A New Year, New Kidney Disease Information

Happy New Year! Or, at least, that’s what I’m hoping for. I fervently believe the more you know, the better you can handle whatever’s happening in your world. That’s why, today, I’m exploring yet another term pertaining to kidney disease that I hadn’t been aware of. Oh my, how many, many types of kidney disease am I (and possibly you) unaware of?  

This one is membranous glomerulonephritis. I sort of-maybe-suspected what it might be, but I wanted to know for sure so I turned to Healthline – who bestowed a couple of awards on this blog a few years ago – at https://www.healthline.com/health/membranous-nephropathy for something more in the way of a definition. 

“Your kidneys are made up of a number of different structures that aid in the removal of wastes from your blood and the formation of urine. Glomerulonephritis (GN) is a condition in which changes in the structures of your kidney can cause swelling and inflammation. 

Membranous glomerulonephritis (MGN) is a specific type of GN. MGN develops when inflammation of your kidney structures causes problems with the functioning of your kidney. MGN is known by other names, including extramembranous glomerulonephritis, membranous nephropathy, and nephritis.” 

It’s hard to know where to start in exploring this disease. Let’s take the easy way and start with a definition of nephritis from… ta da, you guessed it – my all-time favorite dictionary, the Merriam Webster at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nephritis.  

“acute or chronic inflammation of the kidney caused by infection, degenerative process, or vascular disease” 

I’m going back to the beginning of my blog journey to What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease for the following definitions. 

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

 Chronic: Long term; the opposite of acute.” 

By the way, you can click on the title of the book if you’re interested in purchasing it from Amazon. 

So, basically, nephritis means a kidney problem. But membranous glomerulonephritis is something more specific in that it is a kind of GN or glomerulonephritis. Back to the dictionary for the definition of glomerulonephritis: 

“acute or chronic nephritis that involves inflammation of the capillaries of the renal glomeruli, has various causes (such as streptococcal infection, lupus, or vasculitis) or may be of unknown cause, and is marked especially by blood or protein in the urine and by edema, and if untreated may lead to kidney failure” 

Ah, so now we know what part of the kidneys are involved. Do you remember what the glomeruli are? Just in case you don’t, here’s how ‘s Lexicon at https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/glomerulus  defines this plural noun: 

“a cluster of nerve endings, spores, or small blood vessels, in particular a cluster of capillaries around the end of a kidney tubule, where waste products are filtered from the blood.” 

Now we’re getting somewhere. Let’s keep digging. Membranous glomerulonephritis is a specific GN. I went directly to MedlinePlus, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, which in turn is part of The U.S. National Library of Medicine at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000472.htm

“Membranous nephropathy is caused by the thickening of a part of the glomerular basement membrane. The glomerular basement membrane is a part of the kidneys that helps filter waste and extra fluid from the blood. The exact reason for this thickening is not known. 

The thickened glomerular membrane does not work normally. As a result, large amounts of protein are lost in the urine. 

This condition is one of the most common causes of nephrotic syndrome. This is a group of symptoms that include protein in the urine, low blood protein level, high cholesterol levels, high triglyceride levels, and swelling. Membranous nephropathy may be a primary kidney disease, or it may be associated with other conditions. 

The following increase your risk for this condition: 

Cancers, especially lung and colon cancer 

Exposure to toxins, including gold and mercury 

Infections, including hepatitis B, malaria, syphilis, and endocarditis 

Medicines, including penicillamine, trimethadione, and skin-lightening creams 

Systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, Graves disease, and other autoimmune disorders 

The disorder occurs at any age, but is more common after age 40.” 

Being only a bit more than a year out from cancer, I was getting nervous so I went to the National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/membranous-nephropathy-mn for a list of symptoms. 

“Swelling in body parts like your legs, ankles and around your eyes (called edema) 

Weight gain 

Fatigue 

Foaming of the urine caused by high protein levels in the urine (called proteinuria) 

High fat levels in the blood (high cholesterol) 

Low levels of protein in the blood” 

These symptoms struck me as so common that I wanted to know just how usual membranous glomerulonephritis was. After checking numerous sites, the consensus I found was that this is not a common disease. Thank goodness! 

Even though it’s not common, we still might want to know what to do if we were diagnosed with membranous glomerulonephritis, especially since I discovered that this may be considered an autoimmune disease. This is how the Mayo Clinic suggested the disease be treated: 

“Treatment of membranous nephropathy [Gail here: That’s a synonym for membranous glomerulonephritis.] focuses on addressing the cause of your disease and relieving your symptoms. There is no certain cure. 

However, up to three out of 10 people with membranous nephropathy have their symptoms completely disappear (remission) after five years without any treatment. About 25 to 40 percent have a partial remission. 

In cases where membranous nephropathy is caused by a medication or another disease — such as cancer — stopping the medication or controlling the other disease usually improves the condition.” 

There is much more detailed treatment information on their website at mayoclinic.in/354QFPU.    

That is a bit more reassuring. Thank you to all the readers who use terms I hadn’t heard of before and/or ask questions about topics that are new to me. May this year be kinder to us than the last one. 

Until next week, 

Keep living your life! 

Learning Every Day

 Chronic Kidney Disease is all over my world. You know when you have your ears open for a certain term, you seem to hear it all the time? That’s what my life has been like for the last dozen years. When I noticed a comment in a Facebook kidney disease support group about Action myoclonus–renal failure (AMRF) syndrome, I was stunned. Here was yet another possible kidney disease I’d never heard of. 

As defined by MedlinePlus, a division of the National Health Institutes (which is a division of the U.S. National Library of Medicine) at http://bit.ly/2KY6EI8,  

“Action myoclonus–renal failure (AMRF) syndrome causes episodes of involuntary muscle jerking or twitching (myoclonus) and, often, kidney (renal) disease. Although the condition name refers to kidney disease, not everyone with the condition has problems with kidney function.” 

I was intrigued and wanted to know more. So, I did what I usually do when that happens. I poked around everywhere I could think of on the internet. My first hit was on The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), which is part of The U.S. National Library of Medicine at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK333437/

“Action myoclonus – renal failure (AMRF) syndrome typically comprises a continuum of two major (and ultimately fatal) manifestations: progressive myoclonic epilepsy (PME) and renal failure; however, in some instances, the kidneys are not involved. Neurologic manifestations can appear before, simultaneously, or after the renal manifestations. Disease manifestations are usually evident in the late teens or early twenties. In the rare instances in which renal manifestations precede neurologic findings, onset is usually in late childhood / early adolescence but can range to the fifth or sixth decade.” 

Uh-oh, epilepsy. One of my children has that. Luckily for her, she doesn’t have CKD. But we still need more information… or, at least, I do. For instance, how does the illness progress? 

Rare Disease InfoHub at http://bit.ly/37Qgo0h answered this particular question. 

“The movement problems associated with AMRF syndrome typically begin with involuntary rhythmic shaking (tremor) in the fingers and hands that occurs at rest and is most noticeable when trying to make small movements, such as writing. Over time, tremors can affect other parts of the body, such as the head, torso, legs, and tongue. Eventually, the tremors worsen to become myoclonic jerks, which can be triggered by voluntary movements or the intention to move (action myoclonus). These myoclonic jerks typically occur in the torso; upper and lower limbs; and face, particularly the muscles around the mouth and the eyelids. Anxiety, excitement, stress, or extreme tiredness (fatigue) can worsen the myoclonus. Some affected individuals develop seizures, a loss of sensation and weakness in the limbs (peripheral neuropathy), or hearing loss caused by abnormalities in the inner ear (sensorineural hearing loss). Severe seizures or myoclonus can be life-threatening.” 

But we haven’t looked at the kidneys yet. How are they involved in those who develop kidney problems from this rare disease? Let’s go back to MedlinePlus to see what we can find. Don’t be surprised that the answer is fairly general: 

“When kidney problems occur, an early sign is excess protein in the urine (proteinuria). Kidney function worsens over time, until the kidneys are no longer able to filter fluids and waste products from the body effectively (end-stage renal disease).” 

Do you remember what proteinuria is? Here’s a reminder from my first CKD book – What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease – in case you’ve forgotten: 

“Protein in the urine, not a normal state of being” 

Hmmm, proteinuria is exactly what it sounds like. That got me to thinking: How does the protein get into the urine in the first place? 

“Protein gets into the urine if the kidneys aren’t working properly. Normally, glomeruli, which are tiny loops of capillaries (blood vessels) in the kidneys, filter waste products and excess water from the blood. 

Glomeruli pass these substances, but not larger proteins and blood cells, into the urine. If smaller proteins sneak through the glomeruli, tubules (long, thin, hollow tubes in the kidneys) recapture those proteins and keep them in the body. 

However, if the glomeruli or tubules are damaged, if there is a problem with the reabsorption process of the proteins, or if there is an excessive protein load, the proteins will flow into the urine.” 

Thank you to a trusted site, The Cleveland Clinic at http://cle.clinic/3nTjLZI for helping us out here.

The important point here is that proteinuria, or albumin as it is often called, prevents the substances that belong in your blood stream from fully remaining there to help you: 

“Blood contains two main kinds of proteins: albumin and globulins. Blood proteins help your body produce substances it needs to function. These substances include hormones, enzymes and antibodies. 

Usually, the amount of total protein in your blood is relatively stable.” 

I’d gone back to the reliable Cleveland Clinic for this information. 

I don’t know about you as you read today’s blog, but I found writing it exhausting. Of course, that may be due to the fact that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day have just passed. I’m not quite as vigilant as I usually am about the renal diet during certain celebrations. Considering that Bear’s Lutheran and I’m Jewish, that was a lot of celebrating. I see my exhaustion as an endorsement to get right back on the kidney diet. 

Here’s hoping your Chanukah, Christmas, Boxing Day, and Kwanza were as happy as you’d hoped under the restrictions of small group gatherings, six foot distancing, and mask wearing. We stayed home alone using the phone and Facetime to be with family.  

It was… different. But more importantly, it was safe. Keep in mind that you’re already immuno-compromised simply by having CKD. If you no longer have a spleen like me (Thanks, pancreatic cancer.), you’re even more immunocompromised. Hugs are the best, but they could be deadly for us. Stay safe. 

Until next week, 

Keep living your life! 

Feeling Nostalgic

It’s getting closer to the end of the year. Halloween and Thanksgiving have passed. Chanukah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas will be upon us sooner than we think. And then, the new year. But my nostalgia deals with the history of acknowledging and treating kidney disease. I was lucky enough to stumble across the following early history at https://hekint.org/2017/01/30/history-of-nephrology-beginnings/. It’s from Hektoen International, A Journal of Medical Humanities. I must warn you it’s a long article, but well worth the read. Enjoy: 

“History of nephrology: beginnings 

George Dunea 
Chicago, Illinois, United States 

 ….Mesopotamia 

Some of the earliest knowledge about kidney and urinary diseases comes from the cradle of Western civilization, Mesopotamia, from the cuneiform clay tablets of Akkadia, Assyria, and Babylon that contain references to urinary obstruction, stone, cysts, urethritis, stricture, and urethral discharge…. In ancient Babylon physicians made diagnoses depending on whether the urine looked like paint, wine dregs, beer, or beet juice. They treated symptoms with remedies derived from plants or minerals. They administered drugs by blowing them through a tube into the urethra, most likely also to relieve urinary obstruction, and using alcohol as an anesthetic. Much of the medical information generated in Mesopotamia was later transmitted to the Mediterranean, especially to Greece….  

Egypt 

In ancient Egypt priest-physicians have recorded many details of their patients’ symptoms on papyrus scrolls. Curiously, they cooked some of their old papyri books in oil and smeared them on their patients to relieve symptoms of dropsy or fluid retention…. They embalmed their dead, removing most of the viscera but leaving behind the kidneys and the heart. In the Ebers papyrus of 1550 BCE they refer to retention of urine, dysuria, and frequency. Hematuria, mentioned over 50 times, was probably due to schistosomiasis, then as now endemic in the valley of the Nile. Examination of mummies has led to discovery of kidney abscesses and stones, parasite ova, and congenital renal deformities. Treatments are listed in the Ebers papyrus in some 24 paragraphs under the heading: ‘Starting remedies to make disappear the retention of urine when the lower abdomen is full.’…  

Greece 

Records of urinary disorders are found in the Hippocratic Corpus, a collection of some 60 treatises that may represent the work of several medical writers. How much was written by Hippocrates himself remains uncertain. Nevertheless, Hippocrates of Cos (460–377 BCE) is regarded as the father of medicine, and many of the aphorisms attributed to him refer to diseases of the kidney: 

‘Bubbles appearing on the surface of the urine indicate disease of the kidneys and a prolonged illness.’ 
‘Colorless urine is bad.’ 
‘The sudden appearance of blood in the urine indicates that a small renal vessel has burst.’ 
‘Diseases of the kidney and of the bladder are difficult to cure in old age.’ 

Other comments concern cases where the urine was turbid or contained pus or blood, bran-like particles, or sandy sediment…. 

Aristotle, whose opinions dominated Western thought for over 2,000 years, also wrote about the kidney. From his observations on fish and birds he concluded that the kidneys were not essential to life, and from the rhesus monkey he incorrectly deduced that the right kidney was situated higher than the left. He thought the kidneys were there to anchor the blood vessels in the body, and also to secrete fluid not eliminated otherwise. He considered renal fat as the cause of cancer and of gangrene, and in De Partibus Animalium noted that ‘very often the kidneys are found to be full of stones, growths, and small abscesses.’… 

In the 3rd and 2nd century BCE other Greek physicians also made contributions, describing the prostate gland, declaring that urine was formed in the kidney, reporting on recto-vesical fistula, and performing operations. They applied pressure over the lower abdomen to relieve urinary retention, and recommended the use of poultices with soothing and diuretic properties over the kidneys…. 

Rome and Byzantium 

Physicians in Rome were often Greeks from Asia Minor who had studied in Alexandria…. Celsus (63 BCE–14 CE), though not a physician, wrote on many medical subjects, including lithotomy and the use of a bronze catheter…. In his writings, Pliny the Elder also refers to the kidney…. Areteus of Capadocia (81–138 CE), now remembered mainly for describing diabetes mellitus as the melting of the flesh into the urine, wrote about hydronephrosis, gout, renal colic, strangury, postobstructive diuresis, edema, and the anemia of renal insufficiency…. Dioscorides, also from Asia Minor and perhaps physician to emperor Nero, practiced in Rome during the first century and wrote an extensive pharmacopoeia, noting that certain poisons caused renal inflammation, and recommending enemas with ptisan or mallow for renal failure…. Galen of Pergamon (130–200 CE), physician to emperor Marcus Aurelius, referred in his extensive writings to renal cysts, breakage of the capillaries into the kidney, thrombosis, and inflammation. Called the father of experimental medicine, he ligated the ureters to prove that urine flowed from the kidneys to the bladder…. 

Among Byzantine physicians, Rufus of Ephesus in the first century CE described renal failure, abscesses, and calculi, recommending poultices of grilled cicadas as a diuretic, advising flushing the kidneys with large amounts of water, and prescribing urinating in a hot bath to relieve retention of urine. Somewhat later Oribasius (326–403), physician to emperor Julian the Apostate, wrote profusely on medical matters, summarizing the works of Galen and others in 70 books…. First to use the term ‘ureter,’ he treated dysuria and ureteral stone, did anatomical dissections, described the systemic and pulmonary circulation, discerned the existence of capillaries, and suggested that the kidneys absorbed urine from the blood stream…. 

In the 9th century Theophanes Nonus noted hematuria resulting from poisonous remedies and from the venom of serpents…. Other Byzantine physicians wrote right up to the 14th century about kidney inflammation and failure, emphasizing the changes in the appearance of the urine, developing the practice of uroscopy,… and often achieving fame as physicians to the Byzantine emperors. 

 Arabs 

The 9th and 10th centuries were a golden age for Arab medicine, in which several physicians achieved fame for their clinical acumen and perspicacious observations. Rhazes (865–925), a musician who later became a physician and was called the Galen of Islam,…described in his many clinical writings renal abscess or severe infections with pus in the urine, kidney stones, and renal failure from systemic diseases. Even more prolific was Avicenna (980–1037), poet, politician, and writer, whose works greatly influenced Western Renaissance medicine and who wrote extensively on the color, density, odor, and sediments of urine, foreshadowing the later uroscopists. Recommended treatments included inserting a bug or louse into the urethral meatus to stimulate micturition. He wrote several excellent descriptions of clinical cases, as did several other Arab authors until the 13th century…. 

There were also eminent Jewish physicians living in the Arab possessions around the Mediterranean, notably Moses Maimonides (1138–1204), born in Cordova but eventually settling down in Cairo and attending on the sultan Saladin. A renowned medieval rabbi, philosopher, astronomer, and physician, he wrote 10 treatises on medicine, including an entire chapter of aphorisms dealing with urinalysis. He discussed lower urinary tract obstruction, hesitancy, narrow stream, retention, pyuria, and hematuria. He agreed with Hippocrates that diseases of the kidney in the elderly were difficult to cure, and noted red urine in patients who probably had glomerulonephritis. In patients with blackwater fever he noted that ‘black urine and black sediment are extremely malignant and indicate serious illness. They occur in association with what resembles the death of natural resources . . . I have never seen anyone who urinated black urine who survived.’…  

Uroscopy 

Uroscopy, the naked eye examination of the urine for diagnosis, is as old as medicine itself, based on the assumption that diseases could be identified and treated following such visual inspection…. It was advocated by Hippocrates, though without much enthusiasm…. Several of the Greek physicians practiced uroscopy and helped develop a complex diagnostic model based on the theories of the four humors…. Many treatises on uroscopy were published in antiquity and later by Byzantine, Arab, and Latin physicians…. Uroscopic theory and practice reached an apogee between the 9th and 14th century in southern Italy at the medical school of Salerno, then a melting pot of different cultures…. There several masters of medicine or magistri wrote (or translated from Arabic) books on diagnostic uroscopy. One of its major exponents, Isaac Ebreus Isaac (880–940), assembled in his Guida Medicorum many of the principles of uroscopy. He was followed by Magister Maurus, according to whom fluids were separated in the body by the stomach and liver, with the generation of humors (1250 CE). Gilles de Corbeil, a Frenchman, went to Salerno, then returned to Paris and wrote Songs on Urinary Judgements, a composition in verse that remained popular until the 16th century.17 A 13th century anonymous manuscript titled De Urinis contains aphorisms such as: 

Clear urine, pale or almost green indicates pain in the stomach in males, but in women means inflammation or phlegm from the umbilicus to the throat, and thirst. 
Small volume urine which is sulphurous indicates diarrhea. 
Urine which is red with fluid beams indicates disease of the spleen. 
A red circulus means pain in the head due to blood. 
Urine of a vicious woman is quite colored, cloudy by night, and dense in the morning. 
Urine of a virgin is clear, white, light, and transparent, with very small bubbles on the surface….  

Sclerosis of the kidneys 

Hardening or sclerosis of the kidneys had been recognized as the hallmark of chronic renal failure since antiquity…. Thus Rufus of Ephesus compiled a treatise in which he noted that sclerosis of the kidneys was not painful, but might cause dropsy. He recommended rest, enemas, cupping of the loins, baths, refrigerant and sedative medicines given internally…. Aetius of Amida (502–575), court physician to emperor Justinian in Constantinople, based his Tetrabiblion largely on the works of Rufus, Hippocrates, and Galen, and also mentioned hardening of the kidneys…. Paul of Aegina (625–690), practicing in Alexandria even after the Arab conquest, also noted renal hardening and wrote in his seven books that ‘when hardness occurs in the kidneys it does not cause pain . . . but the limbs lose their strength, little urine is passed, and the whole habit resembles that of dropsical persons.’ He recommended emollients to soften the kidneys, frictions and fomentations, clysters to clear out the bowels, and diuretics such as nard, cassia, St. John’s wort pepper, sweet hay, boiled squill in wine and honey, moist alum, flakes of copper, and should all fail, ox dung dried and drunk (one spoonful every day)…. 

Also aware of sclerosis of the kidneys as a cause of illness were the Arab physicians Rhazes and Avicenna…. William of Saliceto (1210–1277) observed that hard kidneys (duritie in renibus) were difficult or even impossible to treat. He moved to Bologna in 1269 to become an outstanding teacher of medicine, and during his time taught more than 10,000 students…. He emphasized bedside instruction and wrote an extensive medical textbook, mentioning that hardness of the kidney could be the result of an abscess, an episode of high fever, or arise spontaneously. The hardness, he wrote, looks chalk-like. Its clinical signs were a reduction in urinary output, a dull pain or heaviness in the back and sides, and after a time enlargement of the belly and generalized edema…. 

Later, the Flemish physician Jan Baptiste Van Helmont (1579–1644) devoted much of his time to research, carrying out autopsies on patients who had died with gross ascites, noting that their kidneys were shrunken and hard, and concluding that the kidney was the cause of the edema …. 

Morgagni 

Giovanni Battista Morgagni (1682–1771), often regarded as the founder of pathological anatomy, made similar observations. After studying in Bologna with Valsalva, he moved to Padua, where he remained professor of theoretical medicine and anatomy for 50 years. He carried out many autopsies, correlating anatomical findings with the clinical symptoms. 

Towards the end of his career he published observations on cases he had studied over 50 years, including necropsy descriptions of diseased kidneys: solitary, asymmetrical, irregular, hardened, softened, suppuration, hydronephrosis, calculi, tumors, cysts…. Of particular interest, he described a patient who had suffered from nausea, vomiting, headache, and episodes of loss of consciousness, and who at autopsy had greatly shrunken, hard, irregularly shaped greyish kidneys. He concluded that these renal changes were the cause of the symptoms….  

Paracelsus 

Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim (1493–1541), better known as Paracelsus, is perhaps the most colorful medical figure of the Renaissance. Born in Switzerland, he studied medicine in several European cities, practiced in Strasbourg and Basel, and eventually wandered through various German, Swiss, and Austrian towns. His death has often been subject of speculation, being variously attributed to murder, accident, congenital syphilis, liver failure, and also to kidney disease, as suggested by the finding of rickets in his exhumed skull in 1880…. 

Paracelsus wrote on urinalysis, proteinuria, hematuria, and gout. Particularly interested in dropsy, he described its symptoms and signs, commented on its prognosis, noted that in its advanced stages ‘the urine decreases and thickens,’ and was first to use mercury for treatment. He attempted chemical analysis of the urine, adding wine or vinegar or rennet to it and noting that it curdled and produced a precipitate. He also assessed urine by its weight, a precursor of measuring the specific gravity. He combined medicine with alchemy and astrology, and claimed to affect many cures with his Tincture of Philosophers. …  

Andreas Vesalius 

Born in Brussels, Andreas Vesalius (1514–64) studied in Paris and Padua, and on the day after graduation was appointed professor of anatomy at the University of Padua. There he carried out many dissections and became famous for his lectures and anatomical drawings. Between the ages of 24 and 27 he prepared a book of over 700 pages of anatomical illustrations, and eventually became physician to Emperor Charles V. In his famous plates he described the anatomy of the kidney, also attempting to understand its function, and concluding that urine extracted from the blood entered a cavity before being excreted into the urinary passages. His brilliantly illustrated textbook of anatomical illustrations has been reproduced for centuries….  

Marcello Malpighi 

Founder of microscopical anatomy, and professor of anatomy at Messina and later at Bologna, Marcello Malpighi (1628–94) was first to describe the renal glomerulus (Malpighian corpuscle). Using the microscope as avant-garde technology, he also studied the brain, liver, tongue, lung, and skeletal muscle, describing their architecture and postulating what their function might be. In the course of his studies of the frog’s mesentery, he discovered the presence of capillaries. In the kidney he described the pyramids of the renal medulla and the collecting ducts, and noted the opening of these ducts at the papilla. In the omentum of the porcupine he first noticed the red cells, which he interpreted as being fat globules or constituents of coagulated blood. Using a microscope with x30 magnification and sometimes with prior dye injection, he described the glomeruli, which when injected ‘turned black . . . hanging like apples from the blood vessels, which, swollen with the black fluid, look like a beautiful tree.’…” 

Many, many thanks to Dr. Dunea for what I consider fascinating history. And thank you for indulging my nostalgia. 

Until next week, 

Keep living your life! 

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

I’ve been feeling awfully thankful these past few weeks. Nothing like a health challenge or two to make you realize just how much you have to be grateful for. 

I’m not sure if you know it or not, but my husband – Paul Garwood, better known as Bear – has been my photographer for over a decade. Periodically I’ll think to mention it but, to be honest, haven’t mentioned that I am amazed by how he’s continued to do this (and do it well) despite his own health challenges. Thank you, Bear. 

But let’s not stop there. I’ve been highly active in the Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness Movement for over a decade. During that time, I’ve met others on the same path. The American Association of Kidney Patients has honored one of our own with a National Award and I’d like to honor him, too. 

“Organization Category: Urban Kidney Alliance, a Baltimore-based non-profit, focused on advocating, and empowering individuals in urban cities at-risk for chronic kidney disease (CKD) and other conditions. Award accepted by Founder, Steven Belcher, RN” 

Steve not only interviewed me on his show May 20th of this year, but guest blogged while I was laid up. Thank you, Steve. 

There are others, many in fact, that I’ve omitted. To you, I offer my apologies.   

My final gratitude for today’s blog goes to our kidneys. I’ve just learned that they produce glucose. Is that common knowledge? It was new to me and I wanted to know exactly how they do that. This is what sparked my interest: 

“…traditionally, the kidneys have not been considered an important source of glucose (except during acidosis or after prolonged fasting), with most clinical discussions on glucose dysregulation centering on the intestine, pancreas, liver, adipose tissue, and muscle…. More recently, however, the full significance of the kidneys’ contribution to glucose homeostasis, under both physiologic and pathologic conditions, has become well recognized, and is thought to involve functions well beyond glucose uptake and release. Besides the liver, the kidney is the only organ capable of generating sufficient glucose (gluconeogenesis) to release into the circulation, and it is also responsible for filtration and subsequent reabsorption or excretion of glucose…. These findings have provided considerable insight into the myriad of pathophysiologic mechanisms involved in the development of hyperglycemia and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) ….”  

The above is from AJMC at https://www.ajmc.com/view/ace005_12jan_triplitt_s11 and can probably use some explanation. First of all, AJMC is The American Journal of Managed Care and is actually for research outcomes. However, we find the information we need wherever we can. Let’s get to some of the explanations we may need. 

I started out by checking the glossary in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Diseasethe first book I wrote about CKD way back in 2010. 

Glucose: The main sugar found in the blood. In diabetes, the body doesn’t adequately control natural and ingested sugar.” 

That helps, but we need more definitions. Thank goodness for my all-time favorite dictionary,The Merriam-Webster Dictionary: 

“acidosis: an abnormal condition characterized by reduced alkalinity of the blood and of the body tissues 

adipose tissue: connective tissue in which fat is stored and which has the cells distended by droplets of fat 

homeostasis: a relatively stable state of equilibrium or a tendency toward such a state between the different but interdependent elements or groups of elements of an organism, population, or group 

hyperglycemia: excess of sugar in the blood 

pathologic(al): … altered or caused by disease; also, indicative of disease 

pathophysiology: the physiology of abnormal states, specifically the functional changes that accompany a particular syndrome or disease 

physiologic(al): … characteristic of or appropriate to an organism’s healthy or normal functioning 

type 2 diabetes mellitus: a common form of diabetes mellitus that develops especially in adults and most often in obese individuals and that is characterized by hyperglycemia resulting from impaired insulin utilization coupled with the body’s inability to compensate with increased insulin production — called also non-insulin-dependent diabetes, non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, type 2 diabetes mellitus” 

Can you hear me laughing? I’m beginning to feel like I’m back in the classroom teaching a vocabulary lesson. 

Okay, so what happens if we apply all these definitions to the AJMC quote? For one thing, the one that I found so surprising, we discover that the kidneys do generate glucose. Why is that so surprising, you ask. Well, if you’re like me, all you’ve known is that the kidneys regulate glucose. Hmmm, and how do they do that? 

According to Medscape.com at https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/983678-overview#a4

“Under normal circumstances, the kidney filters and reabsorbs 100% of glucose, approximately 180 g (1 mole) of glucose, each day. The glucose transporters expressed in the renal proximal tubule ensure that less than 0.5 g/day (range 0.03-0.3 g/d) is excreted in the urine of healthy adults. More water than glucose is reabsorbed resulting in an increase in the glucose concentration in the urine along the tubule. Consequently the affinity of the transporters for glucose along the tubule increases to allow for complete reabsorption of glucose from the urine.” 

I know, I know. We need to take a look at these tubules they talk about. That’s what Wikipedia is for. Take a look at https://bit.ly/3pqlF5k for more specific information. 

“The proximal tubule is the segment of the nephron in kidneys which begins from the renal pole of the Bowman’s capsule to the beginning of loop of Henle.” 

This goes back to basic kidney anatomy, but if you’re anything like me, you need a reminder every once in a while. Keep in mind, also, that ‘renal’ is another way of saying kidney. Rather than explain what the Bowman’s capsule and the loop of Henle are, I’ve included a good illustration above. So, the kidneys regulate the glucose in our blood just as they regulate waste products. 

Again and again, readers ask me questions to which I need to respond, “I’m not a doctor and have never claimed to be one. You really need to ask your nephrologist.” That’s the truth. When I write a blog about a topic – especially a reader requested topic – I’m learning, just as you are. 

Until next week, 

Keep living your life!  

They Go Together… Sometimes 

I’m certain you’ve already read about Covid-19 causing Acute Kidney Injury (AKI). To the best of our knowledge, it’s airborne which means the lungs are involved. But did you know there’s a correlation between the lungs and the kidneys?

Think of it this way. You know Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) can be the cause of diabetes (sigh, that’s me) or hypertension (high blood pressure). You also know that hypertension can be the cause of CKD (sigh, that’s me again.) Well, AKI can be the cause of Acute Lung Disease (ALI) and ALI can be the cause of Acute Kidney Disease.

I know I just blindsided you with a new medical term, so let’s find out just what ALI is.  I went to The National Organization for Rare Disorders at https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/acute-respiratory-distress-syndrome/ for what turned out to be a rather comprehensive answer:

“Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a type of severe, acute lung dysfunction affecting all or most of both lungs that occurs as a result of illness or injury. Although it is sometimes called adult respiratory distress syndrome, it may also affect children. ARDS is a buildup of fluid in the small air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. This makes it difficult for oxygen to get into the bloodstream.”

Ah, so ALI and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) are one and the same. That should make finding information about it a bit easier.

We’ve just learned that ALI can cause AKI and vice-versa, but what can cause ALI beside Covid-19? This list is from the Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ards/symptoms-causes/syc-20355576. Notice they do include COVID-19 as a cause of ARDS.

  • “Sepsis. The most common cause of ARDS is sepsis, a serious and widespread infection of the bloodstream.
  • Inhalation of harmful substances. Breathing high concentrations of smoke or chemical fumes can result in ARDS, as can inhaling (aspirating) vomit or near-drowning episodes.
  • Severe pneumonia. Severe cases of pneumonia usually affect all five lobes of the lungs.
  • Head, chest or other major injury. Accidents, such as falls or car crashes, can directly damage the lungs or the portion of the brain that controls breathing.
  • Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). People who have severe COVID-19 may develop ARDS.
  • Others. Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), massive blood transfusions and burns.”

We can probably guess that one of the symptoms of ALI or ARDS is breathlessness, but let’s see if there are any others. I decided to go to Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/health/acute-respiratory-distress-syndrome#symptoms for this information. Yep, breathlessness is not the only symptom of ARDS.

  • “labored and rapid breathing
  • muscle fatigue and general weakness
  • low blood pressure
  • discolored skin or nails
  • a dry, hacking cough
  • a fever
  • headaches
  • a fast pulse rate
  • mental confusion”

This is not looking good at all. I’m wondering how ALI is treated now. The American Lung Association at https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/ards/ards-treatment-and-recovery was detailed in explaining.

Ventilator support

All patients with ARDS will require extra oxygen. Oxygen alone is usually not enough, and high levels of oxygen can also injure the lung. A ventilator is a machine used to open airspaces that have shut down and help with the work of breathing. The ventilator is connected to the patient through a mask on the face or a tube inserted into the windpipe.

Prone positioning

ARDS patients are typically in bed on their back. When oxygen and ventilator therapies are at high levels and blood oxygen is still low, ARDS patients are sometimes turned over on their stomach to get more oxygen into the blood. This is called proning and may help improve oxygen levels in the blood for a while. It is a complicated task and some patients are too sick for this treatment.

Sedation and medications to prevent movement

To relieve shortness of breath and prevent agitation, the ARDS patient usually needs sedation. Sometimes added medications called paralytics are needed up front to help the patient adjust to the ventilator. These medications have significant side effects and their risks and benefits must be continuously monitored.

Fluid management

Doctors may give ARDS patients a medication called a diuretic to increase urination in hopes of removing excess fluid from the body to help prevent fluid from building up in the lungs. This must be done carefully, because too much fluid removal can lower blood pressure and lead to kidney problems.

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)

ECMO is a very complicated treatment that takes blood outside of your body and pumps it through a membrane that adds oxygen, removes carbon dioxide and then returns the blood to your body. This is a high-risk therapy with many potential complications. It is not suitable for every ARDS patient.”

Now that we understand what ALI/ARDS is, what – in heaven’s name – does it have to do with AKI?

“Renal failure is a frequent complication of ARDS, particularly in the context of sepsis. Renal failure may be related to hypotension, nephrotoxic drugs, or underlying illness. Fluid management is complicated in this context, especially if the patient is oliguric. Multisystem organ failure, rather than respiratory failure alone, is usually the cause of death in ARDS.”

Thank you Medscape at https://www.medscape.com/answers/165139-43289/why-is-renal-failure-a-frequent-complication-of-acute-respiratory-distress-syndrome-ards for the explanation.  I think a few definitions are in order to adequately understand this explanation.

“Sepsis refers to a bacterial infection in the bloodstream or body tissues. This is a very broad term covering the presence of many types of microscopic disease-causing organisms.

Hypotension is the medical term for low blood pressure.

Nephrotoxic is toxic, or damaging, to the kidney.

(Oligoric is the adjective meaning of or pertaining to oligoria.)

Oliguria or oliguresis is the noun meaning the excretion of an abnormally small volume of urine, often as the result of a kidney disorder.”

All the above definitions were paraphrased from The Free Dictionary by Farlex, Medical Dictionary.

You probably know more than you wanted to about the connection between Covid-19, your lungs, and your kidneys than you ever intended to find out by now. Don’t be frightened, but do wear your mask and continue to social distance. Oh, and don’t forget the hand sanitizer.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!