attacks to bring balance back. The same is applied to a kidney that is transplanted from another source. Your body sees it as a foreign object and attacks it. That is why we must take immunosuppressant drugs to trick our bodies into not realizing there is a foreign organ inside.

With all of this being said about my new transplant being a treatment and not a cure, I want to mention how my life has changed forever. At the age of 33, I feel better right now than I have since I was a young teenager. My entire adult life has been spent in hospitals and doctors’ offices. I am now free to use my time to travel, enjoy life, and be the foster parent that I have always wanted to be.

A big part of receiving a kidney transplant is the medicine that is involved. The medicine you have to take every day is known as an immunosuppressant, or anti-rejection. While this is a medicine that you must take for the rest of your life, there are steps you can take to ensure that you are able to receive the medicine in an affordable manner. Kidney transplant patients qualify for Medicare. Medicare helps take care of a lot of the costs associated with taking these medications, but not all of it. The best advice I can give you in regards to your medications is to educate yourself on Medicare, MediGap, manufacturer coupons, and be in a close relationship with your transplant team’s social worker. It can be overwhelming at times, but I promise you that there are resources out there to help you!

I am extremely lucky in the fact that my wife, Heather, donated her kidney to me. While this is a treatment, it is the most remarkable and life changing treatment I have ever been blessed to receive! While all kidney disease patients would love to be cured, we understand that will never be the case, but that does not mean our lives cannot be just as remarkable and enjoyable with our treatments.

While we all watched our different renal diets during the weekend we were together, I never once saw Steve or Heather bemoan their new regiment with the transplanted kidney. While they talked about the exorbitant cost of the medications, they were accepting. One other thing I noticed about this delightful couple is that they were grateful every minutes of the time we spent together. I’m hoping Steve’s transplant lasts him as long as is medically feasible.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Something New and Entirely Different

I sit here trying to write this week’s blog and being interrupted every five minutes by a long involved commentary about one thing or another. Why do I tolerate it? Because it’s Bear, my Bear, my husband who is interrupting. Why not just ask him not to, you say. Well, it’s involved. Basically, it’s because he has Alzheimer’s, doesn’t know how long winded he’s being, and feels terribly insulted when I ask him not to interrupt so I can write.

Sometimes, we can have a conversation without the interruptions and without the involved commentary. Obviously, not right now, but during one of these conversations, I explained to him that I had been asked to write about his Alzheimer’s but felt I needed to preserve his privacy. This good man blew that up. He said something to the effect that if it’s going to help even one person to know what he experiences, what I experience, with this disease, then I was obliged to write about it. His privacy wasn’t more important than that.

Now you have just an inkling of why I love him… and I do, Alzheimer’s or not. Since this is my kidney disease blog, it would make sense to look for any connections between Alzheimer’s and kidney disease. If they exist, that is.

I was not happy to find the following on The National Kidney Foundation’s page at https://www.kidney.org/news/ekidney/august08/Dementia_august08

“People with albuminuria were about 50% more likely to have dementia than people without albuminuria, Dr. Joshua I. Barzilay, at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, and his research team report. The association between the two conditions was still strong after controlling for age, education and risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and cholesterol levels. There was a weaker relationship between albuminuria and mild cognitive impairment.”

By now it’s common knowledge to my readers that diabetes is the foremost cause of Chronic Kidney Disease with high blood pressure (hypertension) being the second.

How about some reminders right about now?

The American Diabetes Association at http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/common-terms/?loc defines the most common type of diabetes in the following manner:

“diabetes mellitus (MELL-ih-tus)
a condition characterized by hyperglycemia resulting from the body’s inability to use blood glucose for energy. In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas no longer makes insulin and therefore blood glucose cannot enter the cells to be used for energy. In Type 2 diabetes, either the pancreas does not make enough insulin or the body is unable to use insulin correctly.”

As for high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, The National Library of Medicine PubMed Health was able to help us out:

“It happens when the force of the blood pumping through your arteries is too strong. When your heart beats, it pushes blood through your arteries to the rest of your body. When the blood pushes harder against the walls of your arteries, your blood pressure goes up.”

Keep this in mind for later. Here’s the definition of albumin from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease:

Albumin: Water soluble protein in the blood.

As mentioned in SlowItDownCKD 2013, “according to the physicians’ journal BMJ: ‘albuminuria [is] leakage of large amounts of the protein albumin into the urine.’”

Many of us with CKD have albuminuria at one time or another. Does that mean that 50% of us are going to develop dementia? No, not at all. According to the National Kidney Foundation, that 50% of us with albuminuria are MORE LIKELY to develop dementia, not GOING TO.

I get it. By now, most of you are probably asking what Alzheimer’s has to do with dementia. I popped right over to the Alzheimer’s Association’s (my new best friend) website at https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers  for an explanation.

“Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.”

I’ll bet you want a definition of dementia now. Let’s go to Healthline.com at https://www.healthline.com/health/dementia for one:

“Dementia is a decline in cognitive function. To be considered dementia, mental impairment must affect at least two brain functions. Dementia may affect:

  • memory
  • thinking
  • language
  • judgment
  • behavior”

It’s not surprising that the two definitions look so much alike. Alzheimer’s is one of the ten kinds of dementia that I know about. Different websites have different numbers for how many different kinds of dementia there are. I used the information from MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/dementia/article.htm#what_are_alzheimers_vascular_and_frontotemporal_dementia

Did you keep the definition of albumin in mind? The key word in that is protein… and that’s where the connection between Alzheimer’s and CKD lies. The information is from an unusual source for me to use, Science Magazine at https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/01/alzheimer-s-protein-may-spread-infection-human-brain-scans-suggest:

 “Tau is one of two proteins—along with β-amyloid—that form unusual clumps in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists have long debated which is most important to the condition and, thus, the best target for intervention. Tau deposits are found inside neurons, where they are thought to inhibit or kill them, whereas β-amyloid forms plaques outside brain cells.”

I realize this is getting very technical and may concentrate on particular elements of this connection in future blogs, but right now, I’d like to remind you that the National Kidney Fund is hosting a webinar “Eating healthy with diabetes and kidney disease” in recognition of National Diabetes Awareness Month on Wednesday, November 28, 2018 from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. EST.

Again, diabetes… the number one cause of Chronic Kidney Disease. Read more about CKD, diabetes, and hypertension (as well as many other topics) in the SlowItDownCKD series and What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease. All eight books are available in print and digital on Amazon.com and B & N.com.

Did you know that the first day of Chanukah is December 3rd? We start celebrating Chanukah the night before the first day and celebrate for eight nights… and there are eight books. What a coincidence! (Just planting a seed here, folks.)

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Shining a Light on 1in9 

Last week, I began my blog post by mentioning that kidney disease awareness advocates have a habit of finding each other. This time, we had a little help.  I transferred to a new nephrologist because he was so much closer to my house. We spent some time getting to know each other as people new to each other do. Then he told me about another patient of his who is also working on spreading awareness, but via a documentary. Raymond, a transplant recipient that you’ll meet in a moment, and his brother who is also his donor, are both veterans. It made sense to me when his wife and partner on their documentary, Analyn Scott, suggested I post her guest blog about their project today since Veterans’ Day which was yesterday. Readers, meet Analyn; Analyn, meet the readers of the blog.

By now it shouldn’t surprise me that as I’m out and about I’m constantly meeting more and more people with a connection to kidney disease. That was not the case 21 years ago, or even four years ago for that matter. What changed? The opening of my eyes to statistics I was previously unaware of, and frankly I found to be quite shocking and unacceptable. I’ll get to those stats a little later.

21 years ago this month I met my now husband, Raymond Scott, on a blind date. A year out of the Army, here was this 29 year old handsome, kind, Southern gentlemen that swept me off my feet. Little did either of us know that three months later his kidneys would unexpectedly fail and that our journey would lead us to where we are today.

Like many others, although Raymond ‘crashed’ into dialysis, his previous medical records revealed that he had Kidney Disease, but he was not properly made aware of his status or what he could do to improve it. So our journey with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) began together with Raymond finding out he had End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) and needing to start on dialysis right away.

Throughout the past 20, going on 21 years, Raymond has been on both peritoneal dialysis and in-center hemodialysis, had a kidney transplant that lasted for five years, and for the past five years has his hemodialysis treatments administered by me five days a week from the comforts of our home. With that, we’ve also had many twists and turns with Raymond’s health that often go along with ESRD. But, despite our own experiences, it wasn’t until we were invited as guests to attend the National Kidney Foundation’s Dancing With The Stars Arizona 2015 Gala that our eyes would start to be opened to the staggering statistics surrounding Kidney Disease.

As we enjoyed the lively and energetic dance performances I turned to Raymond and teasingly said, “Hey, that could be you dancing next year.” My eyes got big and my giggles stopped, and before I could get the words out of my mouth, Raymond already knew that look on my face very well and anticipated my next words, “Wait, why not you? You can do this!.”

Sure enough, Raymond was the first celebrity star dancer who was an active dialysis patient at the National Kidney Foundation’s 10th Annual Dancing With the Stars Arizona Gala on February 20th, 2016…..18 years to the exact day that his kidneys failed! He and his dance partner and instructor, Brianna Santiago, spent six months of grueling practices preparing for their energetic performance to Pharrell William’s song Happy, demonstrating the improved quality of life home dialysis can provide, and that dialysis does not have to be a death sentence.

As we picked up the torch of advocacy, we were led to start filming a documentary and create a non-profit organization to create hope and change the trajectory of kidney disease. As I was brainstorming with a dear friend about potential names for the organization, she said, “Wait, go back to that statistic you mentioned: 26 Million Americans, 1 in 9 adults have Kidney Disease….that’s it…..1in9.” That and meeting our incredible videographer was how 1in9 was birthed!

You may have guessed it, but 1 in 9 American adults having Kidney Disease was one of those stats that caught us off guard. And hearing that 90% of those with CKD weren’t aware was totally unacceptable to us. Diabetes is the leading cause of Kidney Disease, and high blood pressure….which took Raymond’s kidneys….is second. Kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death in the U.S. and kills more people than breast cancer or prostate cancer. Surprising, right? It sure was to us, and we figured if this was news to us after all these years of living with it, then the general population must really be in the dark.

Our vision for 1in9 is to save millions of lives globally through awareness, prevention, and expedited research and development of regenerative medicine treatments and solutions. Last year our family headed out across country on an RV tour to raise awareness and film, while keeping up Raymond’s dialysis treatments five days a week on the RV. We met some incredible people near and far that continue to inspire us to keep pushing the wheels of change. Like our friends at…..

University of Arizona http://deptmedicine.arizona.edu/news/2017/1in9-kidney-challenge-founders-visit-ua-nephrology-faculty-researchers

Washington University https://nephrology.wustl.edu/1in9-kidney-awareness-documentary-visits-division-nephrology/

The Veterans’ Administration Medical Center in Washington DC https://www.washingtondc.va.gov/features/Living_Well_with_Kidney_Disease.asp

And our visit to UCSF with Dr. Shuvo Roy, co-Director of The Kidney Project, where we were able to hold the 3D printed bio-artificial kidney prototype in our own hands! Friends, if you haven’t already heard, change is not only on the way, it’s here!

We are still filming our documentary, releasing our 1in9 Compilation Book next March, and excited about other impactful programs we are launching that will help us bring Kidney Disease out of the public shadows of silence and misunderstanding and confront it head on with solutions.

To learn more and link arms to help keep the torch illuminating bright on our life saving mission please visit, follow, and/or contact us at: www.1in9kidneychallenge.com 
www.facebook.com/1in9kidneychallenge/ 1in9kidneychallenge@gmail.com

Analyn and Raymond have asked me to contribute a chapter to their book. I will be delighted to do so. As a Chronic Kidney Disease awareness advocate, I can’t begin to tell you how much pleasure I have at meeting more and more people with the same mission in life. We get to help each other spread awareness.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Yet Another One

Chronic Kidney Disease awareness advocates have a tendency to hang out together online. One who has become a good buddy and happens to live in Hawaii (Now you see why we’re online buddies.), and I were going back and forth about how it’s important to be what I call a lifelong learner. To put it another way, someone who investigates that about which they don’t know. The timing was good.

A reader soon started communicating with me about tuberous sclerosis complex (TS). I was polite. I was patient. And I had no clue what this had to do with kidney disease, although the word “tuberous” caught my eye. By the way, Dictionary.com at https://www.dictionary.com defines tuberous as “characterized by the presence of rounded or wartlike prominences or tubers.” So I did what any curious, intelligent lifelong learner would do. I asked… and the response was an eye opener.

What she, the reader, sent me led to my going back to my old friend The National Institutes of Health’s U.S. National Library of Medicine. This definition is from their website at https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/tuberous-sclerosis-complex,

“Tuberous sclerosis complex is a genetic disorder characterized by the growth of numerous noncancerous (benign) tumors in many parts of the body. These tumors can occur in the skin, brain, kidneys, and other organs, in some cases leading to significant health problems.”

So, that’s the connection to kidney disease: tumor growth on the kidney… and, according to this definition, it’s genetic. It wasn’t mentioned there, but I remember thinking that it’s also a rare disease.

I thought I’d hop over to National Organization for Rare Diseases at https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/tuberous-sclerosis/ for more information, just in case it really was a rare disease. It’s a good thing I did because as it turned out, this is not only a genetic disease, but one that can also be caused by mutation:

“In many instances, an alteration causing tuberous sclerosis occurs as a new (sporadic or de novo) mutation, which means that the gene alteration has occurred at the time of the formation of the egg or sperm for that child only, and no other family member will be affected. The disorder is not inherited from or ‘carried’ by a healthy parent. However, such alterations can be passed on through dominant inheritance (where a trait is transmitted from either an affected mother or father to their child).”

I needed to know more so I poked around looking for the symptoms. My first stop was the ever reliable Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tuberous-sclerosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20365969 :

“Although the signs and symptoms are unique for each person with , they can include:

  • Skin abnormalities. Most people with tuberous sclerosis have patches of light-colored skin, or they may develop small, harmless areas of thickened, smooth skin or reddish bumps under or around the nails. Facial growths that begin in childhood and resemble acne also are common.
  • Seizures. Growths in the brain may be associated with seizures, which can be the first symptom of tuberous sclerosis. In small children, a common type of seizure called infantile spasm shows up as repetitive spasms of the head and legs.
  • Cognitive disabilities. Tuberous sclerosis can be associated with developmental delays and sometimes intellectual disability or learning disabilities. Mental health disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), also can occur.
  • Behavioral problems. Common behavioral problems may include hyperactivity, self-injury or aggression, or issues with social and emotional adjustment.
  • Kidney problems. Most people with tuberous sclerosis develop noncancerous growths on their kidneys, and they may develop more growths as they age.
  • Heart issues. Growths in the heart, if present, are usually largest at birth and shrink as the child gets older.
  • Lung problems. Growths that develop in the lungs may cause coughing or shortness of breath, especially with physical activity or exercise. These benign lung tumors occur more often in women than in men.
  • Eye abnormalities. Growths can appear as white patches on the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (retina). These noncancerous growths don’t always interfere with vision.”

Nope, not enough yet. Even though growths on the kidneys were mentioned, I wanted to know about diagnosing this rare disease. This time I turned to Healthline (Yes, the same Healthline that twice deemed this blog one of the top six kidney blogs.) at https://www.healthline.com/health/tuberous-sclerosis#diagnosis . This is what I found there:

“TS is diagnosed by genetic testing or a series of tests that includes:

an MRI of the brain

a CT scan of the head

an electrocardiogram

an echocardiogram

a kidney ultrasound

an eye exam

looking at your skin under an Wood’s lamp, which emits ultraviolet light”

But what about a cure or treatment? Is there any? According to MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/tuberous_sclerosis_complex_tsc/article.htm#how_is_tsc_treated ,

“There is no cure for TSC, although treatment is available for a number of the symptoms. Antiepileptic drugs may be used to control seizures. Vigabatrin is a particularly useful medication in TSC, and has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of infantile spasms in TSC, although it has significant side effects. The FDA has approved the drug everolimus (Afinitor®) to treat subependymal giant cell astrocytomas (SEGA brain tumors) and angiomyolipoma kidney tumors. Specific medications may be prescribed for behavior problems. Intervention programs including special schooling and occupational therapy may benefit individuals with special needs and developmental issues. Surgery may be needed in case of complications connected to tubers, SEN or SEGA, as well as in risk of hemorrhage from kidney tumors. Respiratory insufficiency due to LAM can be treated with supplemental oxygen therapy or lung transplantation if severe.”

I find myself flabbergasted that, yet again, there is so much to learn for this particular lifelong learner. Wait, you should also know there is an association for those with the disease. It’s the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance. The following link is for the page that explains how this disease affects the kidneys: https://www.tsalliance.org/about-tsc/signs-and-symptoms-of-tsc/kidneys/. Should you be newly diagnosed with this disease or know someone who has been, that’s where you find easily understood information and support. You can also click on to their home page if you want to know how it affects other parts of the body.

That is plenty to absorb for one day.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Dead People

Hmmm, maybe that title should read “Famous People Who Died from Kidney Disease.” Let’s go back a bit to see what I’m talking about. By now you know my youngest married on the 6th of this month. Thank you to everyone who sent their best wishes. She and her husband did a wonderful job of creating the wedding they wanted, just as the new Mr. & Mrs. Nielson are doing a terrific job of creating the life they want together.

Of course, her sister came out from New York to join the festivities. As usual, she stayed with Bear and me. That gave us plenty of time to gab between the pre-wedding potluck at my house and all the preparations for the wedding. At one point, I casually mentioned to her that Jean Harlow died of kidney disease. That fascinated Nima for some reason. As I explained the how and why, she asked me why I hadn’t yet written a blog about famous people who died from kidney disease.

At first, I thought it a bit macabre but then I rethought that. My new thinking ran along the line of, “What a perfect blog for Halloween week.” By the way, that’s my brother’s birthday and there is nothing spooky about him. Oh, our preconceptions.

Back to Jean Harlow. For those of you who don’t know, she was not only an American film actress during the 1930s, but a sex symbol as well.

This is from the official Jean Harlow website at https://www.jeanharlow.com/about/biography/

“While filming Saratoga in 1937, Jean was hospitalized with uremic poisoning and kidney failure, a result of the scarlet fever she had suffered during childhood. In the days before dialysis and kidney transplants, nothing could be done and Jean died on June 7, 1937.”

A couple of reminders:

Uremic poisoning is what we now call uremia. This type of poisoning happens when the kidneys can’t filter your blood.

Kidney failure means your kidneys don’t work anymore. One of their jobs is to filter urea from your blood so that it doesn’t build up resulting in uremia.

As for the scarlet fever, “In general, appropriately diagnosed and treated scarlet fever results in few if any long-term effects. However, if complications develop for whatever reason, problems that include kidney damage, hepatitis, vasculitis, septicemia, congestive heart failure, and even death may occur.“ (Courtesy of MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/scarlet_fever_scarlatina/article.htm)

Dialysis was invented in 1943 by Dr. Willem Kolff. It wasn’t until the 1950s before it was perfected, but for Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) only. To make matters worse, few machines were available. Dr. Belding Scribner then developed a shunt to make dialysis effective for End Stage Renal Disease patients. In other words, not only those with short term kidney injuries, but also those whose kidneys were shutting down permanently. It wasn’t until 1962 that he opened the first outpatient dialysis unit. Later on, he developed the portable dialysis machines.

Keep those years in mind. Keep in mind also that there was no dialysis or transplantation when these people died of kidney disease.

You may remember the blog I wrote about the Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He died of kidney failure back in 1792… way before dialysis or transplantation.

Transplantation? You’re right; I haven’t defined it yet. You cannot live without a functioning kidney unless you are on dialysis OR a new kidney – either from a cadaver or a life donor – is placed in your body. It is not a cure for kidney failure, but a treatment. Transplantees take anti-rejection medications for the rest of their lives.

Have you heard of Sarah Bernhardt? She was a French stage actress who died of kidney disease in 1923. She’d also been a silent screen actress, but reportedly didn’t care for film acting. Notice the year.

Emily Dickinson, the celebrated American poet died of Bright’s disease in 1886. (She was still alive during Portal of Time. I wonder if Jesse read her work?) Oh, you forgot what Bright’s disease is? No problem. New-Medical Net at https://www.news-medical.net/health/Brights-Disease-Kidney-Disease.aspx tells us it is “… a historical term that is not currently in use. It referred to a group of kidney diseases – in modern medicine, the condition is described as acute or chronic nephritis.”

It would make sense to define nephritis now. The suffix “itis” means inflammation of and “neph” refers to the kidneys. So, nephritis is an inflammation of the kidneys and can be due to a number of causes.

Let’s not forget the great Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. He moved to London at 20 years old and became a critic and political activist as well. You’ve heard of the play ‘My Fair Lady’? It was based on his ‘Pygmalion’. He died of kidney disease just before he might have been saved… in 1950.

I think the one who surprised me the most was Buffalo Bill Cody. He was not just the leader of his wild West show, but also a bison hunter, scout (as in finding the way for wagon trains), gold rush participant, possibly a Pony Express rider, and actor. He died in 1917 of kidney failure.

Other famous people who have died of kidney disease include Art Tatum, Color Porter, Douglas MacArthur, Alex Karras, Manute Bol, Ernest Borgnine, Don DeLuise, Art Buchwald, Norman Mailer, Sandra Dee, Barry White, Erma Bombeck, Marlene Dietrich, and Laurence Olivier.

This blog is not meant to scare the wits out of you. Well, maybe it is in a way. Famous people from all walks of life – athletes, writers, actors, musicians, singers, military members, and others – have died of kidney disease. Many before the invention of dialysis and transplantation. Some of kidney disease in combination of other diseases. And some because they didn’t know they had kidney disease.

My point? If you belong to any of the high risk groups for kidney disease, get yourself tested. We’re talking simple blood and urine tests here. The high risk groups are “diabetes, hypertension and a family history of kidney disease. African Americans, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans and Seniors.” Thank you to the National Kidney Center at http://www.nationalkidneycenter.org/chronic-kidney-disease/risk-factors/ for this list.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

The Reluctant Donor

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned the exceedingly personable folks I met at the kidney disease think tank and then the AAKP National Patient Meeting earlier this year. Actually, you’ve already heard from one from them. This past July, Cindy Guentert-Baldo guest blogged about being a PKD patient. Today’s guest blog by Suzanne F. Ruff looks at the other side of same kidney disease. Ms. Ruff is no stranger to spreading awareness of kidney disease as you can see by her credentials:

author of The Reluctant Donor

Freelance writer for The Charlotte Observer

Executive Board of Directors American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP)

Living Donor Council of The National Kidney Foundation (NKF)

Published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving & Recovery & Say Hello to A Better Body

Before you start reading Suzanne’s guest blog, I feel it only fair to warn you it left me in tears.

Why am I called The Reluctant Donor?  A simple answer is because I cried and whined all the way into the operating room to donate a kidney to my sister.  But it’s really not simple.  It’s complicated.

I really didn’t like my sister.  Okay, okay, I know.  If you have a sibling, you probably know what I’m talking about . . . siblings can drive you crazy.  If you don’t have a sibling, well, it’s complicated.  That’s part of the reason I titled my book, The Reluctant Donor, but not quite the whole reason.

On my journey to become a living kidney donor to a sister I didn’t like, I learned a lot of things.  Probably the most important thing is that although I may not have liked my sister, I discovered how much I love her. When I didn’t like her, it was because she was crabby grouchy and scared.  I learned something from that, too.  My sister was crabby and grouchy because she was ill…very, very ill.  That’s what happens when you don’t feel well, when your kidneys fail, and when you’re scared, terrified and afraid: you are not yourself.

I also learned denial is a powerful thing.  My sister was in denial.  Kidney disease does that to you; my sister and I should know.  We were born into a family chockful of people with kidney disease. Polycystic kidney disease or ADPKD (Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease) to be exact. This is a hereditary disease that causes cysts to grow around both kidneys causing the kidneys to fail.  If one of your parents carries the gene (our mother did), you have a 50% chance of inheriting the disease.   My sister, along with my other sister, inherited that gene from our mother.  Our mother, along with Mom’s two brothers and two sisters, inherited that gene from their mother.

Yes, sirreee, we were chockful of kidney disease. Over twenty-three family members now have or had the disease. We’ve had ten deaths from kidney disease, including our mother.

I did not inherit the gene that causes the disease.  Many people ask me if I feel guilty, sort of like survivor’s guilt, because my sisters have the disease and I don’t. I don’t feel guilty.  A person has no power over what genes they inherit.  But, I do feel a tremendous responsibility to do what I can to eradicate the disease that has ravaged my family.  So, I wrote my book. 

There is no cure for PKD.  Growing up I learned I was named after my grandmother who died of polycystic kidney disease before I was born.  When her kidneys failed, the doctors told her there was nothing the doctors could do for her. Mom described my grandmother’s death: Mom, a teenager then, her father, her brothers and sisters were gathered around my grandmother’s hospital bed, when my grandmother sat straight up and said, “Here I am, Lord!” and died.

The disease then hit five of my grandmother’s six children, including my mother. Through their suffering and deaths, I have learned courage and faith.  One of my aunts diagnosed with PKD in the 1960’s was one of the first to be able to try the new-fangled machine called dialysis. But, alas! There were not enough dialysis machines!!!!!  My aunt was a Roman Catholic nun.  She offered to give up her spot on the waiting list and died a few months later. She was 45 years old.

Presently, my three cousins, all brothers, suffer from polycystic kidney disease.  Their eldest brother, John, passed away from polycystic kidney disease (PKD) in 1996. Two of the three brothers are on dialysis and the other brother will need dialysis soon.    Their sister has offered to be a living donor to one of them, but each of them insists the other brother accept her kidney. A stalemate … as the disease progresses.

I have other stories about my magnificent family, but this blog is near its end.  You might even say none of this explains why I cried, kicked and screamed my way into the operating room to donate one of my kidneys to my sister.

Plain and simple: I was afraid.  I don’t like hospitals.  I hate them.  Growing up, the people I loved most died in hospitals.  I don’t like needles. I don’t like blood.   I was afraid I would die, afraid the surgery wouldn’t be a success, afraid my life would change because I donated.  I was always afraid of polycystic kidney disease as one by one, people I loved suffered and died.

Something happened to me, though, when my sister collapsed in kidney failure.  My faith kicked in and I stepped up.  We are blessed.  The surgery was a success. My sister is now a grandmother. Life is so precious!

Having gained both another son-in-law and my first grandchild this year, I can only agree with Suzanne… and life was precious for me before. I’m reading her book now and enjoying it. Should you decide to read Suzanne’s book (and any and all of mine), be sure to leave a review. Those are what get our books recognized… and in Suzanne and my cases, spreads awareness of kidney disease.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

How Does That Work Again?

I’ve had so many questions lately about how clinical trials work that when Antidote asked me if I’d consider including their infograph in a blog, I jumped at the chance. There’s even more information about clinical trials at https://www.antidote.me/what-are-clinical-trial-phases.

I’ve written about Antidote before… and I’ve written about clinical trials before. It seems more and more people are becoming interested in the process for a multitude of diseases, not only Chronic Kidney Disease.

As a newly diagnosed diabetes patient, I’ve noticed clinical trials for diabetes. A family member has Alzheimer’s; his neurologist keeps an eye out for clinical trials for him. Whatever your disease is, you can search for clinical trials.

While this is not everyone’s cup of tea, it is a chance to help others who may develop the same diseases in the future. Who knows, maybe the new treatment will be FDA approved during your own lifetime and help you with your own disease.

In case you are one of those people who have always wondered just what the FDA is, their website is https://www.fda.gov. That’s right: it’s a government site which is part of the U.S. Health and Human Services. What’s that? You’d like a more precise definition?

No problem. This is from the United States of American Government website at https://www.usa.gov/federal-agencies/food-and-drug-administration and offers basic information about the FDA.

Food and Drug Administration

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation. The FDA also provides accurate, science-based health information to the public.

                                                                                                                                                      Agency Details

Acronym: FDA

Website: Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Contact: Contact the Food and Drug Administration

 Report a Problem with a Product

Main Address: 10903 New Hampshire Ave.
Silver Spring, MD 20993

Toll Free: 1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332)

Forms: Food and Drug Administration Forms

Government branch: Executive Department Sub-Office/Agency/Bureau

By the way, they are also responsible for both recalls and safety alerts for the treatments they’ve approved.

In the infograph above, you’ll notice, “Sometimes, only healthy volunteers participate.” in Phase 1. Should you decide to apply for a clinical trial, you need to keep this in mind to save yourself a bit of heartache. I firmly believe in paying back for the wonderful things in my life and have applied for several clinical trials for other diseases in an effort to do so. I must have missed the small print because I was rejected for having CKD.

I wanted to help eradicate or ameliorate whatever the disease was. Sometimes it was a disease that was ravaging a loved one. It was just a little bit of a heartbreak not to be able to do so.

As for Phase 2, I went to the blog’s site at gailraegarwood.wordpress.com to use the antidote widget at the bottom of the right side of the page. It’s the turquoise one. You can’t miss it. Face Palm! You can also go directly to www.antidote.me to search for clinical trials.

Why Antidote? It’s simply an easier way to find a clinical trial. This is from SlowItDownCKD 2017:

“Antidote Match™

Matching patients to trials in a completely new way
Antidote Match is the world’s smartest clinical trial matching tool, allowing patients to match to trials just by answering a few questions about their health.

Putting technology to work
We have taken on the massive job of structuring all publicly available clinical trial eligibility criteria so that it is machine-readable and searchable.

This means that for the first time, through a machine-learning algorithm that dynamically selects questions, patients can answer just a few questions to search through thousands of trials within a given therapeutic area in seconds and find one that’s right for them.

Patients receive trial information that is specific to their condition with clear contact information to get in touch with researchers.

Reaching patients where they are
Even the smartest search tool is only as good as the number of people who use it, so we’ve made our search tool available free of charge to patient communities, advocacy groups, and health portals. We’re proud to power clinical trial search on more than a hundred of these sites, reaching millions of patients per month where they are already looking for health information.

Translating scientific jargon
Our platform pulls information on all the trials listed on clinicaltrials.gov and presents it into a simple, patient-friendly design.

You (Gail here: this point is addressed to the ones conducting the clinical trial) then have the option to augment that content through our free tool, Antidote Bridge™, to include the details that are most important to patients – things like number of overnights, compensation, and procedures used. This additional information helps close the information gap between patients and researchers, which ultimately yields greater engagement with patients.

Here’s how Antidote Match works
1. Visit search engine → Patients visit either our website or one of the sites that host our search.
2. Enter condition → They enter the condition in which they’re interested, and begin answering the questions as they appear
3. Answer questions → As more questions are answered, the number of clinical trial matches reduces
4. Get in touch: When they’re ready, patients review their matches and can get in touch with the researchers running each study directly through our tool

Try it from the blog roll. I did. I was going to include my results, but realized they wouldn’t be helpful since my address, age, sex, diseases, and conditions may be different from everyone else’s. One caveat: search for Chronic Renal Insufficiency or Chronic Renal Failure (whichever applies to you) rather than Chronic Kidney Disease.”

Before I sign off, this came in from the American Association of Kidney Patients:

Please join us on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 at 1 p.m. ET for an educational webinar on Making the Perfect Team: Working with Your Dialysis Technician in partnership with National Association of Nephrology Technicians/Technologists (NANT).  Keep in mind that’s tomorrow. Hit this link if you’d like to register https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/7744206034004582403

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Rising to the Challenge

Remember Loyal Reader from a few years ago? He and I are still in touch and toss around ideas here and there. He sent me an article about Chronic Kidney Disease patients being at higher risk for Hepatitis C along with the comment, “Hmmm, I wonder why?” I know a challenge when I see one, so let’s find out.

Back to basics: what is Hepatitis C anyway? As I mentioned in SlowItDownCKD 2013, Hepatitis is from the … Greek word root, hepa, which means liver.” Interesting, but not enough information for our purposes.

According to our old friend the MayoClinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hepatitis-c/symptoms-causes/syc-20354278,

“Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes liver inflammation, sometimes leading to serious liver damage. The hepatitis C virus (HCV) spreads through contaminated blood.”

The National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/sites/default/files/HepC_Infographic.pdf explained why hepatitis C is associated with Chronic Kidney Disease:

“Hepatitis C infection is strongly associated with kidney disease. Hepatitis C is more common in people with kidney disease than the general population. Hepatitis C can be a cause of kidney disease, or make existing kidney disease worse. People receiving a kidney transplant, or donating a kidney, are routinely tested for hepatitis C.

Hemodialysis and Hepatitis C People receiving long-term hemodialysis have a risk of getting hepatitis C through transmission in the dialysis clinic. The risk is small because of strict standard health precautions used in dialysis units today. However, some cases of hepatitis C being spread between patients have been reported.”

By the way, NKF uses infographs which are easy to understand.

In SlowItDownCKD 2017, I explained what KDIGO is. We’re going to need that explanation in just a moment.

“This stands for KIDNEY DISEASE | IMPROVING GLOBAL OUTCOMES. Their homepage at KDIGO.org states, “KDIGO MISSION – Improving the care and outcomes of kidney disease patients worldwide through the development and implementation of global clinical practice guidelines.”

Here’s where KDIGO comes in. Way back in 2008, the following was published in the April issue of the official journal of the International Society of Nephrology, Kidney International, which supports the KDIGO:

“‘HCV infection is associated with an increased prevalence of reduced kidney function, albuminuria, and an increased risk of developing end stage renal disease,’ says Dr. Jaber, who is also vice chair for clinical affairs, Department of Medicine at Caritas St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, ‘HCV infection is also associated with increased mortality among patients undergoing maintenance hemodialysis and among kidney transplant recipients.'”

But, in 2018, KDIGO updated their recommendations: “We recommend screening all patients for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection at the time of initial evaluation of chronic kidney disease (CKD).”

Hmmm, as Loyal Reader would say, I wonder if this has something to do with the albuminuria Dr. Jaber mentioned in 2008.

Let’s see what we can find out. I found this in SlowItDownCKD 2015:

“Albumin is a protein.  It will show up as microalbumin in your urine test.  It may also show up as proteinuria since albumin is a protein.”

We can figure out that microalbumin is extremely small particles of albumin, but what about proteinuria? I went back, back, back to my first CKD book, What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease for the definition:

“Protein in the urine, not a normal state of being.”

Does anyone else feel like we’re going down the rabbit hole here? Of course it’s not normal! It means we have CKD. Now, if there’s any amount   of protein in our urine… and there may be since we do have Chronic Kidney Disease… it looks like Hepatitis C Virus can raise that amount and lower our GFR. Not good, not good at all.

So what do we do about it? WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/hepatitis/digestive-diseases-hepatitis-c#2 held the least medicalese answer about the drugs that all the sites I viewed saw as the best treatment plan:

“Your treatment will depend on many things including what type of hepatitis C virus you have. In the U.S., the most common type is genotype 1, followed by genotypes 2 and 3. Genotypes 4, 5, and 6 are very rare in the U.S. Your doctor will help you figure out what’s right for you, based on your medical needs and insurance coverage. “

I know. I had the same question. What is a genotype? Hello, Dictionary.com, my old friend, at https://www.dictionary.com/browse/genotype.

“the genetic makeup of an organism or group of organisms with reference to a single trait, set of traits, or an entire complex of traits.”

Well, that makes sense. Just one more thing, though. Is it possible to know we have Hepatitis C before we’re diagnosed with CKD – at which time we should be tested for HCV – or even if we don’t have CKD? That is a loaded question. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), fully 80% of those with acute or short term HCV won’t have any symbols. The other 20% may experience mild symptoms you might experience with any illness: fever, joint pain, being tired and/or nauseous, and the like. However with chronic or long term HCV, you might experience dark urine and/or jaundice of the skin and eyeballs. To complicate matters even more, there are three different kinds of hepatitis. You can read much more about hepatitis at https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/cfaq.htm

There’s one thing that I haven’t yet made clear. Your body rids itself of wastes and excess fluids through either the kidneys or the liver. If you have CKD, your kidneys are already not functioning as well as they should which means you’re not getting rid of either wastes or excess fluids efficiently. Guess what. One of the functions of the liver is to also clean your blood. Having two organs that are not effectively cleansing your blood is not a position you want to be in… ever.

This was a difficult blog to write. There were so many little pieces to link together. But thanks for the challenge, Loyal Reader, I learned a lot.

Switching topics now. Since the weather has been,uh, difficult lately (to say the least), I thought this might be helpful.  Use this link rather than clicking below: https://ecs.page.link/SVpB 

Until next week,

 

Keep living your life!

The Dynamic Duo 

Sorry Batman, not yours. I’m writing about Chronic Kidney Disease and diabetes. For a decade, I’ve been told diabetes is the number one cause of CKD. Got it… and (as you know) CKD. Then I learned that CKD can cause diabetes. Ummm, okay, I guess that sort of makes sense. And then, oh my, I developed diabetes. But how? I’d never questioned how that worked before, but I certainly did now.

Let’s go back to the beginning here. First of all, what is diabetes? I included this information in SlowItDownCKD 2013:

“According to MedicalNewsToday at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/info/diabetes:

‘Diabetes, often referred to by doctors as diabetes mellitus, describes a group of metabolic diseases in which the person has high blood glucose (blood sugar), either because insulin production is inadequate, or because the body’s cells do not respond properly to insulin, or both. Patients with high blood sugar will typically experience polyuria (frequent urination), they will become increasingly thirsty (polydipsia) and hungry (polyphagia).’”

Guilty on all three counts as far as symptoms. It gets worse. I uncovered this fact in SlowItDownCKD 2014:

“According to Diabetes.co.uk at https://www.diabetes.co.uk/how-does-diabetes-affect-the-body.html,

‘The kidneys are another organ that is at particular risk of damage as a result of diabetes and the risk is again increased by poorly controlled diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol.’”

This is getting more and more complicated. But again, how is diabetes damaging my kidneys?

It seemed to me that I had just posted a fact about this on SlowItDownCKD’s Facebook page, so I checked. Yep, I did on September 7th.

“Did you know that high glucose levels can make your red blood cells stiffen? This hinders your blood circulation.”

And this affects the kidneys how? Let’s think about this a minute. Way back when I wrote What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, I included this information:

“A renal artery carries the blood, waste and water to the kidneys while a renal vein carries the filtered and sieved waste from the kidneys.”

The American Society of Hematology at http://www.hematology.org/Patients/Basics/ tells us there are four parts of the blood:

  1. Red blood cells
  2. White blood cells
  3. Plasma
  4. Platelets

Hmmm, so red blood cells compose one quarter of your blood and high glucose can make them stiffen. To me, that means a quarter of your blood will be working against you.  Not what we need… especially when we’re already dealing with Chronic Kidney Disease.

Back to my original question (again): How do high glucose levels affect the kidneys?

Thank you to the National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/Diabetes-and-Kidney-Disease-Stages1-4 for exactly the answer I was looking for:

  • Blood vessels inside your kidneys. The filtering units of the kidney are filled with tiny blood vessels. Over time, high sugar levels in the blood can cause these vessels to become narrow and clogged. Without enough blood, the kidneys become damaged and albumin (a type of protein) passes through these filters and ends up in the urine where it should not be.
  • Nerves in your body. Diabetes can also cause damage to the nerves in your body. Nerves carry messages between your brain and all other parts of your body, including your bladder. They let your brain know when your bladder is full. But if the nerves of the bladder are damaged, you may not be able to feel when your bladder is full. The pressure from a full bladder can damage your kidneys.
  • Urinary tract. If urine stays in your bladder for a long time, you may get a urinary tract infection. This is because of bacteria. Bacteria are tiny organisms like germs that can cause disease. They grow rapidly in urine with a high sugar level. Most often these infections affect the bladder, but they can sometimes spread to the kidneys.

I would say I’m heart… uh, kidney…broken about this development, but the truth is I’m not. I don’t like it; I don’t want it, but I can do something about it. I’d already cut out complex carbs and sugar laden foods in an abortive attempt to lose weight for my health. Well, maybe my daughter’s wedding on October 6th had something to do with that decision, too.

The point is, I’ve started. I’m aware of the carbohydrates in food and I’m learning how to control my intake of them… just as I’m aware that I have to break in the shoes for the wedding. Something new has to be gotten used to. I’ve had a head start.

Why the emphasis on carbs, you ask. I turned to my old favorite The National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/diet-eating-physical-activity/carbohydrate-counting  for help:

“When you eat foods containing carbohydrates, your digestive system breaks down the sugars and starches into glucose. Glucose is one of the simplest forms of sugar. Glucose then enters your bloodstream from your digestive tract and raises your blood glucose levels. The hormone insulin, which comes from the pancreas or from insulin shots, helps cells throughout your body absorb glucose and use it for energy. Once glucose moves out of the blood into cells, your blood glucose levels go back down.”

If you’ve got diabetes, your body either is not producing enough insulin or not interacting well with the insulin it is producing. Measuring my blood sugar levels when I awaken in the morning has shown me that when I’m sleeping – when I cannot help my blood sugar levels come down by eating protein or exercising, even in my dreams – is when I have the highest blood sugar. During the day I can keep it under control.

And that’s where my medication comes in. The usual – Metformin – can cause nausea, which I deal with more often than not, so that was out. However, a new medication on the market just might do the trick. It’s only been a few days, but I do notice my blood sugar upon waking is getting lower each day. This medication is not a panacea. I still have to be careful with my food, exercise daily, and sometimes counteract a high carb food with a protein. I’m not there yet, but I’m learning.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Not That Kind of Trial

I enjoy reading murder mysteries and thrillers, especially Victorian era ones like the work of Anne Perry.  Sometimes they include –  or even start with – the trial and work their way backwards to the crime. The trial. That got me to thinking about a different kind of trial: clinical trials. How did they begin? What are they? WHY are they?

According to the National Institutes of Health (part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) at https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/studies/clinicaltrials/:

“Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. These studies also may show which medical approaches work best for certain illnesses or groups of people. Clinical trials produce the best data available for health care decision making.

The purpose of clinical trials is research, so the studies follow strict scientific standards. These standards protect patients and help produce reliable study results.

Clinical trials are one of the final stages of a long and careful research process. The process often begins in a laboratory (lab), where scientists first develop and test new ideas.

If an approach seems promising, the next step may involve animal testing. This shows how the approach affects a living body and whether it’s harmful. However, an approach that works well in the lab or animals doesn’t always work well in people. Thus, research in humans is needed.

For safety purposes, clinical trials start with small groups of patients to find out whether a new approach causes any harm. In later phases of clinical trials, researchers learn more about the new approach’s risks and benefits.

A clinical trial may find that a new strategy, treatment, or device
• improves patient outcomes;
• offers no benefit; or
• causes unexpected harm

All of these results are important because they advance medical knowledge and help improve patient care.”

That seemed to answer my last question, too, since their purpose is safely test new drugs or therapies.

Are these something recent? Something developed since the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) was instituted? No, they are far, far older. This is from Dr. Arun Bhatt’s Evolution of Clinical Research: A History Before and Beyond James Lind, which you can find at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3149409/. I found it fascinating.

“The world’s first clinical trial is recorded in the ‘Book of Daniel’ in The Bible…. This experiment resembling a clinical trial was not conducted by a medical, but by King Nebuchadnezzar a resourceful military leader…. During his rule in Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar ordered his people to eat only meat and drink only wine, a diet he believed would keep them in sound physical condition…. But several young men of royal blood, who preferred to eat vegetables, objected. The king allowed these rebels to follow a diet of legumes and water — but only for 10 days. When Nebuchadnezzar’s experiment ended, the vegetarians appeared better nourished than the meat-eaters, so the king permitted the legume lovers to continue their diet…. This probably was the one of the first times in evolution of human species that an open uncontrolled human experiment guided a decision about public health.”

Well, then, who is this James Lind mentioned in the title of Dr. Bhatt’s paper? I turned to England’s The Museum: Brought to Life at http://broughttolife.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/people/jameslind for the answer:

“The Scottish surgeon James Lind was born in Edinburgh and served an apprenticeship at the Edinburgh College of Surgeons. He then worked as a ship’s surgeon until he opened his own practice in Edinburgh in 1748. Lind discovered the use of citrus fruit as a cure for scurvy when he conducted an early clinical trial. While working as a naval surgeon, Lind encountered cases of scurvy, a disease which often struck sailors on long voyages. The cause, a lack of essential vitamins, was unknown at the time. Earlier doctors had suggested that fresh fruit could be used to treat scurvy, but Lind was the first to test the effects of different diets systematically on a group of patients in a clinical trial. In 1754 he began to feed 12 scurvy patients different foods and found that patients eating citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges recovered much faster than those who were given other kinds of food.”

And now? Why are clinical trials important to us as kidney patients? In this year’s May 21st blog (Use the topic dropdown to the right of the blog itself; it’s easier than scrolling through all the blogs.), I wrote about the benefits of All of Us Research Project. The following is from that blog.

“The goal is to advance precision medicine. Precision medicine is health care that is based on you as an individual. It takes into account factors like where you live, what you do, and your family health history. Precision medicine’s goal is to be able to tell people the best ways to stay healthy. If someone does get sick, precision medicine may help health care teams find the treatment that will work best.

Researchers Share Discoveries

Research may help in many ways. It may help find the best ways for people to stay healthy. It may also help create better tests and find the treatments that will work best for different people.”

KidneyX is also involved. On June 24th (Use the topic dropdown again.), I included their principles in the blog.

Principles

  • Patient-Centered Ensure all product development is patient-centered
  • Urgent Create a sense of urgency to meet the needs of people with kidney diseases
  • Achievable Ground in scientifically-driven technology development
  • Catalytic Reduce regulatory and financial risks to catalyze investment in kidney space
  • Collaborative Foster multidisciplinary collaboration including innovators throughout science and technology, the business community, patients, care partners, and other stakeholders
  • Additive Address barriers to innovation public/private sectors do not otherwise
  • Sustainable Invest in a diverse portfolio to balance risk and sustain KidneyX”

Did you notice that first principle: patient-centered? Or the fifth one: collaborative? We are included in that; we’re the patients.

IDEA Lab is one of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ partners. This is how they define themselves:

‘We test and validate solutions to solve challenging problems in the delivery of health and human services.’”

I know, I know. Now you want to know where you can join clinical trials. How about Antidote? You can go to their website at https://antidote.me/match/search/questions/1?utm_campaign=unisearch&utm_source=slowitdownckd_com&utm_medium=ctsearch&utm_content=no_js or use the widget to the bottom right of the blog. If you’d like a bit more information, I wrote about them on Oct. 7th, 2017 (Use the month dropdown if you’d like to read that blog.)

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea… and I’ve run out of space.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!