Only One?

Loads of good things have been happening in my family lately, among them a couple of marriages. That, of course, brings new people into the family. There’s always that obligatory meet-the-new-in-laws dinner.  At one of these, a just added family member mentioned that she only had one kidney. Then she asked me what that means as far as Chronic Kidney Disease… and I didn’t know. Today’s blog is for her.

Let’s jump right in with this explanation from the U.S. Department of Health’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/solitary-kidney.

When a person has only one kidney or one working kidney, this kidney is called a solitary kidney. People born with kidney dysplasia have both kidneys; however, one kidney does not function (top right). When a kidney is removed surgically due to disease or for donation, both the kidney and ureter are removed (bottom right).

Well that was pretty straight forward. I wondered if she should be taking any kind of special cautions. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, PubMed at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16985610,

Removal of one kidney leads to structural and functional changes by the remaining kidney, including increased filtration of the remaining glomeruli. These functional changes have generally been considered beneficial because they mitigate the reduction in the total glomerular filtration rate that would otherwise occur, but experimental evidence suggests that these changes may have an adverse effect on the remaining kidney.

That sounded great… until I got to ‘adverse effect.’ So, naturally, I wanted to know what they meant. The Kidney and Urology Foundation of America, Inc. at http://www.kidneyurology.org/Library/Kidney_Health/Solitary_Kidney.php told me what I wanted to know.

If having a single kidney does affect your health, the changes are likely to be so small and happen so slowly that you won’t notice them. Over long periods of time, however, these gradual changes may require specific measures or treatments. Changes that may result from a single kidney include the following:

  • High blood pressure. Kidneys help maintain a healthy blood pressure by regulating how much fluid flows through the bloodstream and by making a hormone called renin that works with other hormones to expand or contract blood vessels. Many people who lose or donate a kidney are found to have slightly higher blood pressure after several years.
  • Proteinuria. Excessive protein in the urine, a condition known as proteinuria, can be a sign of kidney damage. People are often found to have higher-than-normal levels of protein in their urine after they have lived with one kidney for several years.
  • Reduced GFR. The glomerular filtration rate (GFR) shows how efficiently your kidneys are removing wastes from your bloodstream. People have a reduced GFR if they have only one kidney.

In the nephron …, tiny blood vessels intertwine with urine-collecting tubes. Each kidney contains about 1 million nephrons.

You can have high blood pressure, proteinuria, and reduced GFR and still feel fine. As long as these conditions are under control, they will probably not affect your health or longevity. Schedule regular checkups with your doctor to monitor these conditions.

Wait a minute! Those are also the effects of Chronic Kidney Disease. And as you read on, you’ll see that the precautions are the same as those for someone who already has CKD.

What, then, is my new in-law supposed to do since she has a solitary kidney? I went to Medic8, a new site for me, at http://www.medic8.com/kidney-disorders/solitary-kidney.htm for the following suggestions.

Monitoring

Your doctor should monitor your kidney function by checking your blood pressure and testing your urine and blood once a year.

  • Normal blood pressure is considered to be 120/80 or lower. You have high blood pressure if it is over 140/90. People with kidney disease or one kidney should keep their blood pressure below 130/80. Controlling blood pressure is especially important because high blood pressure can damage kidneys.
  • Your doctor may use a strip of special paper dipped into a little cup of your urine to test for protein. The colour of the “dipstick” indicates the presence or absence of protein. A more sensitive test for proteinuria involves laboratory measurement and calculation of the protein-to-creatinine ratio. A high protein-to-creatinine ratio in urine (greater than 30 milligrams of albumin per 1 gram of creatinine) shows that kidneys are leaking protein that should be kept in the blood.
  • … scientists have discovered that they can estimate a person’s GFR based on the amount of creatinine in a small blood sample. The new GFR calculation uses the patient’s creatinine measurement along with weight, age, and values assigned for sex and race. …. If your GFR stays consistently below 60, you are considered to have chronic kidney disease.

Controlling Blood Pressure

If your blood pressure is above normal, you should work with your doctor to keep it below 130/80. Great care should be taken in selecting blood pressure medicines for people with a solitary kidney. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) are two classes of blood pressure medicine that protect kidney function and reduce proteinuria. But these medicines may be harmful to someone with renal artery stenosis (RAS), which is the hardening of the arteries that enter the kidneys. Diuretics can help control blood pressure by removing excess fluid in the body. Controlling your blood pressure may require a combination of two or more medicines, plus changes in diet and activity level.

Eating Sensibly

Having a single kidney does not mean that you have to follow a special diet. You simply need to make healthy choices, including fruits, vegetables, grains, and low-fat dairy foods. Limit your daily salt (sodium) intake to 2,000 milligrams or less if you already have high blood pressure. Reading nutrition labels on packaged foods to learn how much sodium is in one serving and keeping a sodium diary can help. Limit alcohol and caffeine intake as well.

Avoid high-protein diets. Protein breaks down into the waste materials that the kidneys must remove, so excessive protein puts an extra burden on the kidneys. Eating moderate amounts of protein is still important for proper nutrition. A dietitian can help you find the right amount of protein in your diet.

Avoiding Injury

…. Having a solitary kidney should not automatically disqualify you from sports participation. Children should be encouraged to engage in some form of physical activity, even if contact sports are ruled out. Protective gear such as padded vests worn under a uniform can make limited contact sports like basketball or soccer safe. Doctors, parents, and patients should consider the risks of any activity and decide whether the benefits outweigh those risks.

I am happy to say I think our new relative is going to find this a comforting blog. I know I did.

Oh, talking about one. I have one desk copy of the now retired The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 left. Leave a comment if you’d like to have it. All I ask is that you not have received a free book from me before.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

No Longer an Actor, Now I’m a Reviewer (Of Sorts)

Last month I received an email from Screen Media asking if I’d like to preview Chicken Soup for the Soul’s One Last Thing. It stars two actors I know about, “…Wendell Pierce (TV’s The Wire) and Jurnee Smollett-Bell (TV’s Underground) and is primarily set in Brooklyn.” Hmmm, two appealing actors AND it was set in Brooklyn. I still wasn’t sure so I emailed back asking if SlowItDownCKD was the intended recipient for this email. Once assured it was, I agreed. Hey, I’m always up for an adventure.

When I saw the movie, I understood. One story line in the movie deals with a kidney dysplasia patient’s need for a donor. That’s all I’ll say about the movie so I don’t ruin the story for you. In other words, you’ll get no spoiler alerts from me.

In addition to crying at the most poignant parts of the movie, my brain was working overtime. Granted the character suffered from a rare kidney disease, but so rare that I’d never heard of it? You can tell what’s coming, can’t you? If I hadn’t heard of it, have my readers? And that’s what I’ll be writing about today.

Okay now, let’s see what this rare kidney disease is. It made sense to me to go to one of the tried and true websites I usually go to for information. This is what The National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Diseases, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/children/kidney-dysplasia had to offer:

“Kidney dysplasia is a condition in which the internal structures of one or both of a fetus’ kidneys do not develop normally while in the womb. During normal development, two thin tubes of muscle called ureters grow into the kidneys and branch out to form a network of tiny structures called tubules. The tubules collect urine as the fetus grows in the womb. In kidney dysplasia, the tubules fail to branch out completely. Urine that would normally flow through the tubules has nowhere to go. Urine collects inside the affected kidney and forms fluid-filled sacs called cysts. The cysts replace normal kidney tissue and prevent the kidney from functioning.

Kidney dysplasia can affect one kidney or both kidneys. Babies with severe kidney dysplasia affecting both kidneys generally do not survive birth. Those who do survive may need the following early in life:

  • blood-filtering treatments called dialysis
  • a kidney transplant

Children with dysplasia in only one kidney have normal kidney function if the other kidney is unaffected. Those with mild dysplasia of both kidneys may not need dialysis or a kidney transplant for several years.

Kidney dysplasia is also called renal dysplasia or multicystic dysplastic kidney.”

They also offered some clarifying diagrams.

So now we know what it is, but what causes it? I went to MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/kidney_dysplasia/article.htm#what_is_kidney_dysplasia for the answer to this question.

“Kidney dysplasia may be caused by the mother’s exposure to certain drugs or by genetic factors. Pregnant women should talk with their health care providers before taking any medicine during their pregnancy. Drugs that may cause kidney dysplasia include prescription medicines, such as drugs to treat seizures and blood pressure medicines called angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs). A mother’s use of illegal drugs-such as cocaine-can also cause kidney dysplasia in her unborn child.

Kidney dysplasia can also have genetic causes. The disorder appears to be an autosomal dominant trait, which means one parent may pass the trait to a child. When kidney dysplasia is discovered in a child, an ultrasound examination may reveal the condition in one of the parents.

Several genetic syndromes that affect other body systems may include kidney dysplasia as one part of the syndrome. A syndrome is a group of symptoms or conditions that may seem unrelated but are thought to have the same cause-usually a genetic cause. A baby with kidney dysplasia might also have problems of the digestive tract, nervous system, heart and blood vessels, muscles and skeleton, or other parts of the urinary tract.

A baby with kidney dysplasia might have other urinary problems that affect the normal kidney. On the left, urine is blocked from draining out of the kidney. On the right, urine flows backward from the bladder into the ureter and kidney, a condition called reflux.

(Me, here: You’ll be able to figure out which was the cause of Jurnee Smollett-Belle’s character once you see the movie.)

Problems of the urinary tract that lead to kidney dysplasia might also affect the normal kidney. For example, one urinary birth defect causes blockage at the point where urine normally drains from the kidney into the ureter. Another birth defect causes urine to flow from the bladder back up the ureter, sometimes all the way to the kidney. This condition is called reflux. Over time, if these problems are not corrected, they can damage the one working kidney and lead to total kidney failure.”

I’m thankful this is a rare disease, but wondered just how rare it was. Back to NIKKD at the same URL as before:

“Scientists estimate that kidney dysplasia affects about one in 4,000 babies…. This estimate may be low because some people with kidney dysplasia are never diagnosed with the condition.”

I’m not a numbers person, but that seems like a lot of babies.

Now, the biggie. What can be done before the need for dialysis or transplant rears its head? I went directly to Urology Care Foundation at http://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/kidney-(renal)-dysplasia-and-cystic-disease/printable-version since the kidneys are part of your urologic system.

  • “Treatment may only include symptom management.
  • Monitoring should include blood pressure checks, kidney function tests, and urine testing for protein.
  • Periodic ultrasound can be used to make sure the other kidney continues to grow normally and no other problems develop.
  • Antibiotics may be needed for urinary tract infections.
  • The kidney should be removed only if it causes pain or high blood pressure, or ultrasound is abnormal.”

The AAKP Conference I wrote about last week opened my eyes to how much I don’t know about other kidney diseases and those that might affect CKD. The result is that I’ve asked quite a few people and organizations to guest blog about those areas in which they are experts. Expect to see these guest blogs throughout the summer.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!