But Why?

As Chronic Kidney Disease patients, we all know that proteinuria is one indication of our disease. Would you like a reminder about what proteinuria is? Here’s one from The American Kidney Fund at http://www.kidneyfund.org/kidney-disease/kidney-problems/protein-in-urine.html:

“Healthy kidneys remove extra fluid and waste from your blood, but let proteins and other important nutrients pass through and return to your blood stream. When your kidneys are not working as well as they should, they can let some protein (albumin) escape through their filters, into your urine. When you have protein in your urine, it is called proteinuria (or albuminuria). Having protein in your urine can be a sign of nephrotic syndrome, or an early sign of kidney disease.”

I used to think that’s all it was: an indicator of CKD. That is until my occupational therapist and I got to talking about the edema caused by neuropathy.

Ah! Flash! We did also talk about Havimat which I wrote about last week and I checked on a number of sites to see if it were safe for an active tumor. The consensus of the sites agreed it was safe to use on someone with an active tumor that was being treated as long as it was not used on the location of the tumor itself. I feel better now about having had three sessions with Havimat since the occupational therapist was careful not to use it anywhere near my pancreas – the site of the tumor.

But I digress. Back to the topic at hand: proteinuria. It seems that protein is needed in the body, rather than being excreted in the urine. You guessed it. My question became the topic of today’s blog: But Why?

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.”

Okay, got it that protein is very necessary but what does that have to do with the chemotherapy I had that seemed to cause the proteinuria problem?  After looking at bunches of different sites (Today’s blog is taking a very long time to write.), I gleaned a little hint here and a little hint there until I figured out that certain types of chemotherapy may make proteinuria worse if you already have it, or cause it. Boo for me; I lost on that one since I already had proteinuria.

Well, what about the edema from the neuropathy? Was proteinuria affecting that in some way? Or did I have it backwards and it was the neuropathy that was causing the edema. I went to eMedicineHealth at https://www.emedicinehealth.com/neuropathy/article_em.htm#what_is_neuropathy for some help with this.

“Certain drugs and medications can cause nerve damage. Examples include cancer therapy drugs such as vincristine(Oncovin, Vincasar), and antibiotics such as metronidazole (Flagyl), and isoniazid (Nydrazid, Laniazid).”

This little tidbit is from MedicalNewsToday at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323481.php :

“Chemotherapy can damage nerves that affect feeling and movement in the hands and feet. Doctors call this condition chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN). Symptoms can be severe and may affect a person’s quality of life.”

By the way, diabetic neuropathy is another form of peripheral neuropathy.

Uh-oh, now what do I do? The HonorHealth Research Institute in Scottsdale, Arizona, where I’m being treated offered both the gabapentin for the pain (which I skipped since I want to try non-drug treatment first) and occupational therapy. Let’s see what that might do for me. Please note that occupational therapy works at reducing the pain of the neuropathy.

I have a bag of toys. Each has a different sensory delivery on my hands and feet. For example, there’s a woven metal ring that I run up and down my fingers and toes, then up my arms and legs. I do the same with most of the other toys: a ball with netting over it, another with rubber strings hanging from it. I also have a box of uncooked rice to rub my feet and hands in… and lots of other toys. The idea is to desensitize my hands and feet.

I was also given physical exercises to do, like raising my fisted hands above my head and straightening out my fist several times.  This is one of many exercises. Do you remember the old TV show, E.R? It takes me slightly longer than one 43 minute episode to complete the exercises.

When I go to see the therapist, she uses the Havimat (electrical stimulation), another machine that sucks the chemo out (no kidding… and it doesn’t hurt either.), and a third that pulses. I am amazed at how the edema disappears when she uses these. But, unfortunately, the effect doesn’t stay very long. Compression socks have helped and, despite their not-so-pleasing appearance are quite comfortable.

Wow! Proteinuria is so much more than just an indication that you may have Chronic Kidney Disease.

Ready for a topic change? The following is part of an email I received from KDIGO (Kidney Disease – Improving Global Outcomes).

“We … invite your comments at any time.  Suggest topics, look for opportunities for KDIGO to implement its work in your area, bring new ideas to us, and help us become more relevant to the lives of patients like you. As a global organization, we seek to continue to develop communication channels to patients throughout the world.  This is difficult to do from one perspective, but if we work together we can build a robust base of individuals and ideas that will help us plan and carry out our mission.

KDIGO doesn’t have any members or local entities to whom we are accountable.  We only are accountable to you, our patients.  Outcomes of your care are our mission.  We can do it better if you work with us and give us your constructive input.

Again, thanks for letting us know you’d like to be a part of this global effort.  Your ideas are welcome and will be taken into account. “

Keep those comments coming, folks. Their email is kdigocommunications@kdigo.org.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Not Nuked

Friday, I saw my oncology radiologist after having had a week of radiation treatments. As he was explaining what the radiation was meant to do to the remaining third of the tumor and how it was being done, one sentence he uttered stood out to me: “This doesn’t work like your microwave.”

Since radiation is also used in treating kidney cancer… and any other kind of cancer, to the best of my knowledge… I decided to take a look at that statement. First we need to know how a microwave works, so we know how radiation treatment for cancer doesn’t work. I went to the Health Sciences Academy at https://thehealthsciencesacademy.org/health-tips/microwave-radiation/ for an explanation.

“How do microwaves work?

Before we talk about how microwaves heat your food, let’s make a distinction between two very different kinds of radiation:

  1. ionising radiation, and
  2. non-ionising radiation.

Ionising radiation, which can remove tightly-bound electrons from atoms, causing them to become charged, is less risky in very tiny amounts (such as x-rays) but can cause problems when exposure is high (think burns and even DNA damage). However, microwaves emit non-ionising radiation; a type of radiation that has enough energy to move atoms around within a molecule but not enough to remove electrons.

What does this mean? Because the radiation from microwaves is non-ionising, it can only cause molecules in the food to move. …. In other words, microwave radiation cannot alter the chemical structure of food components. More precisely, when heating food in a microwave, the radiation that the microwave produces is actually absorbed by the water molecules in the food. This energy causes the water molecules to vibrate, generating heat through this (harmless) friction, which cooks the food. This mechanism is what makes microwaves much faster at heating food than other methods. Its energy immediately reaches molecules that are about an inch below the outer surface of the food, whereas heat from other cooking methods moves into food gradually via conduction….”

Phew, I’m glad to know I’m not being cooked from the inside. But what is happening to me and everyone else who has radiation as a cancer treatment? I went straight to the American Cancer Society at https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/radiation/basics.html  for the answer.

“Radiation therapy uses high-energy particles or waves, such as x-rays, [Gail here: this is ionising radiation.] gamma rays, electron beams, or protons, to destroy or damage cancer cells.

Your cells normally grow and divide to form new cells. But cancer cells grow and divide faster than most normal cells. Radiation works by making small breaks in the DNA inside cells. These breaks keep cancer cells from growing and dividing and cause them to die. Nearby normal cells can also be affected by radiation, but most recover and go back to working the way they should.

Unlike chemotherapy, which usually exposes the whole body to cancer-fighting drugs, radiation therapy is usually a local treatment. In most cases, it’s aimed at and affects only the part of the body being treated. Radiation treatment is planned to damage cancer cells, with as little harm as possible to nearby healthy cells.

Some radiation treatments (systemic radiation therapy) use radioactive substances that are given in a vein or by mouth. Even though this type of radiation does travel throughout the body, the radioactive substance mostly collects in the area of the tumor, so there’s little effect on the rest of the body.”

I don’t know how many times this was explained to me, but seeing it now in black and white (and blue for the click through) suddenly makes it clear. So this means I’ve had four months of my entire body being attacked – in a lifesaving way, of course – now only the cancer cells are being attacked.

Yet, I am experiencing some side effects even after only one week of radiation. I wondered if that’s usual. Cancer.net at https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/how-cancer-treated/radiation-therapy/side-effects-radiation-therapy   answered that question for me.

“Why does radiation therapy cause side effects?

High doses of radiation therapy are used to destroy cancer cells. Side effects come from damage to healthy cells and tissues near the treatment area. Major advances in radiation therapy have made it more precise. This reduces the side effects.

Some people experience few side effects from radiation therapy. Or even none. Other people experience more severe side effects.

Reactions to the radiation therapy often start during the second or third week of treatment. They may last for several weeks after the final treatment.

Are there options to prevent or treat these side effects?

Yes. Your health care team can help you prevent or treat many side effects. Preventing and treating side effects is an important part of cancer treatment. This is called palliative care or supportive care.

Potential side effects

Radiation therapy is a local treatment. This means that it only affects the area of the body where the tumor is located. For example, people do not usually lose their hair from having radiation therapy. But radiation therapy to the scalp may cause hair loss.

Common side effects of radiation therapy include:

Skin problems. Some people who receive radiation therapy experience dryness, itching, blistering, or peeling. These side effects depend on which part of the body received radiation therapy. Skin problems usually go away a few weeks after treatment ends. If skin damage becomes a serious problem, your doctor may change your treatment plan.

Fatigue. Fatigue describes feeling tired or exhausted almost all the time. Your level of fatigue often depends on your treatment plan. For example, radiation therapy combined with chemotherapy may result in more fatigue. Learn more about how to cope with fatigue.

Long-term side effects. Most side effects go away after treatment. But some continue, come back, or develop later. These are called late effects. One example is the development of a second cancer. This is a new type of cancer that develops because of the original cancer treatment. The risk of this late effect is low. And the risk is often smaller than the benefit of treating the primary, existing cancer.”

Funny how I managed to forget about late effects, even though my oncology team made it clear this could happen. I think having the radiation to rid myself of this cancer is worth the risk.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

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

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

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

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

“in·fu·sion

(in-fyū’zhŭn),

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I found especially interesting is that,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

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!

Platelets Keep It Together

During my chemo journey, I’ve needed an infusion of platelets several times. Chronic Kidney Disease patients sometimes need them, too, but I’ll write about that later on in this blog. First question from the audience?

Oh, that’s a good one: What are platelets? This is from my very first CKD book, What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease and will help to explain.

“1. The white blood cells makeup your immune system. There are usually from 7,000 to 25,000 WBC in a drop of blood, but if you have an infection, that number rises since these are the infection fighting blood cells.

2. The red blood cells, also called erythrocytes, carry oxygen to the other cells in your body – so the higher the number here the better – and waste such as carbon dioxide from them. There are approximately five billion red blood cells – the midsized cells – in a single drop of your blood.

3. The platelets deal with the blood’s clotting ability by repairing leaks in your blood vessels. Normally, there are 150,000 to 350,000 platelets in one drop of blood.”

I’ve included all three types of blood cells as we just might need that information later on.

Okay, how about another question? What’s that? You want to know how you know if your platelets are decreased? When you have blood tests, one of them is usually the CBC or Complete Blood Count. Let’s see if we can find more information from The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/complete-blood-count/about/pac-20384919.

“A complete blood count (CBC) is a blood test used to evaluate your overall health and detect a wide range of disorders, including anemia, infection and leukemia.

A complete blood count test measures several components and features of your blood, including:

Red blood cells, which carry oxygen

White blood cells, which fight infection

Hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells

Hematocrit, the proportion of red blood cells to the fluid component, or plasma, in your blood

Platelets, which help with blood clotting”

If your doctors are anything like mine, I have one every three months for my primary care doctor, an annual CBC for my nephrologist, and weekly for my oncologist.

Now, remember the normal range of platelets is 150,000 to 350,000 platelets in one drop of blood. Mine were 16,000. Sure, it was the chemotherapy that was killing my platelets, but it was also the chemotherapy that was shrinking the tumor and lowering the tumor markers in my CA19-9 (blood test for tumor markers in pancreatic cancer). I couldn’t stop the chemotherapy, but my doctors could raise my platelets via infusion.

Young man in the back? Nice! He wants to know what the difference between infusion and transfusion is.  According to The Free Dictionary’s Medical Dictionary at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/infusion, infusion means

1. the steeping of a substance in water to obtain its soluble principles.

2. the product obtained by this process.

3. the slow therapeutic introduction of fluid other than blood into a vein.

That’s right. The third definition is the one we need.

Using the same source, this time at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/transfusion, we learn that transfusion means

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

By the way, there’s quite a bit of other information about transfusions on this page.

Let’s talk about platelet infusions and CKD patients now. UpToDate at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/platelet-dysfunction-in-uremia  offers the following, but we may need a bit of hand holding to understand it:

“The association between renal dysfunction and bleeding was recognized more than 200 years ago…. However, there remains an incomplete understanding of the underlying pathophysiology. Impaired platelet function is one of the main determinants of uremic bleeding. This impairment is due largely to incompletely defined inhibitors of platelet function in the plasma of patients with markedly reduced kidney function. Abnormal platelet-endothelial interaction and anemia also play a role.”

Do you remember what uremic means? No problem … come along with me to visit my old buddy, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/uremia

“1accumulation in the blood of constituents normally eliminated in the urine that produces a severe toxic condition and usually occurs in severe kidney disease

2: the toxic bodily condition associated with uremia”

Let’s use the same dictionary, this time at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/endothelial, for the definition of endothelial, which is the adjective or describing word for endothelium.

“1: an epithelium of mesodermal origin composed of a single layer of thin flattened cells that lines internal body cavities and the lumens of vessels

2: the inner layer of the seed coat of some plants”

You guessed it: the first definition is the one we need. I think all the pieces are in place for you to understand the need for the right number of platelets and that platelet infusions are sometimes necessary. Too bad I didn’t before my white blouses and nightgowns were stained by the blood leaking from my nose (and other places too delicate to mention). Oh well, I can always buy more clothes.

New topic. I’ve written about All of Us Research several times and received this email from them this week.

“In case you missed it, we introduced our new Data Browser at the All of Us Research Program symposium on May 6th. The Data Browser is an interactive tool that lets you learn more about the health data that you and all the other participants have contributed so far. Currently in beta testing, it lets you search by topics like health conditions, survey questions, and physical measurements, and will include more data over time.

 We invite you to take a look at the Data Browser and let us know what you think. If you have feedback, you can email support@ResearchAllofUs.org.”

The URL for the Data Browser is https://databrowser.researchallofus.org.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

More Time to Learn

I don’t think I’ve ever felt this tired in my life. Cancer does that… and it leaves me a lot of time in bed to explore whatever I’d like to on the internet. So now I’m discovering all these – what’s the word? – possibly peripheral? diseases that affect the kidneys. For example, while I don’t have the energy to post a new Chronic Kidney Disease picture on Instagram every day, I do check the site daily and like what appeals to me and learn from what’s new to me.

That’s where I noticed posts about Bartter syndrome. If you’re like me, you want to know about something you’ve never heard of before. Let’s explore this together.

I went directly to my old friend, MedlinePlus, which is part of the U.S. National Library of Medicine at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000308.htm for a definition and the causes:

“Bartter syndrome is a group of rare conditions that affect the kidneys.

Causes

There are five gene defects known to be associated with Bartter syndrome. The condition is present at birth (congenital). The condition is caused by a defect in the kidneys’ ability to reabsorb sodium. People affected by Bartter syndrome lose too much sodium through the urine. This causes a rise in the level of the hormone aldosterone, and makes the kidneys remove too much potassium from the body. This is known as potassium wasting. The condition also results in an abnormal acid balance in the blood called hypokalemic alkalosis, which causes too much calcium in the urine.”

It looks like there are a few terms here we may now be familiar with. Let’s take a look at aldosterone. The Hormone Health Network from the Endocrine Society at https://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/hormones/aldosterone tells us:

“Aldosterone is produced in the cortex of the adrenal glands, which are located above the kidneys…. Aldosterone affects the body’s ability to regulate blood pressure. It sends the signal to organs, like the kidney and colon, that can increase the amount of sodium the body sends into the bloodstream or the amount of potassium released in the urine. The hormone also causes the bloodstream to re-absorb water with the sodium to increase blood volume. All of these actions are integral to increasing and lowering blood vessels. Indirectly, the hormone also helps maintain the blood’s pH and electrolyte levels.”

And hypokalemic alkalosis? What is that? Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/health/alkalosis#types  gave me the answer: “Hypokalemic alkalosis Hypokalemic alkalosis occurs when your body lacks the normal amount of the mineral potassium. You normally get potassium from your food, but not eating enough of it is rarely the cause of a potassium deficiency. Kidney disease, excessive sweating, and diarrhea are just a few ways you can lose too much potassium. Potassium is essential to the proper functioning of the:

  • heart
  • kidneys
  • muscles
  • nervous system
  • digestive system”

Hmmm, so kidney disease can cause you to lose too much potassium, which can then interfere with the proper functioning of your kidneys. Doesn’t sound good to me. But, remember that the condition is congenital and will show up at birth.

Let’s say it does. Then what? According to Verywellhealth at https://www.verywellhealth.com/bartter-syndrome-2860757:

“Treatment of Bartter syndrome focuses on keeping the blood potassium at a normal level. This is done by having a diet rich in potassium and taking potassium supplements if needed. There are also drugs that reduce the loss of potassium in the urine, such as spironolactone, triamterene, or amiloride. Other medications used to treat Bartter syndrome may include indomethacin, captopril, and in children, growth hormone.”

Food rich in potassium? I’m sure bananas came directly into your mind but there are others. I chose to use the National Kidney Foundation’s list of high potassium foods at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/potassium since this is a blog about CKD.What foods are high in potassium (greater than 200 milligrams per portion)? The following table lists foods that are high in potassium. The portion size is ½ cup unless otherwise stated. Please be sure to check portion sizes. While all the foods on this list are high in potassium, some are higher than others.

High-Potassium Foods
Fruits Vegetables Other Foods
Apricot, raw (2 medium) dried (5 halves) Acorn Squash Bran/Bran products
Avocado (¼ whole) Artichoke Chocolate (1.5-2 ounces)
Banana (½ whole) Bamboo Shoots Granola
Cantaloupe Baked Beans Milk, all types (1 cup)
Dates (5 whole) Butternut Squash Molasses (1 Tablespoon)
Dried fruits Refried Beans Nutritional Supplements: Use only under the direction of your doctor or dietitian.
Figs, dried Beets, fresh then boiled
Grapefruit Juice Black Beans
Honeydew Broccoli, cooked Nuts and Seeds (1 ounce)
Kiwi (1 medium) Brussels Sprouts Peanut Butter (2 tbs.)
Mango(1 medium) Chinese Cabbage Salt Substitutes/Lite Salt
Nectarine(1 medium) Carrots, raw Salt Free Broth
Orange(1 medium) Dried Beans and Peas Yogurt
Orange Juice Greens, except Kale Snuff/Chewing Tobacco
Papaya (½ whole) Hubbard Squash
Pomegranate (1 whole) Kohlrabi
Pomegranate Juice Lentils
Prunes Legumes
Prune Juice White Mushrooms, cooked (½ cup)
Raisins Okra
Parsnips
Potatoes, white and sweet
Pumpkin
Rutabagas
Spinach, cooked
Tomatoes/Tomato products
Vegetable Juices”

I also have a list of food sensitivities, so I avoid those foods. If you do, too, you might want to cross those foods off your high potassium foods list if you just happen to have Bartter syndrome.

Time for a few personal notes here. Thank you all for your well wishes and good cheer. Via a clinical trial, I have been able to shrink the pancreatic cancer tumor by two thirds and bring my blood tumor marker down to BELOW normal. This raises my chances for a successful Whipple surgery from 50% to 70% and that’s before another round of chemotherapy with radiation added. Hopeful? You bet! I also wanted to remind you that the SlowItDownCKD series makes a wonderful graduation, wedding, and Father’s Day gift for those new to Chronic Kidney Disease, those not new to Chronic Kidney Disease, and those who would like to share CKD with others in their lives.

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!

Clinical Trials Day

By now, you probably all know that I chose a clinical trial to treat my pancreatic cancer. But did you know that today, May 20th, is Clinical Trials Day? What’s that, you ask? Let’s find out together. According to The Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) at http://www.clinicaltrialsday.org/:

“WHY MAY 20?

Clinical Trials Day is celebrated around the world in May to recognize the day that James Lind started what is often considered the first randomized clinical trial aboard a ship on May 20, 1747.

HERE’S THE STORY

May, 1747.

The HMS Salisbury of Britain’s Royal Navy fleet patrols the English Channel at a time when scurvy is thought to have killed more British seamen than French and Spanish arms.

Aboard this ship, surgeon mate James Lind, a pioneer of naval hygiene, conducts what many refer to as the first clinical trial.

Acting on a hunch that scurvy was caused by putrefaction of the body that could be cured through the introduction of acids, Lind recruited 12 men for his ‘fair test.’…


From The James Lind Library:

Without stating what method of allocation he used, Lind allocated two men to each of six different daily treatments for a period of fourteen days. The six treatments were: 1.1 litres of cider; twenty-five millilitres of elixir vitriol (dilute sulphuric acid); 18 millilitres of vinegar three times throughout the day before meals; half a pint of sea water; two oranges and one lemon continued for six days only (when the supply was exhausted); and a medicinal paste made up of garlic, mustard seed, dried radish root and gum myrrh.

Those allocated citrus fruits experienced ‘the most sudden and good visible effects,’ according to Lind’s report on the trial.

Though Lind, according to The James Lind Library, might have left his readers ‘confused about his recommendations’ regarding the use of citrus in curing scurvy, he is ‘rightly recognized for having taken care to “‘compare like with like’’, and the design of his trial may have inspired ‘and informed future clinical trial design.'”

I’ve written about James Lind before, so you may want to re-read the 8/20/18 blog to read more about him and his experiments.

Time travel to 2019 with me, if you will, to read what Antidote.Me has to offer in the way of Chronic Kidney Disease Clinical Trials.

****

Headline: Chronic Kidney Disease Research: How to Get Involved

By Nancy Ryerson

May 20 is Clinical Trials Day. Every year, patient advocates and research groups participate to raise awareness of how clinical trial participation drives research progress. You may know that new treatments for Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) can’t move forward without clinical trial volunteers, but you may not know how to find active, relevant trials in your area.

Below, you’ll find answers to commonly asked questions about finding CKD clinical trials, including who can join, how to find trials, and the kinds of questions CKD research aims to answer.

How can I find Chronic Kidney Disease clinical trials near me?

There are currently 171 research studies for CKD looking for volunteers in the United States. All clinical trials are listed on ClinicalTrials.gov, but because the website was developed with researchers in mind rather than patients, it can be difficult for patients to navigate. Antidote is a clinical trial matching company that provides a patient-friendly clinical trial search tool to health nonprofits and bloggers, including this blog. With the Antidote tool, you can answer a few questions about your medical history and where you’d like to find a trial to receive a list of trials you may qualify for in your area. You can also sign up to receive alerts when new trials are added near you.

Who can join CKD clinical trials?

 It’s a common misconception that clinical trials only need volunteers who have been recently diagnosed to take part. It’s also untrue that clinical trials are only a “last resort” for patients who have exhausted other options. In reality, clinical trials can be a care option for patients at any point after diagnosis. CKD trials need volunteers with mild, moderate, and severe kidney disease to participate in different trials. Some trials also look for patients with specific comorbidities, such as hypertension. 

What does CKD research typically focus on? 

Clinical trials for Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) research potential new treatments to slow or stop CKD, as well as treat common conditions associated with CKD, such as anemia or hypertension.

CKD clinical trials aren’t limited to research into new drugs, either. For example, a kidney-friendly diet can make a significant difference in reducing kidney damage, and more research is needed into specific interventions that can help. Research studies are also looking into the impact exercise can have on CKD symptoms and progression.

Clinical trials may also be observational. These kinds of trials don’t test an intervention – a drug, diet, lifestyle change, etc. Instead, participants are divided into groups and observed for differences in outcome. 

Do clinical trials always use a placebo? 

In clinical trials, placebos – also known as “sugar pills” – help researchers understand the effectiveness of an experimental treatment. While they can be an important part of the research process, it’s also understandable that patients hope they won’t receive the placebo in a clinical trial.

If you’re considering taking part in a trial but you’re concerned about receiving a placebo, it’s important to know that not all trials use one. Many trials test a potential new treatment against the standard of care, for example. In some trials that use a placebo, everyone in the trial may receive the study drug at some point during the trial. 

I don’t have time to participate in a clinical trial.

Time restraints are another reason many patients hesitate to participate in clinical trials. While some clinical trials may require weekly site visits, others may only ask participants to come in every month or so. Some trials may also offer virtual visits online or home visits to help reduce the number of trips you’ll need to take to get to a site. When you’re considering joining a clinical trial, ask the study team any questions you have about the trial schedule, reimbursement for travel, or anything else about participation.

Interested in finding a trial near you? Use the SlowItDownCKD trial search, powered by Antidote, to start your search. (Gail here: It’s at the bottom right hand side of the blog roll.)

Ladies and Gentleman, start your motors! I hope you find just the right CKD Clinical Trial for you.

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!

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!