How Sweet It Isn’t

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

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

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

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

Nephro = kidneys

Genic = Beginning in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Each tubule has several parts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

A Different Kind of App  

Periodically for the last decade, I’ve written about apps that could help us manage our Chronic Kidney Disease. They would be those with electrolyte counters, portion counters, GFR calculators, and even calorie counters or exercise counters. They were helpful. Some still exist; some have gone by the wayside.

In recent years, I’ve been vocal about the necessity for CKD patients to understand what our disease is, how it came to be, and what we might do about it. This is different from wanting people to be aware of CKD. My contention is that the educated patient is the one most able to help him or herself.

Responsum for CKD does just that, but I’ll let them explain their app themselves. This is from their April 28th blog at https://responsumhealth.com/great-news-for-the-ckd-community/.

“I have great news to share with Responsum Health’s extended family of supporters and everyone around the world whose lives are affected by kidney disease. Responsum Health, with support from Otsuka Pharmaceutical, is launching a new platform and app designed specifically for people with kidney disease, including chronic kidney disease (CKD)—a condition that affects 37 million Americans.

Responsum for CKD represents our company’s second disease-specific platform—the first being Responsum for PF—and includes some amazing new features. These include a translation function into seven languages and a dynamic social wall called Community Chat, which automatically suggests articles and resources based upon each comment or entry. Just like with pulmonary fibrosis, Responsum for CKD will be available as a free web-based platform and a mobile app for iOS and Android.

We’ve recruited an all-star Content Advisory Council made up of some of the top specialists in CKD to serve as our content validators. Instead of partnering with a specific patient advocacy group to vet our content, we chose this approach to ensure that the platform is free of commercial bias. We will roll out the names of our esteemed council alongside the app launch.

To the CKD community, Responsum Health is on the way! We can’t wait to serve you, join you, learn from you, and listen to you.

Let’s get started!

Andy Rosenberg
Founder and CEO, Responsum Health

Perhaps we could use a bit more information. Let’s try their May 5th press release at https://responsumhealth.com/press-and-media/responsum-health-launches-innovative-kidney-disease-information-platform/.

“Responsum Health Launches Innovative Kidney Disease Information Platform
New technology supports patients, families, caregivers, and healthcare professionals

​[WASHINGTON, D.C., May 28 2020] — Today, Responsum Health (Responsum), an innovative developer of personalized patient apps and chronic disease knowledge communities, with support from Otsuka Pharmaceutical, a global healthcare company, announced the launch of an online connection and knowledge platform for patients with kidney disease, such as chronic kidney disease (CKD), a condition that affects an estimated 37 million Americans. The platform, called Responsum for CKD, can be accessed for free via web browser or mobile app.

Designed to meet the needs of patients, families, caregivers, and healthcare professionals, Responsum for CKD offers a number of informational and community-oriented features. At its core, Responsum replaces unreliable web aggregators and social sites by providing patients and caregivers with a customized Newsfeed that has easy-to-read summaries of important kidney health news items. All of the information found on Responsum’s platforms is written by professional health writers and vetted by a team of researchers under the guidance of an advisory council, which is made up of leading kidney health experts.

Other features include a moderated social wall to serve as a community chat room and the Patient One-Sheet, which allows patients to easily collect, download, print, and share their key medical information. Patients will also have access to a robust collection of trusted patient support links.

“We are grateful that Otsuka is willing to support our mission to educate, support, and empower patients with chronic conditions through our unique approach to providing patients with the information they need to drive better outcomes,” said Andrew Rosenberg, founder of Responsum Health. “By working with recognized leaders from the patient advocacy community, we have created a trusted online platform that fills a vital information gap—while simultaneously creating an authentic, welcoming online community for people with kidney disease.”

About Responsum Health

Responsum Health’s mission is to build and support online knowledge communities for chronic disease patients. The company offers a free, revolutionary patient engagement platform that monitors, searches, and curates the Internet to generate a personalized news feed of article summaries, which are vetted by Responsum’s patient group partners. Responsum wraps the news feed into a comprehensive platform that enables patients to comment on and rate the articles, as well as share them with their professional care team and loved ones. Responsum also enables patients to better organize their health information, find local patient support groups and services, and support one another through a moderated, disease-specific social wall.”

The one thing that has been missing from other CKD apps is the education. I write to help people become aware of CKD and maybe understand a little bit of what affects you as a CKD patient. Responsum has articles in real time, so to speak. What I mean by that is if you’re interested in potassium and ask a question in the community about it, you also have articles attached that will explain more about your topic: no searching, no delay, just click on the upper right hand corner. How marvelous.

I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve been involved in what we used to call think tanks about what CKD patients need. My answer has always been education… and what could be better than immediate education? The one sheet with your medical information is also a boon, but not specific to only this app.

But the community with instant articles about your topic? Priceless. I would say that it’s free is also priceless, but that’s a little bit obvious. Do I recommend this app? Yes. Do I use this app? Yes… and if asked my opinion, I would say you should use it, too. The key to our kidney health just may be self-education.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Echo… Echo… Echo…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transthoracic echocardiogram

In this standard type of echocardiogram:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

It’s Not Your Hands and Feet; It’s Your Brain.

Here I sit feeling so incredibly pleased that I don’t have pancreatic cancer anymore. Yet, at the same time, I’m so very displeased with the neuropathy that has me using a cane and causing my fingers to hit between the keys on the keyboard instead of on them. I’ve already mentioned in a previous blog that this is a brain connection problem. Today, I’d like to explore that more.

Let’s start with something simple before we wade into what I suspect is going to be complex. Lexico’s English Dictionary at https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/neuropathy tells us neuropathy is,

“Disease or dysfunction of one or more peripheral nerves, typically causing numbness or weakness.”

I get the numbness or weakness, but what are peripheral nerves? I went to WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/brain/understanding-peripheral-neuropathy-basics#1 for help.

“The name of the condition tells you a bit about what it is:

Peripheral: Beyond (in this case, beyond the brain and the spinal cord.)
Neuro-: Related to the nerves
-pathy: Disease

Peripheral neuropathy refers to the conditions that result when nerves that carry messages to and from the brain and spinal cord from and to the rest of the body are damaged or diseased.

The peripheral nerves make up an intricate network that connects the brain and spinal cord to the muscles, skin, and internal organs. Peripheral nerves come out of the spinal cord and are arranged along lines in the body called dermatomes. Typically, damage to a nerve will affect one or more dermatomes, which can be tracked to specific areas of the body. Damage to these nerves interrupts communication between the brain and other parts of the body and can impair muscle movement, prevent normal sensation in the arms and legs, and cause pain.”

Let’s see if we can find out what these nerves are. The Cleveland Clinic at https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14737-neuropathy has an easily understood answer for us,

“The peripheral nervous system is made up of three types of nerves, each with an important role in keeping your body healthy and functioning properly.

  • Sensory nerves carry messages from your five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch) through your spinal cord to your brain. For example, a sensory nerve would communicate to your brain information about objects you hold in your hand, like pain, temperature, and texture.
  • Motor nerves travel in the opposite direction of sensory nerves. They carry messages from your brain to your muscles. They tell your muscles how and when to contract to produce movement. For example, to move your hand away from something hot.
  • Autonomic nerves are responsible for body functions that occur outside of your direct control, such as breathing, digestion, heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, bladder control and sexual arousal. The autonomic nerves are constantly monitoring and responding to external stresses and bodily needs. For instance, when you exercise, your body temperatures increases. The autonomic nervous system triggers sweating to prevent your body’s temperature from rising too high.

The type of symptoms you feel depend on the type of nerve that is damaged.”

Now the biggie: What causes neuropathy? MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/peripheral_neuropathy/article.htm was right there with an answer.

  1. Diabetes mellitus
  2. Shingles (post herpetic neuralgia)
  3. Vitamin deficiency, particularly B12 and folate
  4. Alcohol
  5. Autoimmune diseases, including lupusrheumatoid arthritis or Guillain-Barre syndrome
  6. AIDS, whether from the disease or its treatment, syphilis, and kidney failure
  7. Inherited disorders, such as amyloid polyneuropathy or Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
  8. Exposure to toxins, such as heavy metals, gold compounds, lead, arsenic, mercury, and organophosphate pesticides
  9. Cancer therapy drugs such as vincristine (Oncovin and Vincasar) and other medications, such as antibiotics including metronidazole (Flagyl) and isoniazid
  10. Rarely, diseases such as neurofibromatosis can lead to peripheral neuropathy. Other rare congenital neuropathies include Fabry disease, Tangier disease, hereditary sensory autonomic neuropathy, and hereditary amyloidosis.
  11. Statin medications have been linked to peripheral neuropathy, although neuropathy caused by statins only rarely causes symptoms.

While diabetes and postherpetic neuralgia are the most common causes of peripheral neuropathy, oftentimes no cause is found. In these situations, it is referred to as idiopathic peripheral neuropathy.”

Uh-oh, diabetes, Vitamin B12 deficiency, cancer therapy drugs, antibiotics, and statins. Any of these could have caused my neuropathy. Since many Chronic Kidney Disease patients develop diabetes (which is also the foremost cause of CKD), you need to keep your eyes open for the symptoms.

Of course, knowing the symptoms would be helpful. The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/peripheral-neuropathy/symptoms-causes/syc-20352061 explains:

“Signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy might include:

  • Gradual onset of numbness, prickling or tingling in your feet or hands, which can spread upward into your legs and arms
  • Sharp, jabbing, throbbing or burning pain
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch
  • Pain during activities that shouldn’t cause pain, such as pain in your feet when putting weight on them or when they’re under a blanket
  • Lack of coordination and falling
  • Muscle weakness
  • Feeling as if you’re wearing gloves or socks when you’re not
  • Paralysis if motor nerves are affected

If autonomic nerves are affected, signs and symptoms might include:

  • Heat intolerance
  • Excessive sweating or not being able to sweat
  • Bowel, bladder or digestive problems
  • Changes in blood pressure, causing dizziness or lightheadedness”

Treatment may be any number of things. Medical News Today at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/147963#treatment elucidates for us:

“Treatment either targets the underlying cause, or it aims to provide symptomatic pain relief and prevent further damage.

In the case of diabetic neuropathy, addressing high blood sugars can prevent further nerve damage.

For toxic causes, removing the exposure to a suspected toxin, or stopping a drug, can halt further nerve damage.

Medications can relieve pain and reduce burning, numbness, and tingling.

Drug treatment for neuropathic pain

Medications that may help include:

  • drugs normally used for epilepsy, such as carbamazepine
  • antidepressants, such as venlafaxine
  • opioid painkillers, for example, oxycodone or tramadol

Opioid painkillers come with warnings about safety risks.

Duloxetine may help people with chemotherapy-induced neuropathy.

Doctors can also prescribe skin patches, such as Lidoderm, for temporary, localized pain relief. This contains the local anesthetic lidocaine. The patches are like bandages, and they can be cut to size.

The choice of drug should take into account medications for other conditions, to avoid unwanted interactions.”

Before I close, do you remember my writing about Flavis’s low protein products? We combined their penne with Bear’s signature ground turkey spaghetti sauce and it was exquisite. I’m not one for heavy pasta, so I really liked how light and delicate it tasted.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

I Never Knew

I’ve already mentioned that I read a lot while undergoing chemotherapy for my pancreatic cancer. I don’t have the energy for much else, although I do find my energy slowly increasing day by day. Often, I come across words or terms that are new to me as I read. One such term is ‘hypertensive nephrosclerosis.’ That’s a mouthful, so let’s start slowly.

‘Hypertensive’ is not a problem since we know that hyper means,

hyper– a prefix appearing in loanwords from Greek, where it meant “over,” usually implying excess or exaggeration (hyperbole); on this model used, especially as opposed to hypo-, in the formation of compound words (hyperthyroid).”

Thank you, Dictionary.com at https://www.dictionary.com/browse/hyper-. A little reminder: a prefix is a group of letters added at the beginning of a word which changes its meaning. Aren’t you glad I was an English teacher for over forty years?

You’ve probably already figured out that ‘tensive’ has to do with some kind of tension. According to Dictionary.com again, but this time at https://www.dictionary.com/browse/tensive?s=ts, it means,

adjective

stretching or straining”

That is a sort of tension, so you’re right. Add the prefix to the root word and suffix and you get ‘hypertension.’ Maybe a little grammar lesson would help here. A suffix is a group of letters added at the end of a word that change its meaning by expressing tendency, disposition, function, connection, etc. (By the way, some of this was taken from – yep – Dictionary.com again. This time at https://www.dictionary.com/browse/-ive?s=t.) What else? Oh, yes, ‘root.’ That’s the main part of the word; in this word, it’s tens. I know, I know, you didn’t come here for a grammar lesson.

Good thing ‘nephrosclerosis’ is a compound word. We know all about ‘nephro’ since it means kidney. And ‘sclerosis?’ That means hardening. This is a good point to mention this can be fatal. A former colleague recently died of sclerosis.

So ‘nephrolsclerosis’ is a hardening of the kidneys. Let’s check that out just to be sure. According to MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=4533:

 Nephrosclerosis: A progressive disease of the kidneys that results from sclerosis (hardening) of the small blood vessels in the kidneys. Nephrosclerosis is most commonly associated with hypertension or diabetes and can lead to kidney failure.

With me so far? Just one more step, let’s add ‘hypertensive’ to ‘nephrosclerosis.’ Emedicine at https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/244342-overview tells us,

“The term hypertensive nephrosclerosis has traditionally been used to describe a clinical syndrome characterized by long-term essential hypertension, hypertensive retinopathy, left ventricular hypertrophy, minimal proteinuria, and progressive renal insufficiency. Most cases are diagnosed based solely on clinical findings….”

Okay, let’s break down the definition of what we just added together to understand this term. You already know what ‘hypertension’ and ‘proteinuria’ are from reading my blogs. If you forgot, use the click throughs in the above definition. That leaves ‘hypertensive retinopathy’ and ‘left ventricular hypertrophy’ since we also know what ‘progressive renal insufficiency’ is.

‘Hypertensive retinopathy’ is summarized by DoveMed, a new site for me whose stated mission is

“We provide reliable unbiased medical information to healthcare consumers and providers by leveraging our unique ecosystem of world class products and services.”

at https://www.dovemed.com/article-synonyms/stage-4-hypertensive-retinopathy/ in this manner:

  • “Hypertensive Retinopathy (HR) refers to abnormal changes of the retina that is located in the back of the eye, due to chronic hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • The retinal arteries are autoregulated, meaning they can control their own shape based on changes in systemic blood pressure. However, at extremely high blood pressures, such as a blood pressure of 140/110 mmHg or over, they are unable to autoregulate. This can result in retinal complications
  • Depending on the severity of the signs and symptoms, Hypertensive Retinopathy can be classified to 4 stages – stage 1, 2, 3, and 4. Stage 1 Hypertensive Retinopathy has mild signs and symptoms, whereas Stage 4 Hypertensive Retinopathy has severe signs and symptoms
  • These changes typically occur in individuals who have had very high blood pressure for several years. The signs and symptoms of Hypertensive Retinopathy may include leakage of fats from the blood vessels, retinal edema (fluid in the retina), and swelling of the optic nerves
  • Some of the complications can include lack of oxygen delivered to the retina, as well as swelling of the macula and optic nerve that can result in the vision being affected
  • The treatment typically consists of controlling systemic hypertension with medications. Prognosis is generally good for individuals with stage 1 or 2 Hypertensive Retinopathy”

That leaves ‘left ventricular hypertrophy.’ Have no fear! The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/left-ventricular-hypertrophy/symptoms-causes/syc-20374314 is here to help us out:

“Left ventricular hypertrophy is enlargement and thickening (hypertrophy) of the walls of your heart’s main pumping chamber (left ventricle).

Left ventricular hypertrophy can develop in response to some factor — such as high blood pressure or a heart condition — that causes the left ventricle to work harder. As the workload increases, the muscle tissue in the chamber wall thickens, and sometimes the size of the chamber itself also increases. The enlarged heart muscle loses elasticity and eventually may fail to pump with as much force as needed.

Left ventricular hypertrophy is more common in people who have uncontrolled high blood pressure. But no matter what your blood pressure is, developing left ventricular hypertrophy puts you at higher risk of a heart attack and stroke.

Treating high blood pressure can help ease your symptoms and may reverse left ventricular hypertrophy.”

Adding all this information together, it’s clear that hypertensive blood pressure is going to do you no good in any way. So what do we do to avoid high blood pressure? That’s right! And the CDC backs you up. Take a look at https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/prevent.htm.

“Prevent High Blood Pressure

….Eat a Healthy Diet

Choose healthy meal and snack options to help you avoid high blood pressure and its complications. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Talk with your health care team about eating a variety of foods rich in potassium, fiber, and protein and lower in salt (sodium) and saturated fat. For many people, making these healthy changes can help keep blood pressure low and protect against heart disease and stroke.

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan is a healthy diet plan with a proven record of helping people lower their blood pressure….

Visit the CDC’s Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity website to learn more about healthy eating and nutrition.

Keep Yourself at a Healthy Weight

Having overweight or obesity increases your risk for high blood pressure. To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, doctors often calculate your body mass index (BMI). If you know your weight and height, you can calculate your BMI at CDC’s Assessing Your Weight website. Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to assess body fat.

Talk with your health care team about ways to reach a healthy weight, including choosing healthy foods and getting regular physical activity.

Be Physically Active

Physical activity can help keep you at a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking or bicycling, every week. That’s about 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Children and adolescents should get 1 hour of physical activity every day.

Visit the website for CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity to learn about ways you can be physically active.

Do Not Smoke

Smoking raises your blood pressure and puts you at higher risk for heart attack and stroke. If you do not smoke, do not start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you quit.

For more information about tobacco use and quitting, see CDC’s Smoking and Tobacco Use Web site.

Limit How Much Alcohol You Drink

Do not drink too much alcohol, which can raise your blood pressure. Men should have no more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day, and women should have no more than 1 alcoholic drink per day. Visit the CDC’s Alcohol and Public Health website for more information.

Get Enough Sleep

Getting enough sleep is important to your overall health, and enough sleep is part of keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy. Not getting enough sleep on a regular basis is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke…. Visit CDC’s Sleep and Sleep Disorders website for resources on how to get better sleep.”

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Kidney Healthy Food Labels?

How many of you remember the KidneyX competition? Let me refresh your memories, just in case. This is from this year’s January 13th, blog:

“Redesign Dialysis Phase II

Building off the success of KidneyX’s inaugural prize competition, Redesign Dialysis Phase I, Phase II challenges participants to build and test prototype solutions, or components of solutions, that can replicate normal kidney functions or improve dialysis access. Up to 3 winners will each be awarded $500,000.

Submissions are due by 5:00 ET on January 31, 2020.

Who Can Participate?

You can submit a solution even if you did not submit anything in Phase I….

What is KidneyX Looking for in Redesign Dialysis, Phase II?

We are seeking prototype solutions that address any of these categories:

  • Blood Filtration (filtering blood to remove waste and excess fluid)
  • Electrolyte Homeostasis (maintaining appropriate levels of key minerals in the blood)
  • Volume Regulation (regulating the amount of and/or removing excess fluid).
  • Toxin Removal and Secretion (removing, limiting or preventing toxins in the bloodstream).
  • Filtrate Drainage and Connectivity (removing excess filtrate after processing; connectivity issues for filtration, processing, and exterior drainage)
  • Dialysis Access (vascular, peritoneal, blood circuit, or alternative (e.g., GI tract) access)

… design targets, as well as the categories themselves, were developed based on the Kidney Health Initiative’s Technology Roadmap for Innovative Approaches to Renal Replacement Therapy, which is an excellent resource to learn more about technical and scientific needs in this space.

Tests of the prototype’s function or performance should demonstrate rigor, reproducibility, and statistical analysis….

You can learn more at https://www.kidneyx.org/prizecompetitions/RedesignDialysisPhase.”

I was lucky enough to have one of the phase I winners contact me re a two question survey about his entry. That led to a few emails back and forth which resulted in Anthony’s guest blog today….

“My name is Anthony, and I was recently chosen as a winner in the KidneyX, ‘Patient Innovator Challenge’ competition. KidneyX is a recently formed partnership between the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the American Society of Nephrology (ASN).  According to their website, they were established ‘to accelerate innovation in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of kidney disease.’  The competition welcomed the public to submit ideas on how to improve therapeutic options and the quality of life for those living with kidney disease.

As a former employee of a dialysis company, I always thought that there was something more that could be done in terms of the prevention and treatment of people living with kidney disease. The lack of awareness and research around kidney disease was always a concern to me. Quite frankly I never stopped thinking about it, even after my departure from the industry.  Then one day, I came up with an idea that I believe will solve a lot of problems within the CKD community. My solution is ‘Kidney Healthy’ food labels.

Food labels are a major factor in dictating consumer food purchases today. With major food labels such as ‘gluten free’ and ‘organic’ leading the way, many consumers are now allowing food labels to dictate their purchasing decisions. Consumers are now demanding more transparency in the foods they eat, and food labels serve as a driving force for consumers to take control of their health.

The statistics on kidney disease are not very promising. According to the National Kidney Foundation, Chronic Kidney Disease, or CKD affects an estimated 37 million people in the United States, which equates to 15% of the population. 468,000 of those individuals are currently on dialysis (End Stage Renal Disease), a treatment that cost this country $89,000 per patient each year, which equates to a cost of almost $42 billion dollars a year. According to The Kidney Project, ESRD is increasing in the United States by 5% each year, so it’s only inevitable that this cost is going to continue to increase as the years go by. In addition, two million people suffer from ESRD worldwide; this number is increasing by 5-7% each year.

I believe ‘Kidney Healthy’ food labels could serve as a universal solution to slow down the progression, lower the cost, create better patient outcomes, and ultimately bring more awareness to those living with (and without) Chronic Kidney Disease.

I decided to submit my idea to the KidneyX ‘Patient Innovator Challenge’ competition, and was so honored to be chosen as a winner.  Although I do understand that when it comes to kidney disease, there really isn’t a ‘one diet fits all,’ I still would love to live in a world where kidney patients can rely on a universal food label (such as organic or gluten-free). Obviously a food certification process would have to be created to establish this label, or labels for that matter (CKD Stage 1, 2, 3, etc. label), but my goal is to have a more standardized approach to the kidney diet for patients by way of ‘Kidney Healthy’ food labels.

My next step is to get my idea in front of the CKD community. I am currently conducting an independent research project that I need your help with. I believe that creating Kidney Healthy Food labels (similar to organic and gluten-free) will assist in slowing down the progression of Chronic Kidney Disease, and preserve a better quality of life for both CKD and ESRD patients.

As a member of the CKD Community, Please take this 2 Question Survey to help. Your participation is greatly appreciated!

When you are finished, please forward this survey to the CKD community to assist in helping.

Here is the link to the survey:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KidneyHealthyFoodLabels

 

In other news, those who were interested in Flavis’s low protein, low sodium, low phosphorous products may find their Ditali appealing. We enjoyed the delicate taste of this pasta. By the way, their chocolate chip cookies were pretty good, too.

Keep yourselves as safe as you can during the lock down. Lock down is better than die any day and we are especially open to the virus with our compromised immune systems. Keep that in mind when you start to get restless.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Lovely, Lovely Medicinal Food

A few weeks ago, I received some interesting emails from a company called Flavis. I hadn’t heard of them before, so I followed my curiosity and emailed back. It turns out they’re a company that produces low protein, potassium, phosphorous, and sodium carbohydrates. Hmmm, as Chronic Kidney Disease patients we need to keep a lid on our intake of these electrolytes. Could this company and others like them help?

They were kind enough to send samples of their wares. Some of it tasted like medicinal food, but oh those cookies. It would be dangerous for me to keep them in the house. My husband, who doesn’t have CKD, loved them, too. I enjoyed their pasta products, too. Now, lest you get the wrong idea, I am not endorsing this company because I don’t know what others like it are available. However, I wanted to know about their products… which may very well be similar to the products of other such companies and, therefore, helpful to CKD patients.

According to my thinking, logically the first thing to do was look at their website. You can find it at http://www.Flavis.com just as I did. I’m going to copy and paste the parts of their Chronic Kidney Disease material that will help us understand more about this product.

“FLAVIS kidney-friendly foods are starch-based and have reduced protein, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium content. They reduce the kidneys’ workload, and they have the same look, taste, and calorie Content as the foods they replace. These products include pasta, rice, bread, bread products (breadsticks, crostini, rolls, sliced bread, crackers), sweets, and flour. They are suitable for patients in all stages of CKD, especially in the conservative management at stage 3-4.”

I have to admit, the bread was not bad at all and, if Bear had liked the taste more, I would have been perfectly happy using only their pasta products. I liked their taste. Unfortunately, I automatically cooked the rice in the electric rice cooker, apparently a no-no, so I can’t say anything about the taste of the rice.

My goodness! I am endorsing Flavis. Why? Look what I found on the National Kidney Foundation website:

FLAVIS and the NKF Team-Up to Promote Kidney Health Through Diet

FLAVIS, the kidney friendly food brand, and the National Kidney Foundation partner to promote medical nutrition therapy to help maintain residual kidney function among chronic kidney disease patients

New York, NY – April 8, 2019 – Dr. Schar USA’s (Lyndhurst, NJ) kidney friendly food brand, FLAVIS is teaming up with the National Kidney Foundation to promote the benefits of special dietary foods for people with chronic kidney disease (CKD). FLAVIS, offering a wide portfolio of kidney friendly breads, pasta, snacks, and baking products provides nutrition solutions for patients following a diet low in protein, phosphorus, sodium and potassium, and support to kidney healthcare professionals. The National Kidney Foundation is the largest, most comprehensive and longstanding patient-centric organization dedicated to the awareness, prevention and treatment of kidney disease.

CKD affects 15% of the U.S. adult population. This disease progresses to higher stages as kidney function declines. Some studies show that medical nutrition therapy (MNT) using a low protein diet, under the direction of a nephrologist and registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), may slow this decline. Through this partnership, FLAVIS and the National Kidney Foundation will provide educational outreach to healthcare professionals that promotes the importance of MNT and proper nutrition for CKD patients to improve dietary adherence and quality of life.

Medical nutrition therapy for CKD, as implemented by a registered dietitian nutritionist, emphasizes an individualized diet plan based upon each patient’s clinical status, goals, and preferences.  MNT for CKD patients includes one or more of the following: decreased sodium, phosphorus, and protein intake, along with sufficient energy, high fiber, and decreased saturated fat intake.  Potassium may also be restricted if the patient has high serum potassium levels. The benefits of MNT include decreasing the risk of complications from high blood pressure and diabetes, reduced uremic toxin levels, and preserved kidney function over time. Studies of MNT in Americans with CKD have shown only about 10% of those eligible receive this nutrition counseling support. FLAVIS’ products are a good source of energy and fiber, and are low in protein, sodium, phosphorus and potassium. These products may help people with CKD preserve kidney function and improve disease outcomes. In partnering with the National Kidney Foundation, FLAVIS aims to provide education and awareness about the benefits of MNT to promote improved quality of life in the CKD population.  For more information about this partnership visit kidney.org/FLAVIS.

Kidney Disease Facts

In the United States, 30 million adults are estimated to have chronic kidney disease—and most aren’t aware of it.  1 in 3 American adults are at risk for chronic kidney disease.  Risk factors for kidney disease include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and family history. People of African American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, or Pacific Islander descent are at increased risk for developing the disease.  African Americans are 3 times more likely than Whites, and Hispanics are nearly 1.5 times more likely than non-Hispanics to develop end stage renal disease (kidney failure).”

 

I am happy to have found this. I remember – even though it was a decade ago – how hard it was to adapt my regular diet to the kidney diet and how often I had to respond, “No, thank you,” after asking the ingredients of a certain meal. Thank you Dr. Shar for helping my fellow CKD sufferers and me enjoy guilt free meals when we feel like having pasta.

By the way, I’m not ignoring COVID-19, I assure you. I’m sifting through all the information I can find before I write about it. As you know, that information changes daily. I’ve ordered my masks and searched out my gloves from the garage. I stay at home except when I have to go out for chemotherapy… and those trips concern me.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

National Kidney Month is Almost Over

Welcome to the next to last day of National Kidney Month, 2020. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should stop taking care of your kidneys or spreading Chronic Kidney Disease awareness once National Kidney Month is over, but I don’t have to tell you that, do I? What I’d like to tell you about instead is the ins and outs of National Kidney Month.

In my latest book (Cancer has definitely slowed the arrival of SlowItDownCKD 2019, but soon, my friends, soon.) SlowItDownCKD 2018, I wrote:

“As usual, let’s start at the beginning. What is National Kidney Month? Personalized Cause at https://www.personalizedcause.com/health-awareness-cause-calendar/national-kidney-month has a succinct explanation for us. By the way, while I’m not endorsing them since the site is new to me, I should let you know they sell the green ribbons for National Kidney Month that you’ll probably be seeing hither and yon all month. [Added today: Come to think of it, some readers have asked me where to get CKD ribbons. This is what this site sells among other things.]

‘National Kidney Month, observed in March and sponsored by the National Kidney Foundation, is a time to increase awareness of kidney disease, promote the need for a cure, and spur advocacy on behalf of those suffeing [sic] with the emotional, financial and physical burden of kidney disease. The National Kidney Foundation is the leading organization in the U.S. dedicated to the awareness, prevention and treatment of kidney disease for hundreds of thousands of healthcare professionals, millions of patients and their families, and tens of millions of Americans at risk.’

That, of course, prompted me to go directly to the National Kidney Foundation’s information about National Kidney Month at https://www.kidney.org/news/monthly/Focus_KidneyMonth.

Focus on the Kidneys During National Kidney Month in March

March is National Kidney Month and the NKF is urging all Americans to give their kidneys a second thought and a well-deserved checkup. Kidneys filter 200 liters of blood a day, help regulate blood pressure and direct red blood cell production. But they are also prone to disease; 1 in 3 Americans is at risk for kidney disease due to diabetes, high blood pressure [Added today: This year’s theme for National Kidney Month is high blood pressure and your kidneys.] or a family history of kidney failure. There are more than 30 million Americans [Added today: 31 million this year] who already have kidney disease, and most don’t know it because there are often no symptoms until the disease has progressed….’

I wanted to share this quote from the American Kidney Fund with you, both as a CKD awareness advocate and a woman:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This year (2019), I noticed that The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/community-health-outreach/national-kidney-month offers us even more information during National Kidney Month:

“March is National Kidney Month, a time when communities across the country raise awareness about kidney disease. In partnership with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), this year’s focus is the link between high blood pressure and kidney disease.

If you have high blood pressure, you’re at risk for chronic kidney disease, a serious condition that can lead to stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, and death.

The good news is that you can help protect your kidneys by managing high blood pressure with these 6 healthy lifestyle habits.

  1. Take medications as prescribed.  Your doctor may prescribe blood pressure-lowering medications that are effective in slowing the development of kidney disease.
  2. Aim for a healthy weight. If you are overweight or obese, losing even a small amount of weight can improve blood pressure readings.
  3. Select healthier food and beverage options.  Focus on fruits and vegetables, lean meat, whole grains, and other heart-healthy foods.
  4. Try to quit smoking. If you smoke, take steps to quit.
  5. Get enough sleep. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.
  6. Manage stress and make physical activity part of your routine. Consider healthy stress-reducing activities and get at least 30 minutes or more of physical activity each day.

Learn more about high blood pressure and kidney disease

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

James’s Kidney Transplant Wasn’t Preemptive

Last week, the third week of National Kidney Month, Kevin Fowler told us his story of the journey to his preemptive kidney transplant. This week, the fourth of National Kidney Month, James will tell us of his journey to a non preemptive kidney transplant. In case you were wondering, James and I met at an AAKP meeting in Tampa several years ago and just never lost contact. But let’s allow Uncle Jim (as he prefers to be called) tell his story.

My name is James Myers. I live in Hammond, IN. I am an ESRD & PKD patient. I was lucky enough to have a transplant on April 27th, 2016. I write to you today to tell you my story, as well as my experiences with polycystic kidney disease. At the age of 25, I went into the hospital with chest pain. From a simple x-ray, I was diagnosed with PKD.

I have lost five members of my family to PKD, including my dad. Because of my family’s history, I was immediately referred to Dr. Hellman, a nephrologist at Indiana University Health. He promptly put me on high blood pressure medication and a renal diet. I faithfully followed up at the kidney clinic every six months and took my medicine. I did the best I could do to stay on the kidney diet. There is no cure for PKD, and at that time, there was very little they could do for me.

I tried to ignore my condition and carry on with my life, but in reality, the fact is that after I was diagnosed with kidney failure, all of my decisions were colored by my impending death, or so I thought. It was a factor in a failed marriage, a legal career being cut short, and two professorships at two different colleges lost. I loved being with the kids.

Every step that I took from the date of my diagnosis was for one reason and one reason only; to avoid dialysis. I was able to do that for over 30 years, but in 2012. I could not delay it any longer. I began passing out, at home, in my classroom, everywhere. Many times after passing out, I was fearful I would be unable to reach the phone and call for help. I lived alone, and this caused a great deal of anxiety. At the age of 58, on July 28th, I started what would be a four year stretch on dialysis. My schedule was three days a week, four hours per session.

I was very, very angry when I first went on dialysis. After watching my dad die, I felt this was the beginning of the end. I had dreaded this for a long time. My dad passed after a short five years on dialysis, and I felt I was on the same life path as he. My days were numbered. I observed that many of my clinic mates came to the center by ambulance, were brought in on a gurney, walker, or wheelchair. Many used a cane. Many were diabetic on top of ESRD, and had suffered amputations. Five people were 90 years old or more. One woman was autistic and had the mentality of a 10 year old.

One of my dearest friends, Maureen O’Brien, looked after me. She forced me to open my eyes. I was able to drive and walk around on my own power. I had a fairly clear mind. I was taking classes toward two MBAs and was teaching other MBA candidates at the same time. Maureen had been dealing with kidney disease since the age of six. Every step along the way she had to argue and fight with healthcare officials. She had three transplants. Maureen provided encouragement and a bright, vivid smile. She provided a light on my path.

I began to understand my role. I made a conscious choice. I wanted to help my fellow Kidney Patients. I wanted to use my loud voice to help others. I wanted to advocate for my clinic mates who could not advocate for themselves. I did not like the way the dialysis clinics, the government, and the care staff pushed around or neglected my fellow Kidney Patients. The last straw for me was when they began to push for the cutting of funds to dialysis patients and clinics. I looked around the room and I realized with my health and skill set, I was the only one who could help. It occurred to me that if i did not accept this responsibility, maybe no one else would.

I joined as many kidney organizations as I could, I applied to be an advocate for as many groups as I could. I became very, very active on social media. I wrote petitions, I blogged, I contacted newspapers, I spoke and visited with my Congressman and Senators. I spoke frequently. To this day, I do whatever I have to do to bring about change for my fellow Kidney Patients. My life has purpose now. I like to think that my dad & Maureen would be proud of me.

I know that many of you are not used to me writing this way. I feel it is my responsibility to lift spirits, so I rarely talk about personal issues anymore. It is my hope to inspire others to likewise advocate for our fellow Kidney Patients. My friend Gail asked me to write my story out. Gail has been very candid with me, so I felt as she advocates for us, I should be just as candid with her & all of you. The point of this Kidney Story is to raise hope and to thank Gail and all of you that advocate for Kidney Patients.

PKD affects approximately 600, 000 Americans and 12.5 million people worldwide. It is one of the most inherited diseases on the planet. Polycystic Kidney Disease is more common than Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell Anemia, Muscular Dystrophy, Hemophilia, Downs Syndrome, and Hodgkins Disease combined. PKD is one of the four leading causes of Kidney Failure. It costs the federal government in excess of $2 Billion annually in Medicare and Medicaid costs for dialysis, transportation and related treatment. There is no cure.

Sincerely,

James Myers
2019 Advocate of the Year for the NKF
BOD and Ambassador for the AAKP
Ambassador for the Chronic Disease Coalition
Ambassador for the NKF of Indiana
Ambassador for the American Kidney Fund
Ambassador for the PKD Foundation
Ambassador for the DPC

Thank you, Uncle Jim, for your generous sharing and even more generous advocacy.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Dax’s Journey to Dialysis Friendly Clothing

I met Dax Francis a few years ago in a Facebook CKD & Dialysis Support page. Slowly, I became aware that he produces dialysis clothing… and that fascinated me. Then it dawned on me that you should know such clothing exists, although Dax is not the only one who produces them. I asked him if he would write a guest blog explaining how this all started and where he got the idea. He promptly agreed and that will be today’s blog, the first blog in March, National Kidney Month.

Before we read Dx’s blog, some of us may need a reminder of what FSGS is. According to The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fsgs/symptoms-causes/syc-20354693:

“Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) is a disease in which scar tissue develops on the parts of the kidneys that filter waste from the blood (glomeruli). FSGS can be caused by a variety of conditions.

FSGS is a serious condition that can lead to kidney failure, for which the only treatment options are dialysis or kidney transplant. Treatment options for FSGS depend on the type you have.”

I think we’re ready for Dax’s guest blog now.

My name is Dax Francis. I was diagnosed with FSGS as a young man, age twelve, and it was as if overnight school, sports, and friends were replaced with doctors, hospitals, and treatments. I struggled to find my place in this new body that could no longer do the things that had defined my life. Shortly after I graduated from high school, I had to begin dialysis which set me down a dark path of loneliness, depression, and sadness.

When I began dialysis I wanted everything to end. This was not the life I had ever wanted, and I believed that all my abilities, my skills, and talents were hidden behind a treatment filled with pain. The strength it took to live in that struggle was too much, and I put myself in situations where everything could have and should have ended. I was lost, and then I got that call saying it was my turn for a kidney transplant.

This was it! This is my moment to start my life! And then FSGS recurred shortly after surgery, and I was never able to leave treatment.

Devastation, utter devastation. I could not let my donor down though and felt a need to try to pursue my life once more despite the struggle. I enrolled in school for Social Work. I wanted to use my experiences to help those who may be in similar situations as myself, and I found my calling. Being able to help others and learn from those with wholly different lives and experiences than mine was the greatest gift I could have ever been given.

As I had all but finished the Social Work program, I realized that I could not be the social worker that people deserved due to my health. Being on treatment three times a week made it difficult to find work, and I rarely felt well enough to continually work. I struggled with this, feeling like I was never going to have a way to be a part of the world and the community nor was a place for me or anyone like me. This fact made me feel worthless and I dropped out of college 6 credits shy of my degree, because I thought it was pointless.

I wandered, confused, and didn’t know how to be someone who could make a difference. The wisdom I had gained from fighting every day to survive, I felt, was something special and I just wanted someone to ask me what I had learned while living in the struggle that is chronic illness. I just wanted someone to take notice of my fight and my struggle and see the person who can make a difference because of it all.

After the passing of a close friend I needed to live for both of us and put myself out there where I met someone who changed my life. I met someone who saw my fight and helped me realize that all I had been through made me capable of so much. She believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself, this enabled me to live a life that I had always dreamed of, and I was doing it all despite being on dialysis. I was able to meet the love of my life despite the struggle. It all started with putting my true self out there and not being afraid of being that true person sharing with light and love.

I enrolled back in school and finished my 6 credits finally achieving my degree. During this time the world began to change. More and more negativity seemed to be seeping into my life and I found myself in a negative space despite having everything I wanted. I needed to make a change. At the end of 2017 I committed to being positive, uplifting and to helping others the way I can. I started making videos while I was actually on dialysis just to let others know that they were not alone and that they needed to continue their fight.

The support I received from those first videos inspired me to do more with my talents and abilities and Ivye Wear was born on the morning of January 13, 2018. I wanted to provide comfort, warmth, and hope to the warriors fighting every day to survive, often with little recognition of the strength it takes to survive and live in that struggle. I wanted to provide a suit of armor for the warrior when they go into battle; whether it’s dialysis, chemotherapy, infusions, or something else entirely, and I designed comfortable, accessible clothing designed for a range of medical treatments, procedures, and devices. Sweats, Hoodies, and T-Shirts designed for warriors, by warriors. All of our clothes provide zipper access to the vital areas your caregivers need to perform treatment while you can stay warm and dignified.

I never want anyone to feel as if they don’t have a place in this world due to their illness or struggle, Ivye Wear was born to be a beacon of hope for all chronic illness patients. I believe that it is our experiences that give us the strength, wisdom, and patience to change the world.

Thank you, Dax, for your honesty and especially for the dialysis clothing.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Just in Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Why Wait?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glomerular filtration rate

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

How the Test is Performed

blood sample is needed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

But I Wasn’t Done

Talk about chemo brain. The reader who asked the questions addressed in last week’s blog also wanted to know if Chronic Kidney Disease had any impact on the menstrual cycle… and I passed right over those questions as if she’d never asked. Whoa. This is a new way of being for me, so apologies dear reader for that pretty important oversight. Today, we correct the oversight. Tomorrow we banish chemo brain – or brain fog as CKD patients experience it. (Sigh. If only it took just one day.)

On October 1st, 2018, I explored the menstrual cycle’s effect on CKD and vice-versa issue:

“Back to the beginning for those who have just plain forgotten what the menses is and why women experience it. Thank you to the Medical Dictionary at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/menses for starting us off today. Menses is:

‘the periodic discharge from the vagina of blood and tissues from a non-pregnant uterus; the culmination of the menstrual cycle. Menstruation occurs every 28 days or so between puberty and menopause, except during pregnancy, and the flow lasts about 5 days, the times varying from woman to woman.’

I clearly remember the days of anxiously awaiting my period only to find I had miscalculated its start. Commence the washing-out-the-underwear-nightly-during-my-period era which lasted decades. It was messy, but apparently menstruation was necessary. Why, you ask.

Back to Wikipedia. By the way, when I was teaching research writing in college, I always found this a good source to start researching despite the fact that anyone can edit it. This is the explanation I was looking for. I found it at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menstrual_cycle.

‘The menstrual cycle is the regular natural change that occurs in the female reproductive system (specifically the uterus and ovaries) that makes pregnancy possible. The cycle is required for the production of oocytes [Me here: this means an immature egg] and for the preparation of the uterus for pregnancy….’

As someone who had always planned to be a mother, you can see why I felt this was a necessary – albeit messy – function of my body. I have a biological grandchild and another being planned (As of October 31, 2019, I have TWO terrific grandsons.). Thank you, menstruation.

But what if I had developed CKD when I was premenopausal? Would things have been different for me? DaVita at https://www.davita.com/education/kidney-disease/risk-factors/womens-health-risks-and-chronic-kidney-disease-ckd explains some of what I might have had to deal with.

‘When a woman has chronic kidney disease her periods tend to be irregular. Once she begins dialysis her periods may even stop altogether. As kidney function drops below 20 percent of normal, a woman is less likely to conceive because dialysis doesn’t perform all of the tasks of the kidneys. The body retains a higher level of waste products than it would with a normal kidney, which can prevent egg production and affect menstruation.

Erythropoietin treatments will cause about 50 percent of woman on dialysis to get their periods again. This is attributed to the improved hormone levels and the treatment of anemia. Therefore, erythropoietin treatments can increase a woman’s fertility, so birth control should be used if a woman is sexually active and does not want to become pregnant.’

Okay, but I’m not on dialysis and my GFR hovers in the 50-55% range. I see from the quote above that my periods might have become irregular. I also noted that a ‘higher level of waste products is being retained.’ (Why does that give me the creeps?)

Let’s go back to those waste products. Remember what they are? Shodor, a site for undergraduate students, at https://www.shodor.org/master/biomed/physio/dialysis/kidney.htm was helpful here:

‘The kidneys are the filtering devices of blood. The kidneys remove waste products from metabolism such as urea, uric acid, and creatinine by producing and secreting urine. Urine may also contain sulfate and phenol waste and excess sodium, potassium, and chloride ions. The kidneys help maintain homeostasis by regulating the concentration and volume of body fluids. For example, the amount of H+ and HCO3  secreted by the kidneys controls the body’s pH.’

Whoa! I wouldn’t want even more of these substances in my body. Not only would they make the CKD worse, but also its effects on my body. According to Medical News Today at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/172179.php, these effects include:

  • anemia
  • blood in urine
  • dark urine
  • decreased mental alertness (Gail here: as in brain fog.)
  • decreased urine output
  • edema – swollen feet, hands, and ankles (face if edema is severe)
  • fatigue (tiredness)
  • hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • insomnia
  • itchy skin, can become persistent
  • loss of appetite
  • male inability to get or maintain an erection (erectile dysfunction)
  • more frequent urination, especially at night
  • muscle cramps
  • muscle twitches
  • nausea
  • pain on the side or mid to lower back
  • panting (shortness of breath)
  • protein in urine
  • sudden change in bodyweight
  • unexplained headaches

Is there anything else I should know?

The Huffington Post at https://www.huffingtonpost.com/leslie-spry-md-facp/women-with-chronic-kidney_b_10163148.html let Dr. Leslie Spry, Spokesman for the National Kidney Foundation, answer this one and I will, too.

‘Women with CKD have been shown to commonly experience menstrual irregularities. This can include excessive bleeding, missed periods, and early onset of menopause. In studies of patients with CKD, women enter menopause from 3 to 5 years earlier than patients without CKD. Treatment can be very challenging. Studies of estrogen replacement therapy have shown an increased risk of heart disease and blood clotting disorders. Kidney transplantation will usually correct these abnormalities.’

Now I wonder if I’d had CKD even earlier than when I’d caught it on a lab report a decade ago. Excessive bleeding? Check. Early menopause? Check. Hmmm.

But wait. There’s some good news in here, too.

‘Thus, recurring changes of sex hormone levels, as brought about by the natural menstrual cycle, might be involved in periodic tissue remodeling not only in reproductive organs, but to a certain extent in the kidneys as well,’ she added.

Lechner [Me here: She’s the study author – Dr. Judith Lechner, of the Medical University of Innsbruck in Austria] hypothesizes that estrogen might help to replace damaged cells. During cycle phases of high estrogen exposure, kidney cells might be induced to grow, she explained, “while at time points of decreasing estrogen levels damaged or simply older cells might be discarded into the urine.’”

You can read more about this small study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology in Medical Daily at https://www.medicaldaily.com/sex-differences-menstrual-cycle-kidney-failure-384251.

This blog is becoming a book by itself. All questions answered, dear reader?

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Belly Fluid Retention While Taking a Diuretic?

Finally, we get to the question one reader has been waiting to be answered for several months while I dealt with complications from pancreatic cancer surgery. Thank you for your patience. The question has to do with reducing belly fluid retention that seems to be the result of taking the diuretic ethacrynic acid for over two years.

What is ethacrynic acid used for? I don’t know. Let’s find out together. CardioSmart of the American College of Cardiology at https://www.cardiosmart.org/Healthwise/d006/49/d00649 tells us that ethacrynic acid is,

“… a loop diuretic (water pill) that prevents your body from absorbing too much salt, allowing the salt to instead be passed in your urine.”

I get what a diuretic is, but what’s a loop diuretic? Let’s go to Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loop_diuretic for this one, but keep in mind that anyone – medical personnel or not – can edit an entry on this site.

Loop diuretics are diuretics that act at the ascending limb of the loop of Henle in the kidney. They are primarily used in medicine to treat hypertension and edema often due to congestive heart failure or chronic kidney disease. While thiazide diuretics are more effective in patients with normal kidney function, loop diuretics are more effective in patients with impaired kidney function.”

I see. So, as kidney disease patients we are offered loop diuretics instead of thiazide diuretic. The loop diuretic is to prevent too much salt absorption. And we need to limit our salt absorption as CKD patients because???

Thank you to DaVita Kidney Care at https://www.davita.com/diet-nutrition/articles/basics/sodium-and-chronic-kidney-disease for the following:

“… too much sodium can be harmful for people with kidney disease because your kidneys cannot eliminate excess sodium and fluid from your body. As sodium and fluid buildup in your tissues and bloodstream, your blood pressure increases and you feel uncomfortable.

High blood pressure can cause more damage to unhealthy kidneys. This damage further reduces kidney function, resulting in even more fluid and waste build up in the body.

Other sodium-related complications are:

  • Edema: swelling in your legs, hands and face
  • Heart failure: excess fluid in the bloodstream can overwork your heart making it enlarged and weak
  • Shortness of breath: fluid can build up in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe”

Now it makes sense that you don’t want to absorb too much salt if you’re a Chronic Kidney Disease patient.

Wait a minute. If a diuretic is a water pill, why is this reader retaining most of her fluid in her belly. Shouldn’t it be passing out of her body in her urine? I found this explanation on Livestrong at https://www.livestrong.com/article/498477-retaining-fluid-while-taking-diuretics/ :

“In some cases, fluid retention will not respond well to diuretic therapy. Diuretics are not an effective treatment for a type of fluid retention known as idiopathic cyclic edema. In fact, taking diuretics for this condition can make the retention worse. It is not known what causes this condition, but it is associated with hypothyroidism, obesity and diabetes mellitus. This condition often occurs before menstruation and is more common in young women.”

I did see a picture of this reader and didn’t see any signs of obesity, but do not know if she is dealing with diabetes mellitus or hypothyroidism. I’m so sorry, dear reader, but it looks like I’ve hit the same dead end you have in asking your doctors for help.

Change of subject. It’s a new year and the kidney world is reacting to that. For instance, KidneyX, stage 2 is now in effect.

Redesign Dialysis Phase II

Building off the success of KidneyX’s inaugural prize competition, Redesign Dialysis Phase I, Phase II challenges participants to build and test prototype solutions, or components of solutions, that can replicate normal kidney functions or improve dialysis access. Up to 3 winners will each be awarded $500,000.

Submissions are due by 5:00 ET on January 31, 2020.

Who Can Participate?

You can submit a solution even if you did not submit anything in Phase I. Full eligibility rules can be found on page 6 of the prize announcement.

What is KidneyX Looking for in Redesign Dialysis, Phase II?

We are seeking prototype solutions that address any of these categories:

  • Blood Filtration (filtering blood to remove waste and excess fluid)
  • Electrolyte Homeostasis (maintaining appropriate levels of key minerals in the blood)
  • Volume Regulation (regulating the amount of and/or removing excess fluid).
  • Toxin Removal and Secretion (removing, limiting or preventing toxins in the bloodstream).
  • Filtrate Drainage and Connectivity (removing excess filtrate after processing; connectivity issues for filtration, processing, and exterior drainage)
  • Dialysis Access (vascular, peritoneal, blood circuit, or alternative (e.g., GI tract) access)

Specific technical design targets for each category can be found on page 4 of the prize announcement. These design targets, as well as the categories themselves, were developed based on the Kidney Health Initiative’s Technology Roadmap for Innovative Approaches to Renal Replacement Therapy, which is an excellent resource to learn more about technical and scientific needs in this space.

Tests of the prototype’s function or performance should demonstrate rigor, reproducibility, and statistical analysis.

For specific judging criteria, please review the prize announcement.

You can learn more at https://www.kidneyx.org/prizecompetitions/RedesignDialysisPhaseII.

The American Association of Kidney Patients is also looking for participants.

AAKP is pleased to announce an opportunity for individuals with chronic kidney disease, and their caregivers, to participate in a research survey that will help us better understand the impact chronic kidney disease has had on their lives.

To find out whether you qualify, please click on the box below that corresponds with the survey that is most appropriate for you, and complete the brief screening questionnaire. If eligible, you will be directed to the full survey which is expected to take about 15-to-20 minutes to complete. Kindly note, the survey must be completed in one sitting so it is important to start the survey at a time when you feel confident you can allocate enough time to complete the survey in its entirety.

As a show of appreciation for your time and input, participants who complete

the full survey will receive a check for $35!

You can read more about this at https://survey-d.dynata.com/survey/selfserve/53b/1912660?CT=1#?

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Auld Lang Syne Already?

It’s the last few days of 2019 and this year has whizzed by. My dance with pancreatic cancer has been a trip I could have done without, but the birth of my grandson more than made up for it. Now I get to see him all the time and I only have one more regiment of chemotherapy to go.

Oh, there I go again assuming everyone knows what Auld Lange Syne is. According to Classic FM at https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/auld-lang-syne-lyrics-and-origins/:

What does ‘Auld Lang Syne’ mean?

The most accurate plain English interpretation of the Auld Lang Syne’s famous title is ‘Old long since’, or ‘For the sake of old times’.

The song itself is reflective in nature, and is basically about two friends catching up over a drink or two, their friendship having been long and occasionally distant.

The words were written by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788, but Burns himself revealed at the time of composing it that he had collected the words after listening to the verse of an old man on his travels, claiming that his version of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ marked the first time it had been formally written down.

However, an earlier ballad by James Watson, named ‘Old Long Syne’, dates as far back as 1711, and use of the title phrase can be found in poems from as early as the 17th century, specifically works by Robert Ayton and Allan Ramsay.”

The song is usually sung at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve and is closely associated with the ending of one year and the beginning of the next. That’s tomorrow night.

Before we leave 2019, let’s take a look at what’s been happening in the kidney world this year.

The ball got rolling, so to speak, with this announcement:

“The Advancing American Kidney Health initiative, announced on July 10, 2019 by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), places the kidney community in the national spotlight for the first time in decades and outlines a national strategy for kidney diseases for the first time …. In order to achieve the Advancing American Kidney Health initiative’s lofty goals and make good on the KHI’s commitment to people with kidney diseases, drug and device innovation needs to accelerate.”

You can read the entire announcement from the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology at https://cjasn.asnjournals.org/content/early/2019/12/05/CJN.11060919.

The American Kidney Fund at https://www.kidneyfund.org/advocacy-blog/future-of-dialysis-innovation.html announced prizes for innovations in dialysis. We are now in phase two.

“HHS and ASN collaborated with patients, nephrologists, researchers and others in planning the competition. Several agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, are involved in this effort. AKF has provided comments to the KidneyX project, urging a focus on unmet needs and improving patient quality of life.

The KidneyX: Redesign Dialysis competition will have two phases. During phase one (late-October 2018-February 2019), innovators will be asked to come up with ideas to ‘replicate normal kidney functions and improve patient quality of life.’ During phase two (April 2019-January 2020), innovators will be asked to develop prototypes to test their ideas.

The HHS press release detailing the competition can be found here.

You can also read my blog about KidneyX by using the topic dropdown on the right side of the blog.

S.1676/H.R 3912 was passed this year, too. According to Renal Support Network at https://www.rsnhope.org/kidney-disease-advocacy/the-chronic-kidney-disease-improvement-in-research-and-treatment-act-of-2019-s-1676/, this is what the act provides:

“Specifically, the legislation does the following:

  • Medigap available to all ESRD Medicare beneficiaries, regardless of age.
  • Improve care coordination for people on dialysis by requiring hospitals to provide an individual’s health and treatment information to their renal dialysis facility upon their discharge. The individual or dialysis facility may initiate the request.
  • Increase awareness, expand preventative services, and improve coordination of the Medicare Kidney Disease Education program by allowing dialysis facilities to provide kidney disease education service. And it will allow physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and clinical nurse specialists, in addition to physicians, to refer patients to the program. And additionally, provide access to these services to Medicare beneficiaries with Stage 5 (CKD) not yet on dialysis.
  • Incentivize innovation for cutting-edge new drugs, biologicals, devices, and other technologies by maintaining an economically stable dialysis infrastructure. The Secretary would be required to establish a process for identifying and determining appropriate payment amounts for incorporating new devices and technologies into the bundle.
  • Improve the accuracy and transparency of ESRD Quality Programs so patients can make better decisions about their care providers.
  • Improve patient understanding of palliative care usage as well as access to palliative care services in underserved areas.
  • Allow individuals with kidney failure to retain access to private insurance plans as their primary payor for 42 months, allowing people to keep their private plans longer.”

I scooted over to EurekAlert! at https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-04/uoo-bkd041219.php when I realized they were announcing a drug I’d blogged about:

“’A drug like canagliflozin that improves both cardiovascular and renal outcomes has been eagerly sought by both patients with Type 2 diabetes and clinicians caring for them,’ added Kenneth Mahaffey, MD, professor of medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine and co-principal investigator of the trial. ‘Now, patients with diabetes have a promising option to guard against one of the most severe risks of their condition.’

The researchers found the drug canagliflozin, a sodium glucose transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitor, was less effective at lowering blood sugar in people with reduced kidney function but still led to less kidney failure, heart failure and cardiovascular events such as heart attacks, strokes and death from cardiovascular disease.

Professor Perkovic said the results were impressive. ‘The substantial benefit on kidney failure despite limited effects on blood glucose suggest that these drugs work in a number of different ways beyond their effects on blood sugar. This is an area of intense ongoing research.’”

These are just a few of the innovations in kidney disease in 2019. I hope to see many more for us – like the FDA approval of the artificial kidney – in 2020.

Until next year,

Keep living your life!

AKI & CKD

Aha! Dana contacted me and here’s the blog I promised him. (Still looking for the request from the woman who waited so patiently for me to recover from my surgery. Please contact me again.) Dana asked about AKI, Acute Kidney Injury, and how aggressively his nephrologist should be pursuing treatment of this. He and his nephrologist feel that his AKI may have been caused by strep.

I know I write about CKD, Chronic Kidney Disease, so what is AKI? The glossary in my very first CKD book, What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, tells us ‘acute’ means:

“Extremely painful, severe or serious, quick onset, of short duration; the opposite of chronic.” This is what I wrote about AKI and CKD in SlowItDownCKD 2017,

“I’d always thought that AKI and CKD were separate issues and I’ll bet you did, too. But Dr. L.S. Chawla and his co-writers based the following conclusion on the labor of epidemiologists and others. (Note: Dr. Chawla et al wrote a review article in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2014.)

‘Chronic Kidney Disease is a risk factor for acute kidney injury, acute kidney injury is a risk factor for the development of Chronic Kidney Disease, and both acute kidney injury and Chronic Kidney Disease are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Not surprisingly, the risk factors for AKI {Once again, that’s acute kidney injury.} are the same as those for CKD… except for one peculiar circumstance. Having CKD itself can raise the risk of AKI 10 times.’

Whoa! If you’re Black, of an advanced age {Hey!}, or have diabetes, you already know you’re at risk for CKD, or are the one out of nine (Update: Now one out of seven.) in our country that has it. Once you’ve developed CKD, you’ve just raised the risk for AKI 10 times. I’m getting a little nervous here….

It makes sense, as researchers and doctors are beginning to see, that these are all connected. I’m not a doctor or a researcher, but I can understand that if you’ve had some kind of insult to your kidney, it would be more apt to develop CKD.

And the CVD risk? Let’s think of it this way. You’ve had AKI. That period of weakness in the kidneys opens them up to CKD. We already know there’s a connection between CKD and CVD (Cardiovascular Disease). Throw that AKI into the mix, and you have more of a chance to develop CVD whether or not you’ve had a problem in this area before. Let’s not go off the deep end here. If you’ve had AKI, you just need to be monitored to see if CKD develops and avoid nephrotoxic {Kidney poisoning} medications such as NSAIDS… contrast dyes, and radioactive substances. This is just so circular!

As with CKD, your hypertension and diabetes {if you have them.} need to be monitored, too. Then there’s the renal diet, especially low sodium foods. The kicker here is that no one knows if this is helpful in avoiding CKD after an AKI… it’s a ‘just in case’ kind of thing to help ward off any CKD and possible CVD from the CKD.”

Dana’s nephrologist put him on a regiment of prednisone for two months. Why? Well, prednisone is an anti-inflammatory drug. WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-acute-kidney-failure#1 offers the following as possible causes of AKI. Notice the very last one and you’ll see how prednisone may be helpful.

  1. Something is stopping blood flow to your kidneys. It could be because of:
  1. You have a condition that’s blocking urine from leaving your kidneys. This could mean:
  1. Something has directly damaged your kidneys, like:

Now we know AKI and Acute Kidney Failure are not the same thing, but it is possible that this nephrologist is using prednisone in an attempt to avoid Acute Kidney Failure.

One thing Dana asked that made me stop cold is “How do you cope with the inevitable aspects?” They are not inevitable, Dana. I am a lay person who has managed to keep my CKD at stage 3 for 11 years. I am also not a magician. What I am is someone who follows the guidelines for keeping my kidneys as healthy as possible.

You’ve already seen a nutritionist – hopefully a renal nutritionist, since a healthy diet is not necessarily a renal healthy diet – so you’re aware of the nutrition aspect of protecting your kidneys. But there’s more. Do you smoke or drink? If so, stop. Do you exercise? If not, start… but with your nephrologist’s supervision. Are you getting adequate sleep and rest? Here’s the hardest guideline: try to avoid stress. Of course, if you have a stressful life, avoiding stress can just be another stress.

As to how aggressively you should expect your nephrologist to treat your AKI (or the CKD resulting from it) really depends upon you and your nephrologist. For example, some think stage 3 is barely CKD and urge you to just keep watch. Others, like my nephrologist, take CKD seriously and have their nutritionists train you re the renal diet and speak with you themselves about the guidelines. As for AKI, again it depends on you, your nephrologist, and the severity of the AKI. Since you have waste product buildup and inflammation, you may need dialysis or a hospital stay… or watchful waiting while taking a medication such as prednisone.’

There seems to be quite a lot of leeway as to the treatment you and your nephrologist decide upon.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Now What? 

Wow! It’s the last month of 2019 already. You may have noticed there was no blog post last week. That’s because I was unexpectedly hospitalized with just my iPhone on me and poor internet at the hospital not once, but twice. But I’m back in the office now.

Today is Dana’s turn to have his request filled. Although, I do wish the reader who graciously agreed to wait until after I’d recovered from major surgery to have her questions answered would contact me again. With so many people at my computer while I was hospitalized, her questions have been, er, mislaid.

Okay, Dana, back to you. Uh-oh, your messages have seemed to disappear, too. Well, I guess that’s the last time I allow anyone to use my computer. I do apologize. Please resend your questions.

Mind you all, I am not a doctor. I’m just a writer who’s taught research writing and been a Chronic Kidney Disease, stage 3 patient for 11 years. Anything I suggest – or that anyone else suggests, for that matter – should be checked with your nephrologist before you act on it

Hmmm, we have to hold off on both questions. Now what? I know. Let’s look at a rare kidney disease. Are you game? Well, will you look at that? I’ve already blogged about some of them on this list by the American Kidney Fund at https://www.kidneyfund.org/kidney-disease/other-kidney-conditions/rare-diseases/  Use the topic drop down on the right side of the blog if you’re seeking info on one of them or let me know if you’d like information about one I haven’t yet written about. Use comment on the blog so it doesn’t get lost.

Minimal change disease?  Whatever could that be? And why is it labeled in plain, laymen English rather than medical terms that we’d have to look up? Let’s find out.

According to the National Kidney Fund at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/minimal-change-disease,

“Many diseases can affect your kidney function by attacking and damaging the glomeruli, the tiny filtering units inside your kidney where blood is cleaned. The conditions that affect your glomeruli are called glomerular diseases. One of these conditions is minimal change disease (MCD). Minimal change disease is a disorder where there is damage to your glomeruli. The disease gets its name because the damage cannot be seen under a regular microscope. It can only be seen under a very powerful microscope called an electron microscope. Minimal change disease is the most common cause of nephrotic syndrome in children. It is also seen in adults with nephrotic syndrome, but is less common. Those with MCD experience the signs and symptoms of nephrotic syndrome much quicker than they would with other glomerular diseases.”

This is so logical it makes me wonder why the rest of medicine isn’t. I was referring to the part about the electron microscope. Let’s slow down a bit and take a look at “nephrotic syndrome” to ensure we fully understand what this disease is about.

The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/nephrotic-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20375608 tells us,

“Nephrotic syndrome is a kidney disorder that causes your body to excrete too much protein in your urine.

Nephrotic syndrome is usually caused by damage to the clusters of small blood vessels in your kidneys that filter waste and excess water from your blood. Nephrotic syndrome causes swelling (edema), particularly in your feet and ankles, and increases the risk of other health problems.”

Got it? Okay, then back to minimal change disease. How, in heaven’s name, do you get it? Hmmm, after surfing the internet for a while, it’s become clear the medical community doesn’t yet know the cause of minimal change disease, although the following may be involved:

“The cause is unknown, but the disease may occur after or be related to:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Use of NSAIDs
  • Tumors
  • Vaccinations (flu and pneumococcal, though rare)
  • Viral infections”

Thank you MedlinePlus (part of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, which is part of the National Institutes of Health) at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000496.htm.

All right then, maybe we could move on to the symptoms. This is clearly one of those times I wish I could understand medicalese. The best I could figure out is that, while kidney function remains normal, minimal change disease leads you right into nephrotic syndrome. That is a conglomeration of symptoms, as explained by Merck Manual Consumer Version at https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/kidney-and-urinary-tract-disorders/kidney-filtering-disorders/nephrotic-syndrome?query=Minimal%20Change%20Disease#v761896:

“Early symptoms include

  • Loss of appetite
  • A general feeling of illness (malaise)
  • Puffy eyelids and tissue swelling (edema) due to excess sodium and water retention
  • Abdominal pain
  • Frothy urine

The abdomen may be swollen because of a large accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity (ascites). Shortness of breath may develop because fluid accumulates in the space surrounding the lungs (pleural effusion). Other symptoms may include swelling of the labia in women and, in men, the scrotum. Most often, the fluid that causes tissue swelling is affected by gravity and therefore moves around. During the night, fluid accumulates in the upper parts of the body, such as the eyelids. During the day, when the person is sitting or standing, fluid accumulates in the lower parts of the body, such as the ankles. Swelling may hide the muscle wasting that is progressing at the same time.

In children, blood pressure is generally low, and blood pressure may fall when the child stands up (orthostatic or postural hypotension). Shock occasionally develops. Adults may have low, normal, or high blood pressure.

Urine production may decrease, and kidney failure (loss of most kidney function) may develop if the leakage of fluid from blood vessels into tissues depletes the liquid component of blood and the blood supply to the kidneys is diminished. Occasionally, kidney failure with low urine output occurs suddenly.

Nutritional deficiencies may result because nutrients are excreted in the urine. In children, growth may be stunted. Calcium may be lost from bones, and people may have a vitamin D deficiency, leading to osteoporosis. The hair and nails may become brittle, and some hair may fall out. Horizontal white lines may develop in fingernail beds for unknown reasons.

The membrane that lines the abdominal cavity and abdominal organs (peritoneum) may become inflamed and infected. Opportunistic infections—infections caused by normally harmless bacteria—are common. The higher likelihood of infection is thought to occur because the antibodies that normally combat infections are excreted in the urine or not produced in normal amounts. The tendency for blood clotting (thrombosis) increases, particularly inside the main veins draining blood from the kidneys. Less commonly, the blood may not clot when clotting is needed, generally leading to excessive bleeding. High blood pressure accompanied by complications affecting the heart and brain is most likely to occur in people who have diabetes or systemic lupus erythematosus.”

So, while the name of the disease is written in plain language, it’s clear this is a more complicated rare kidney disease than that would suggest.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Nephritis without the Lupus


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Interstitial Nephritis                    

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

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

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

  1. Pyelonephritis

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

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

  1. Glomerulonephritis

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

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

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

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

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

  1. IgA Nephropathy (Berger’s Disease)

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

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

  1. Alport Syndrome

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

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

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

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

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

Interstitial nephritis

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

Pyelonephritis

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

Glomerulonephritis

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

What causes acute nephritis?

Each type of acute nephritis has its own causes.

Interstitial nephritis

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

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

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

Pyelonephritis

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

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

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

Glomerulonephritis

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Is it Blood Sugar or the Pancreas?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is all starting to make sense.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Dapagliflozin/SGLT2 inhibitors

I’ve been reading a lot about dapagliflozin lately. That’s a word I didn’t know. And this is the perfect opportunity to learn about it. Ready? Let’s start.

The obvious first stop to my way of thinking was Medline Plus, part of the U.S. Library of Medicine, which in turn, is part of the Institutes of National Health at https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a614015.html.

“Dapagliflozin is used along with diet and exercise, and sometimes with other medications, to lower blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes (condition in which blood sugar is too high because the body does not produce or use insulin normally). Dapagliflozin is in a class of medications called sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors. It lowers blood sugar by causing the kidneys to get rid of more glucose in the urine. Dapagliflozin is not used to treat type 1 diabetes (condition in which the body does not produce insulin and, therefore, cannot control the amount of sugar in the blood) or diabetic ketoacidosis (a serious condition that may develop if high blood sugar is not treated).

Over time, people who have diabetes and high blood sugar can develop serious or life-threatening complications, including heart disease, stroke, kidney problems, nerve damage, and eye problems. Taking dapagliflozin, making lifestyle changes (e.g., diet, exercise, quitting smoking), and regularly checking your blood sugar may help to manage your diabetes and improve your health. This therapy may also decrease your chances of having a heart attack, stroke, or other diabetes-related complications such as kidney failure, nerve damage (numb, cold legs or feet; decreased sexual ability in men and women), eye problems, including changes or loss of vision, or gum disease. Your doctor and other healthcare providers will talk to you about the best way to manage your diabetes.”

SGLT2 inhibitors? Hey, that was going to be next week’s blog… or so ignorant me thought. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at https://www.fda.gov/drugs/postmarket-drug-safety-information-patients-and-providers/sodium-glucose-cotransporter-2-sglt2-inhibitors explains what a SGLT2 inhibitor is.

“SGLT2 inhibitors are a class of prescription medicines that are FDA-approved for use with diet and exercise to lower blood sugar in adults with type 2 diabetes. Medicines in the SGLT2 inhibitor class include canagliflozin, dapagliflozin, and empagliflozin. They are available as single-ingredient products and also in combination with other diabetes medicines such as metformin. SGLT2 inhibitors lower blood sugar by causing the kidneys to remove sugar from the body through the urine. The safety and efficacy of SGLT2 inhibitors have not been established in patients with type 1 diabetes, and FDA has not approved them for use in these patients.”

There are also quite a few warnings about amputations and urinary tract infections caused by SGLT2 inhibitors on this site, although they are dated 8/20/18.

 

So it seems that dapagliflozin is one of several medications classified as SGLT2 inhibitor. So let’s concentrate on SGLT2s inhibitors then. Hmmm, is this some medication requiring injections or do you just pop a pill? Pharmacy Times at https://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/health-system-edition/2014/september2014/sglt2-inhibitors-a-new-treatment-option-for-type-2-diabetes more than answered my question. It’s their chart you see above this paragraph.

Wait a minute. According to their chart, dapagliflozin is not recommended if your GFR is below 60, or stage 3 CKD. Canagliflozin is not recommended if your GFR is below 45. Your kidney function is a big factor in whether or not this drug can be prescribed for you.

But why? Exactly how do the kidneys process this drug? The following diagram from The National Center for Biotechnology Information, part of the U.S. National Library, which in turn (again) is part of the National Institutes of Health at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/core/lw/2.0/html/tileshop_pmc/tileshop_pmc_inline.html?title=Click%20on%20image%20to%20zoom&p=PMC3&id=3889318_13300_2013_42_Fig1_HTML.jpg will give you the visual. Basically, the SLGT2 inhibitor prevents the glucose in your blood from re-entering your blood stream after your blood has been filtered. The glucose has nowhere to go, so it exits your body via your urine along with the other wastes.

What about the side effects, since we already know the limitations of prescribing SLTG2 inhibitors? I thought  WebMd at  https://www.medicinenet.com/sglt2_inhibitors_type_2_diabetes_drug_class/article.htm#how_do_sglt2_inhibitors_work might enlighten us and they certainly did.

”On Aug. 29, 2018, the FDA issued a warning that cases of a rare but serious infection of the genitals and area around the genitals have been reported with the class of type 2 diabetes medicines called SGLT2 inhibitors. This serious rare infection, called necrotizing fasciitis of the perineum, is also referred to as Fournier’s gangrene.

SGLT2 inhibitors are FDA-approved for use with diet and exercise to lower blood sugar in adults with type 2 diabetes. SGLT2 inhibitors lower blood sugar by causing the kidneys to remove sugar from the body through the urine. First approved in 2013, medicines in the SGLT2 inhibitor class include canagliflozin, dapagliflozin, empagliflozin, and ertugliflozin. In addition, empagliflozin is approved to lower the risk of death from heart attack and stroke in adults with type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Untreated, type 2 diabetes can lead to serious problems, including blindness, nerve and kidney damage, and heart disease.

Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any symptoms of tenderness, redness, or swelling of the genitals or the area from the genitals back to the rectum, and have a fever above 100.4 F or a general feeling of being unwell. These symptoms can worsen quickly, so it is important to seek treatment right away.

On May 15, 2015, the FDA informed the public that SGLT2 inhibitors have been associated with increased risk of ketoacidosis in people with diabetes.

Common side effects

The most common side effect of SGLT2 inhibitors include:

Serious side effects of SGLT2 inhibitors include:

Whoa. It looks like there will have to be some serious discussions with your nephrologist before you agree to taking a SLGT2 inhibitor should he or she suggest it. Make sure you have your list of questions ready and someone to listen carefully and take notes.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

That Looks Swollen       

Remember I mentioned that several readers have asked questions that would become blogs? For example, one reader’s question became last week’s blog concerning creatinine and PTH. Another reader’s question became this week’s blog about lymphedema. She was diagnosed with it and wondered if it had anything to do with her protein buildup.

She’s a long time reader and online friend, so she already knows I remind those that ask questions that I am not a doctor and, no matter what I discover, she must speak with her nephrologist before taking any action based on what I wrote. That is always true. I’m a CKD patient just like you. The only difference is that I know how to research (Teaching college level Research Writing taught me a lot.) and happen to have been a writer for decades before I was diagnosed. Just take a look at my Amazon Author Page at amazon.com/author/gailraegarwood . But enough about me.

Anyone know what lymphedema is? I didn’t when I first heard the word, although my Hunter College of C.U.N.Y education as an English teacher gave me some clues. Edema had something to do with swelling under the skin. Actually, we can get more specific with The Free Medical Dictionary at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/-edema :

“suffix meaning swelling resulting from an excessive accumulation of serous fluid in the tissues of the body in (specified) locations”

I took a guess that lymph had to do with the lymph nodes. Using the same dictionary, but this time at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/lymph, I found this:

“The almost colourless fluid that bathes body tissues and is found in the lymphatic vessels that drain the tissues of the fluid that filters across the blood vessel walls from blood. Lymph carries antibodies and lymphocytes (white blood cells that help fight infection) that have entered the lymph nodes from the blood.”

Time to attach the suffix (group of letters added at the end of a word that changes its meaning) to the root (most basic meaning of the word) to come up with a definition of lymphedema. No, not my definition, the same dictionary’s.

“Swelling, especially in subcutaneous tissues, as a result of obstruction of lymphatic vessels or lymph nodes, with accumulation of lymph in the affected region.”

I found this definition at https://www.thefreedictionary.com/lymphedema, but if you switch the search options at the top of the page from dictionary to medical dictionary, you’ll find quite a bit of information about lymphedema.

Okay, we know what lymphedema is now but what – if anything – does that have to do with protein buildup? This is the closest I could come to an answer that

  1. Wasn’t too medical for me to understand and
  2. Had anything to do with the kidneys.

“A thorough medical history and physical examination are done to rule out other causes of limb swelling, such as edema due to congestive heart failure, kidney failure, blood clots, or other conditions.”

It’s from MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/lymphedema/article.htm#how_is_lymphedema_diagnosed

My friend, while a Chronic Kidney Disease patient, is not in renal failure. Was there something I missed?

Johns Hopkins Medicine at https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/treating-lymphedema gives us our first clue. It seems that lymphedema is a buildup of a specific fluid: protein-rich:

“Lymphedema is an abnormal buildup of protein-rich fluid in any part of the body as a result of malfunction in the lymphatic system.”

Malfunction in the lymphatic system? What could cause that? According to Lymphatic Education & Research at https://lymphaticnetwork.org/living-with-lymphedema/lymphatic-disease:

Secondary Lymphedema (acquired regional lymphatic insufficiency) is a disease that is common among adults and children in the United States. It can occur following any trauma, infection or surgery that disrupts the lymphatic channels or results in the loss of lymph nodes. Among the more than 3 million breast cancer survivors alone, acquired or secondary lymphedema is believed to be present in approximately 30% of these individuals, predisposing them to the same long-term problems as described above. Lymphedema also results from prostate, uterine, cervical, abdominal, orthopedic cosmetic (liposuction) and other surgeries, malignant melanoma, and treatments used for both Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Radiation, sports injuries, tattooing, and any physical insult to the lymphatic pathways can also cause lymphedema. Even though lymphatic insufficiency may not immediately present at the time any of the events occur, these individuals are at life-long risk for the onset of lymphedema.”

I know the reader who has asked the question has a complex medical history that may include one or more of the conditions listed above. As for the protein buildup, we already know that kidneys which are

not working well don’t filter the protein from your blood as well as they could. So, is there a connection between this reader’s protein buildup and her lymphedema? Sure looks like it.

While the following is from BreastCancer.org at https://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/lymphedema/how/start, it is a simple explanation that may apply to other causes of lymphedema, too:

“… lymph nodes and vessels can’t keep up with the tissues’ need to get rid of extra fluid, proteins (Gail here: my bolding), and waste.… the proteins and wastes do not get filtered out of the lymph as efficiently as they once did. Very gradually, waste and fluid build up…. “

Ready for a topic change? The World Health Organization offers this pictograph for our information. Notice diabetes, one of the main causes of Chronic Kidney Disease.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Which Comes First?

Periodically, a blog will actually be the response to a reader’s question. I’ve received several questions lately. The first thing I do when I receive a question is to be sure the reader understands that I am not a doctor and that no matter what I research for them, they must clear the information with their nephrologist before taking any action. Today’s question was asked by a long time reader who already understands my terms for researching for her.

That’s a pretty big build up for a common sense question. But, at least now you understand how I handle reader questions and may want to ask one (or more) of your own.

Back to the question at hand: What is the connection between PTH and creatinine and which causes a problem with the other?

What’s PTH, you ask. Let’s find out. You and your Hormones: an educational source from the Society of Endocrinology at https://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/parathyroid-hormone/ was a great deal of help here:

“Alternative names for parathyroid hormone

PTH; parathormone; parathyrin

What is parathyroid hormone?

The parathyroid glands are located in the neck, just behind the butterfly-shaped thyroid gland.

Parathyroid hormone is secreted from four parathyroid glands, which are small glands in the neck, located behind the thyroid gland. Parathyroid hormone regulates calcium levels in the blood, largely by increasing the levels when they are too low. It does this through its actions on the kidneys, bones and intestine:

  1. Bones – parathyroid hormone stimulates the release of calcium from large calcium stores in the bones into the bloodstream. This increases bone destruction and decreases the formation of new bone.
  2. Kidneys – parathyroid hormone reduces loss of calcium in urine. Parathyroid hormone also stimulates the production of active vitamin D in the kidneys.
  3. Intestine – parathyroid hormone indirectly increases calcium absorption from food in the intestine, via its effects on vitamin D metabolism

Got it? Okay then let’s remind ourselves what creatinine is. I wrote the following in last December 24th’s blog:

“A good place to start is always at the beginning. By this, I wonder if I mean the beginning of my Chronic Kidney Disease awareness advocacy as the author of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease and the blog or if I mean the basics about creatinine. Let’s combine them all. The following definition is from the book which became the earliest blogs:

Creatinine clearance: Compares the creatinine level in your urine with that in your blood to provide information about your kidney function’

Hmmm, that didn’t exactly work. Let’s try again. Bingo! It was in SlowItDownCKD 2014,

Creatinine: chemical waste product that’s produced by our muscle metabolism and to a smaller extent by eating meat. {MayoClinic.org}”

That was nine years ago, but the information remains the same today.

So now, we know what both PTH and creatinine are, but what’s the connection? According to VIVO Pathophysiology, Colorado State University at http://www.vivo.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/endocrine/thyroid/pth.html :

Suppression of calcium loss in urine: In addition to stimulating fluxes of calcium into blood from bone and intestine, parathyroid hormone puts a brake on excretion of calcium in urine, thus conserving calcium in blood. This effect is mediated by stimulating tubular reabsorption of calcium. Another effect of parathyroid hormone on the kidney is to stimulate loss of phosphate ions in urine.”

To recap so far, we know what both PTH and creatinine are and what the connection between the two is. Now we need to know if one causes the other and, if so, which.

Chronic kidney failure. Your kidneys convert vitamin D into a form that your body can use. If your kidneys function poorly, usable vitamin D may decline and calcium levels drop. Chronic kidney failure is the most common cause of secondary hyperparathyroidism.”

Thank you to the Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyperparathyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20356194 for this information.

 

Whoops! You may need a few reminders to understand the Mayo Clinic’s information, so here they are. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium properly. Calcium is necessary for strong bones and teeth. Many people don’t know it’s also necessary for blood clotting, nerves and heart. “Hyper” means over or, in this case, high as in above the necessary. Remember that when calcium or vitamin D is low, PTH rises. In my mind’s eye, I see a scale balancing the two out.

I did not find any information about PTH causing high creatinine. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any. It just means there isn’t any I could access. I found a journal site that looked promising, but it turned out to be for endocrinologists only. Too bad for us.

I do hope I’ve answered my reader’s question to her satisfaction. I know I enjoyed learning all this new information. You’re right: that’s my signal for a topic change.

“The Kidney Project is a national research initiative with a goal to create a small, surgically implanted, and free-standing bioartificial kidney to treat renal failure. RSN Founder and President Lori Hartwell catches up with Dr. Shuvo Roy who is a bioengineer professor at the University of California San Francisco to learn what is next for the Kidney Project and when clinical trials might begin. Dr. Shuvo Roy is passionate about this device that will mimic the kidneys and take the place of dialysis. Listen in to this exciting and hopeful show.

Listen in to the first conversation about the Kidney Project with Dr. Shuvo Roy.

 Learn more about the Kidney Project and Dr. Shuvo Roy

It’s an exciting time in the world of Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness right now. Even the government has acknowledged it’s time to deal with CKD patients. Keep on the lookout for more and more updates.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

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!

Diabetic Neuropathy or Not: I WILL Dance Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Are the Main Ways That Neuropathy Is Treated?

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

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

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

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

Here are some other ways diabetic neuropathy may be treated:

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Like Life?

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

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

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

“not being, involving, or affecting bone marrow”

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

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

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

“biosimilar

(bī′ō-sĭm′ə-lər)

adj.

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

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

n.

A biological product that is biosimilar to an existing product,

especially to a biologic”

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

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

“A biosimilar is a biological product

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

Large and generally complex molecules

Produced from living organisms

Carefully monitored to ensure consistent quality

Meet FDA’s rigorous standards for approval

Are manufactured in FDA-licensed facilities

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

A biosimilar is highly similar to a reference product

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

Purity

Molecular structure

Bioactivity

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

A biosimilar has no clinically meaningful differences from a reference product

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

Pharmacokinetic and, if needed, armacodynamic studies

Immunogenicity assessment

Additional clinical studies as needed

Studies may be done independently or combined.

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

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

Meet FDA’s rigorous standards for approval

Are manufactured in FDA-licensed facilities

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

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

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

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

Wikipedia offered this interesting difference between Pharmacokinetic and Pharmacodynamics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

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!

Don’t Know Much about FSGS…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How is FSGS Diagnosed?

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

What are the Symptoms of FSGS?

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

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

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

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

High Cholesterol in some cases

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

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

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

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

How is FSGS treated?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

That’s Not a Kind of Kidney Disease.  Or Is It?

It’s like I’m attuned to anything kidney. After eleven years of writing about Chronic Kidney Disease, I’ll bet I am. Sometimes, it’s the smallest connection that triggers something in my mind. For example, Sjögren’s syndrome kept nagging at me, although I’d never heard of it as a sort of kidney disease. So, what was it and what did it have to do with the kidneys? I went right to the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation at https://info.sjogrens.org/conquering-sjogrens/sjogrens-kidney-disease for information.

Sjögren’s & Kidney Disease

by Philip L. Cohen, MD, Professor of Medicine, Temple University School of Medicine 

About 5% of people with Sjögren’s develop kidney problems. In most of these patients, the cause is inflammation around the kidney tubules, where urine is collected, concentrated, and becomes acidic. The infiltrating blood cells (mostly lymphocytes) injure the tubular cells, so that the urine does not become as acidic as it should. This condition, called distal renal tubular acidosis, is frequently asymptomatic, but can cause excessive potassium to be excreted in the urine, and may lead to kidney stones or (very rarely) low enough blood potassium to cause muscle weakness or heart problems. Very occasionally, injury to the renal tubules can cause impairment in the ability to concentrate urine, leading to excessive urine volume and increased drinking of fluids (nephrogenic diabetes insipidus).

A smaller number of patients with Sjögren’s may develop inflammation of the glomeruli, which are the tiny capillaries through which blood is filtered to produce urine. This may cause protein to leak into the urine, along with red blood cells. Sometimes a kidney biopsy is needed to establish the exact diagnosis and treatment. Treatment options may include corticosteroids and immunosuppressive drugs to prevent loss of kidney function.

This information was first printed in The Moisture Seekers, SSF’s patient newsletter for members.”

This reminds me of when I was teaching critical thinking on the college level. First, we’d hit the class with an article about something foreign to them and then, we’d show them how to figure out what it meant. For our purposes, a few explanations and perhaps a diagram or two might be a good place to start.

Tubules, huh? What are those? Actually, the word just means tube shaped. Remembering that renal and kidney mean the same thing, we can see the problem area.

Here’s another picture. This one to show you glomeruli.

Now remember, CKD patients are usually limited as to how much fluid they can drink per day. Too much forces the kidneys to work too hard to clear the urine from your body. Remember the car analogy from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease?

As for potassium, that’s one of the electrolytes CKD patients need to be aware of. This article by Dr. Parker on Healthy Way at http://www.bmj-health.com/what-does-potassium-do/ explains:

“Potassium does many important functions in the body. This essential mineral is mainly found inside the cells of our body. Low potassium levels are associated with many health conditions including hypertension, irregular heartbeat, and muscle weakness. We should take adequate amounts of potassium-rich foods for a healthy life.

Potassium is essential for the heart

We need potassium to maintain the blood pressure within normal range. There should be a balance between sodium and potassium in the body to regulate our blood pressure. Too much sodium and too little potassium can elevate your blood pressure.

In addition, potassium is needed for the contraction of the heart. Potassium levels in the blood should be kept nearly constant or within a narrow range for the proper pumping action of the heart. The heart may stop beating if we have high or low levels of potassium in the blood.

We need potassium for stronger muscles

Most of the potassium in the body is found inside the muscle cells. It is the main positively charged ion inside the cells. It is essential for the contraction of muscles. Low levels of potassium are associated with muscle twitching, cramps and muscle weakness. Very low levels can cause paralysis of the muscles.

Hypokalemic periodic paralysis is a disorder that causes occasional episodes of muscle weakness and paralysis caused by lower levels of potassium in the blood. It is a genetic condition that runs in families.

It is essential for nerve conduction

Sodium and potassium are needed to maintain the electrical potential across the nerve cells. This electrical charge is essential for the conduction of nerve signals along the nerves.

It protects from stroke

Researchers found eating potassium-rich foods is associated with reduced incidents of stroke. A recent study conducted in postmenopausal women supports the findings. One of the co-researchers says, ‘post-menopausal women should eat more potassium-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, milk and unprocessed meats in order to lower their risk of stroke and death’.

It is important for water and electrolyte balance in the body

Water and electrolyte balance is maintained by the kidneys. This is one of the important functions of the kidneys. Aldosterone, a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands plays the primary role in the balance of sodium and potassium.

The normal blood level of potassium is 3.5 to 5 mmol/l. A level of less than 3.5 is called hypokalemia, and more than 5 is called hyperkalemia. To achieve the normal blood level, we need to take about 4 to 5 grams of potassium per day. An average size banana will provide about 25% of daily requirement.

It is recommended to eat foods that have plenty of potassium. In addition, your diet should contain low amounts of sodium (salt). Taking supplements is not a good idea. It can cause many side effects.

People who have certain medical conditions such as chronic kidney failure should not eat large amounts of potassium-rich foods.

People who take certain types of medications should consult a doctor about their potassium intake. Some may need additional intake while others may need to restrict the intake of potassium rich foods.”

So, while Sjögren’s syndrome may not be a kind of kidney disease, it can affect your kidneys. Thanks for keeping me company while I made the connection for myself.

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!

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Thank you to Dr. Seuss for lending us the title of today’s blog. Oh, you haven’t heard of him yet? According to Encyclopaedia Britannica at https://www.britannica.com/biography/Dr-Seuss:

“Dr. Seuss, pseudonym of Theodor Seuss Geisel, (born March 2, 1904, Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.—died September 24, 1991, La Jolla, California), American writer and illustrator of immensely popular children’s books, which were noted for their nonsense words, playful rhymes, and unusual creatures.”

And why begin the blog with the title of his book you ask. Last month, I received an email from booknowmed.com. Now, I’m not endorsing this new company since I’m not on dialysis and so have not made use of their services myself. However, after reading about the difficulties my dialysis readers were having finding a clinic while they traveled, I was intrigued. Could this be another way to lessen the burden of being on dialysis?

This is from that email:

“What is booknowmed.com?

Whether you travel for holidays or for work, with booknowmed.com you can now find dialysis clinics that have availability for your treatment dates and book your treatments on the spot, anywhere in the World. And most importantly, booknowmed.com is FREE for patients.

  • Browse 440+ dialysis centers, in 380 destinations across 5 continents.
  • Find clinics that have availability based on your search criteria.
  • Know the price of treatment, before booking.
  • See ratings and read reviews from previous patients at the clinic.
  • Book your treatments on the spot in safety.
  • No booking fees, no hidden costs.
  • Track the progress of your booking, directly from your account.

Booknowmed.com is supported by the European Union and 60 national Kidney Patient Associations globally.”

Based on this alone, I asked Vassia Efstathiou, the User Experience Manager, if she’d be interested in guest blogging… and she was.  This is what she had to say, with just a bit of editing from me.

“Free booking engine for dialysis treatments? Dream or reality?

Travelling while on dialysis is a challenge on its own. Consider having to research, book and coordinate your dialysis treatments abroad. This process can be particularly stressful for dialysis patients, especially when faced with language barriers, lack of information – like the availability of clinics and cost of treatments- and, of course, safety concerns.

Many dialysis patients know this already but the power of the Internet alone cannot do much in this case. So it is definitely good news to hear that the first booking engine for holiday dialysis is live, and even better news to see that it actually works. Let alone the fact that it is free for patients!

Since its launch, thousands of dialysis patients have used booknowmed.com to book more than 27,000 treatments around the globe.

booknowmed.com allows dialysis patients to browse, find and book their dialysis treatments anywhere in the World. We are talking literally – anywhere.

By visiting booknowmed.com you will be able to browse more than 450 dialysis centers in 380 destinations, across five continents. This includes standard holiday options like Spain, Greece, and Turkey, as well some less ordinary destinations like Bali, Sri Lanka, Miami, Brazil and Argentina. Cuba, Barbados, and Curacao are coming up this month.

Bookings are completely free for patients, meaning there are no booking or other hidden costs. Overall the platform is very user-friendly and the booking process is very simple:

  1. Patients select their treatment dates and desired destination.
  2. They are then presented with a list of the clinics that match their search criteria and – most importantly – have availability for the requested dates.
  3. Booking is completed after a simple registration process, which is there for safety reasons. The process takes three minutes and includes registering the patient’s full name, email, and telephone number.

But let’s examine what differentiates booknowmed.com to the online directories currently available to dialysis patients.

Firstly, we are talking about a booking engine where you can book your treatments on the spot. In contrast to online directories, booknowmed.com allows you to know the availability and price before booking. You can select your exact treatment dates and preferred shift, and complete your booking without picking up the phone or waiting for a reply that takes weeks. Consider that the average booking time on booknowmed.com is six minutes compare to 15 days, the average booking time when you contact the clinic directly or go through a directory service.

Secondly, you have a wide variety of options to choose from, not only in terms of destination but also in terms of the type of the medical facility. booknowmed.com offers the largest network of independent dialysis centers. From global leaders – like Diaverum – to public and private hospitals as well as independent state-of-the-art clinics around the globe.

Thirdly, the simplicity of the booking process itself.

And last, but definitely not least, the great features offered to patients, which promote transparency and allow them to have all the information in hand before booking. These include:

  • Know the price of treatment before booking.
  • Use smart filters to narrow down your research. If you are an EU patient, for example, you can select to be presented with only the clinics that accept the EHIC.
  • See ratings and read reviews written by real patients who have completed treatment at this particular clinic.
  • Track the progress of your booking through your account. All the details of the booking including the exact time frame of the treatment, contact details of the clinic, and even a map with instructions on how to get there can be found in your account.

booknowmed.com was created by professionals with years of expertise in renal healthcare and the goal to serve a true need for patients. It has received the support of the European Union as well as of national kidney patient associations globally.

The company has plans to expand the functionalities of the platform, with the goal to become a 360o platform serving various everyday needs of renal patients, from nutrition and supplements to an online database and the online exchange of medical reports.

booknowmed.com is the living proof that we have entered a new era for dialysis patients, who can now find and book treatments abroad, with no hassle, no risk, and no language barriers.

Gail here, hoping this is exactly what you’ve been looking for to make your travel while on dialysis an easier experience for you.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

CKD and Me

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

*****

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

*****

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

 

Arizona Health & Living  (West Valley)  6/2018

 

MyTherapy Guest Blog    3/8/18

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

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

 

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

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

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

The Edge Podcast  5/19/16

Dear Annie   3/10/14

Renal Diet Headquarters Podcast   2/12/14

 

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

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

The Neuropathy Doctor’s News   9/23/13

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

Indian Community   9/12/13

 

KidneySteps: Gail Rae and SlowItDown  9/11/13

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

National Kidney Foundation: Staying Healthy  6/6/13

KidneySteps: Learning Helps with CKD    7/04/12

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

It Is Just What It Is    3/9/12

Online with Andrea    03/07/12

 

Working with Chronic Illness  2/17/12

 

Libre Tweet Chat with Gail Rae   1/10/12

Kevinmd.com   1/1/12

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

Glendale Community College Gaucho Gazette   8/22/11

 

The NephCure Foundation   8/21/11

Authors Show Radio    8/8/11

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

I’m Finally Ready to Let National Kidney Month Go

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

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

But let’s complete the book chapter:

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

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

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

Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness

Chronic Kidney Disease in India

CKD (Kidney Failure) Support Group International

Dialysis & Kidney Disease

Friends Sharing Positive Chronic Kidney Disease

I Hate Dialysis

Kidney Disease Diet Ideas and Help

Kidney Disease Ideas and Diets1

Kidney Disease is not a Joke

Kidney Disease, Dialysis, and Transplant

Kidney Warriors Foundation

Kidneys and Vets

Mani Trust

Mark’s Private Kidney Disease Group

P2P

People on Dialysis

Sharing your Kidney Journey

Stage 3 ‘n 4 Kidneybeaners Gathering Place

The Transplant Community Outreach

UK Kidney Support

Women’s Renal Failure

Wrap Up Warm for Kidney Disease

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

National Kidney Month Extended

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

*****

I realized I needed to rest, too. Instead of giving a lecture, running to an audition, and coming home to meet a deadline, I slowly started easing off until I didn’t feel like I was running on empty all the time. The result was that I ended up graciously retiring from both acting and teaching at a local college, which gave me more time to work on my CKD awareness advocacy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

To Continue…

National Kidney Month is just flying by. This is actually the last week and I doubt I’ll be able to post the rest of the 1in9 chapter before next month. But then again, it’s always Kidney Month for those of us with Chronic Kidney Disease. By the way, thank you to the reader who made it a point of telling me she can’t wait to read the rest of the chapter. Sooooo, let’s get started!

***

Nephrologist switch. The new one was much better for me. He explained again and again until I understood and he put up with a lot of verbal abuse when this panicky new patient wasn’t getting answers as quickly as she wanted them. Luckily for me, he graciously accepted my apology.

After talking to the nephrologist, I began to realize just how serious this disease was and started to wonder why my previous nurse practitioner had not caught this. When I asked her why, she responded, “It was inconclusive testing.” Sure it was. Because she never ordered the GFR tested; that had been incidental! I feel there’s no sense crying over spilled milk (or destroyed nephrons, in this case), but I wonder how much more of my kidney function I could have preserved if I’d known about my CKD earlier.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are 13 early signs of chronic kidney disease. I never experienced any of them, not even one. While I did have high blood pressure, it wasn’t uncontrollable which is one of the early signs. Many, like me, never experienced any noticeable symptoms. Unfortunately, many, like me, may have had high blood pressure (hypertension) for years before CKD was diagnosed. Yet, high blood pressure and diabetes are the two leading causes of CKD. I find it confusing that uncontrollable high blood pressure may be an early sign of CKD, but hypertension itself is the second leading cause of CKD.

Here’s the part about my researching. I was so mystified about what was happening and why it was happening that I began an extensive course of research. My nephrologists did explain what everything meant (I think), but I was still too shocked to understand what they were saying. I researched diagnoses, descriptions of tests, test results, doctors’ reports, you name it. Slowly, it began to make sense, but that understanding only led to more questions and more research.

You’ve probably already guessed that my world changed during that first appointment. I began to excuse myself for rest periods each day when I went back East for a slew of family affairs right after. I counted food groups and calories at these celebrations that summer. And I used all the errand running associated with them as an excuse to speed walk wherever I went and back so I could fit in my exercise. Ah, but that was just the beginning.

My high blood pressure had been controlled for 20 years at that time, but what about my diet? I had no clue there was such a thing as a kidney diet until the nutritionist explained it to me. I’m a miller’s granddaughter and ate anything – and I do mean anything – with grain in it: breads, muffins, cakes, croissants, all of it. I also liked lots of chicken and fish… not the five ounces per day I’m limited to now.

The nutritionist explained to me how hard protein is on the kidneys… as is phosphorous… and potassium… and, of course, sodium. Out went my daily banana—too high in potassium. Out went restaurant burgers—larger than my daily allowance of protein. Chinese food? Pizza? Too high in sodium. I embraced an entirely new way of eating because it was one of the keys to keeping my kidneys functioning in stage 3.

I was in a new food world. I’d already known about restricting sodium because I had high blood pressure, but these other things? I had to keep a list of which foods contain them, how much was in each of these foods, and a running list of how much of each I had during the day so I knew when I reached my limit for that day.

Another critical piece of slowing down CKD is medication. I was already taking meds to lower my blood pressure when I was first diagnosed with CKD. Two more prescriptions have been added to this in the last decade: a diuretic that lowers my body’s absorption of salt to help prevent fluid from building up in my body (edema), and a drug that widens the blood vessels by relaxing them. I take another drug for my brand new diabetes. (Bye-bye, sugars and most carbs.) The funny thing is now my favorite food is salad with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I never thought that would happen: I was a chocoholic!

Exercise, something I loved until my arthritis got in the way, was also important. I was a dancer. Wasn’t that enough? Uh-uh, I had to learn about cardio and strength training exercise, too. It was no longer acceptable to be pleasantly plumb. My kidneys didn’t need the extra work. Hello to weights, walking, and a stationary bike. I think I took sleep for granted before CKD, too, and I now make it a point to get a good night’s sleep. A sleep apnea device improved my sleep—and my kidney function rose.

I realized I needed to rest, too. Instead of giving a lecture, running to an audition, and coming home to meet a deadline, I slowly started easing off until I didn’t feel like I was running on empty all the time. The result was that I ended up graciously retiring from both acting and teaching at a local college, which gave me more time to work on my CKD awareness advocacy.

***

There’s so much more to tell you about my personal CKD journey… and you’ll read more of it next week. Although, I should remind you that the entire book is available in print and digital on both Amazon.com and B&N.com, just as the entire SlowItDownCKD series of books is.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

From a Book…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

World Kidney Day, 2019

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

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

 

According to http://worldkidneyday.org,

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

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

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

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

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

Objectives:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

National Kidney Month, 2019

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

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

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

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

Focus on the Kidneys During National Kidney Month in March

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Bulking Up

While I make sure to state that I’m not a doctor, I’m not always certain my readers get that. This is why I was so glad that a reader asked me a question about her doctor’s advice, prefacing her question by stating that she knows I’m not a doctor. I feel better.

Her question? It’s about fiber and Chronic Kidney Disease. But first, let’s find out exactly what fiber is. According to Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health at https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/fiber/,

Fiber comes in two varieties, both beneficial to health:

  • Soluble fiber, which dissolves in water, can help lower glucose levels as well as help lower blood cholesterol. Foods with soluble fiber include oatmeal, nuts, beans, lentils, apples and blueberries.
  • Insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water, can help food move through your digestive system, promoting regularity and helping prevent constipation. Foods with insoluble fibers include wheat, whole wheat bread, whole grain couscous, brown rice, legumes, carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes.

The best sources of fiber are whole grain foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, and nuts.”

We all know people need fiber, but do you know why? I found the answer stated the most succinctly on Verywell Fit’s site at https://www.verywellfit.com/all-about-fiber-2242215.

“Besides reducing the glycemic effect of meals and contributing to colon health, there is evidence that fiber may benefit us in other ways. It seems to help lower cholesterol and triglycerides, and also may help to prevent:

  • Ulcers, particularly in the beginning of the small intestine (duodenal ulcers)
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Cancer”

As a diabetic, I understand why I need fiber, but what about as a CKD patient? DaVita at https://www.davita.com/diet-nutrition/articles/basics/fiber-in-the-kidney-diet has that one covered:

“Adequate fiber in the kidney diet can be beneficial to people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) because it:

  • Keeps GI (gastrointestinal) function healthy
  • Adds bulk to stool to prevent constipation
  • Prevents diverticulosis (pockets inside the colon)
  • Helps increase water in stool for easier bowel movements
  • Promotes regularity
  • Prevents hemorrhoids
  • Helps control blood sugar and cholesterol”

Hmmm, this is very similar to reasons why everyone – CKD or not – should pay attention to fiber. But, take a look at this list of high fiber foods from the Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/high-fiber-foods/art-20050948:

Fruits                                              Serving size              

Raspberries 1 cup 8.0
Pear 1 medium 5.5
Apple, with skin 1 medium 4.5
Banana 1 medium 3.0
Orange 1 medium 3.0
Strawberries 1 cup 3.0

 

Vegetables Serving size Total fiber (grams)*
Green peas, boiled 1 cup 9.0
Broccoli, boiled 1 cup chopped 5.0
Turnip greens, boiled 1 cup 5.0
Brussels sprouts, boiled 1 cup 4.0
Potato, with skin, baked 1 medium 4.0
Sweet corn, boiled 1 cup 3.5
Cauliflower, raw 1 cup chopped 2.0
Carrot, raw 1 medium 1.5

 

Grains Serving size Total fiber (grams)*
Spaghetti, whole-wheat, cooked 1 cup 6.0
Barley, pearled, cooked 1 cup 6.0
Bran flakes 3/4 cup 5.5
Quinoa, cooked 1 cup 5.0
Oat bran muffin 1 medium 5.0
Oatmeal, instant, cooked 1 cup 5.0
Popcorn, air-popped 3 cups 3.5
Brown rice, cooked 1 cup 3.5
Bread, whole-wheat 1 slice 2.0
Bread, rye 1 slice 2.0

 

Legumes, nuts and seeds Serving size Total fiber (grams)*
Split peas, boiled 1 cup 16.0
Lentils, boiled 1 cup 15.5
Black beans, boiled 1 cup 15.0
Baked beans, canned 1 cup 10.0
Chia seeds 1 ounce 10.0
Almonds 1 ounce (23 nuts) 3.5
Pistachios 1 ounce (49 nuts) 3.0
Sunflower kernels 1 ounce 3.0

*Rounded to nearest 0.5 gram.

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Legacy Release

Looks delicious, doesn’t it. So what’s the problem? Well, CKD patients are restricted in their diets… and even the permissible foods are restricted as far as amounts we can eat. It all depends upon our most current lab results. Do we need less potassium? Then we need to eat even less potassium rich food. The same is true for all the electrolytes. That means our diets may not contain enough fiber.

CKD is an inflammatory disease. Fiber can lower inflammation. So what’s a CKD patient to do?

My reader was recommended supplements by her doctor. One was Solfi Green, something new to me.

I went to MIMS in the Philippines (while a new site to me, they self-describe as “Asia’s one-stop resource for medical news, clinical reference and education”)  at https://www.mims.com/philippines/drug/info/solfi%20green?type=full  for the ingredients and found this:

Ingredients: Fructose, Mixed Fruit Powder, Mixed Vegetable Powder, Soluble Dietary Fiber, Physllium (sic) Husk, Oat Fiber, Wheat Fiber, Citric Acid, Wheat Grass, Alfalfa, Rooibos Extract, Contains Permitted Food Conditioner.”

Wait a minute, Psyllium Husk? I clearly remember writing that this can cause inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. We need to decrease, not increase inflammation as CKD patients. I would steer clear of this.

Would my reader need to steer clear if she were a dialysis or transplant patient? Drugs.com at https://www.drugs.com/drug-interactions/psyllium.html  doesn’t seem to think any specific dosage reduction is necessary, but they also don’t mention it can cause inflammation or that it is high in potassium. Dialysis patients, beware. If you’re a transplant, you simply need to watch your labs as you would anyway. Just keep in mind psyllium husk can be both an inflammatory and laxative.

Another supplement suggested to my reader is C-lium fiber. I went directly to their website at http://c-liumfibre.com/faq/index.html#Q15  and found this warning in their FAQ:

“If you have rectal bleeding, history of intestinal blockage, difficulty swallowing, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, hypertension, kidney disease, or if you are on a low-sugar or low-sodium diet, contact your doctor before taking C-Lium Fibre.”

Obviously, my reader has gone to her doctor since these two supplements were prescribed by her doctor. I have to make a confession here. When something is prescribed for me, I research it. If I don’t like what I find, I speak with my doctor. If she can explain in more detail or tell me something that is not in my research which I should be aware of to make an informed decision and it’s all positive, I go with the prescription. If not, well….

Of course, you have to make your own decision, just as I do. Here’s hoping this has helped my reader.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Kidney Anxiety

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

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

“Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is from SlowItDownCKD 2014 and may be helpful here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

I’ll be Glowing!

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

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

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

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

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

“TECHNIQUE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“HIDA scan:

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

Study Result Impression:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few announcements, if you please:

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Double Whammy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Antibiotic – Medication used to treat infection.

Chronic – Long term, the opposite of acute.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Click here to Register!

 

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

United States: +1 (562) 247-8422

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

Audio PIN: Shown after joining the webinar

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

And Yet Again

I didn’t think I’d be writing about the flu this year, yet I am. Why? Because, despite thinking I was safe since I didn’t have it in December as usual, I have it now. Actually, I’m in the I-feel-like-an-old-dishrag stage now. Humph, that’s probably why it took me six days to do the laundry (I’m still not done with the putting away) and the dishes. We were lucky enough to have my daughter and new son-in-law do the marketing for us. But it was only then that it became apparent she has it, too.

I have written before about the fact that the flu shot doesn’t guarantee you won’t get the flu, but that if you are one of the unlucky ones to get the flu after the shot, it will not be as virulent. Thank goodness. It’s day seven and I’m just now reaching the stage where I can do something… writing, dishes, laundry…IF I get back into bed for at least an hour between tasks. To be honest, sometimes I have to interrupt those tasks to take that hour rest.

I have read some good murder mysteries and thrillers while listening to silence. Then I could tolerate the television and discovered Dr. Bramwell on Amazon Prime. Terrific for someone who loves Victoriana (I did write Portal in Time and am seriously considering the requests for a sequel.)

But what’s different about the flu and the flu shot this year, I wondered as soon as I felt better enough to wonder about anything. This is the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/spotlights/flu-season-updates-2018.htm. By the way, they have loads of information about this year’s flu season, but you may have to use the glossary which they so thoughtfully provide.

January 11, 2019 – With the 2018-2019 flu season well underway, CDC today estimated that so far this season, between about 6 million and 7 million people have been sick with flu, up to half of those people have sought medical care for their illness, and between 69,000 and 84,000 people have been hospitalized from flu. CDC expects flu activity to continue for weeks and continues to recommend flu vaccination and appropriate use of antiviral medications.

Flu vaccination is the first line of defense to prevent flu and its potentially serious complications, including death in children. Flu vaccines have been shown to be life-saving in children, in addition to having other benefits.  Flu vaccination has been shown in several studies to reduce severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick. Antiviral drugs are a second line of defense that can be used to treat flu illness. CDC recommends that people who are very sick or people who are at high risk of serious flu complications who develop flu symptoms should see a health care provider early in their illness for possible treatment with a flu antiviral drug.

CDC’s weekly FluView reports when and where influenza activity is occurring, what influenza viruses are circulating and their properties, and reports the impact influenza is having on hospitalization and deaths in the United States based on data collected from eight different surveillance systems.

So far this season, H1N1 viruses have predominated nationally, however in the southeast, H3N2 viruses have been most commonly reported. The number of states reporting widespread activity increased this week to 30 from 24 states last week. While levels of influenza-like-illness (ILI) declined slightly over the previous week in this week’s report, ILI remains elevated and 15 states and New York City continue to experience high flu activity. There also was a decline in the percent of respiratory specimens testing positive for flu at clinical laboratories however this number remains elevated also.  During some previous seasons, drops in ILI and the percent of specimens testing positive for flu have been observed following the holidays.”

Surprisingly to me, Business Insider at https://www.businessinsider.com/flu-shot-2018-effectiveness-availability-where-to-get-2018-9 answered my question about how the flu shot is different this year.

“The formulation has been changed in two key ways: the nasty H3N2 strain that sickened many people last year has been updated, and the influenza B virus targeted for protection in the vaccine has been changed, too. So far, the revamped vaccines look promising.

‘It appears that the virus is doing a little better job, if we look at what’s gone on in the southern hemisphere season,’ Webby said. [Richard Webby, an infectious disease expert at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital.]

Down south in Australia, for example, it’s been a fairly mild flu season, with flu activity circulating at ‘low’ levels, according to the Australian Department of Health. That may not perfectly translate to an equally mild flu season up north, but what Webby’s seen so far suggests that the shot is also combatting the flu better than it did last year.

Okay, I took the vaccine, am having a less virulent bout of the flu but it’s still here. Now what? The Kidney Foundation of Canada at https://www.kidney.ca/treating-the-common-cold-and-flu—tips-for-kidney-patients offered a succinct answer:

  1. For most people with kidney disease, acetaminophen(Tylenol®) is safe to use for headache, pain and fever.
  2. Cold and flu medications that contain decongestants may increase blood pressure. In addition, avoid cough and cold medications that contain ASA or NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications) such as ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) or naproxen (Aleve®). If you have to use a decongestant, use a nasal spray or nasal drops. (Note: these nasal sprays are habit forming. If you use them more than three days in a row, the blood vessels in your nose can become dependent on the spray.)
  3. Sore throat?Many cough syrups and throat lozenges contain sugar. Make sure you read the label to check the ingredients list, prior to use. Some sugar free or sucrose-free products are available on the market. Gargling with salt water may also be an effective way to soothe a sore throat.
  4. Avoid herbal remedies.Herbal medications and products are not regulated in the same way that pharmaceutical products are. Therefore, the list of ingredients is not always accurate and some herbal medicines have been found to contain pesticides, poisonous plants, hormones, heavy metals and other compounds that are potentially dangerous. Some herbal medications also include diuretics, high levels of potassium, and/or other ingredients that can affect the kidneys or interact with your prescription medications to change their effectiveness.
  5. Vitamin C is not the answer. High doses of vitamin C (500 mg or more) can cause damage to kidneys. There is a specially formulated multivitamin for people with kidney disease that has the right amount of vitamins that your kidneys can handle. Ask your healthcare team about this.

Questions?  Your pharmacist and members of your kidney health team are the best source of information. Ensure you read the label, even on over the counter medications that you’ve taken before, as ingredients do change from time to time. If you have severe symptoms that are lasting longer than 7 days, you should see your doctor.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

At the Heart of the Matter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OR

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

A Creatinine Christmas Present

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

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

A good place to start is always at the beginning. By this, I wonder if I mean the beginning of my Chronic Kidney Disease awareness advocacy as the author of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease and the blog or if I mean the basics about creatinine. Let’s combine them all. The following definition is from the book which became the earliest blogs:

Creatinine clearance: Compares the creatinine level in your urine with that in your blood to provide information about your kidney function”

Hmmm, that didn’t exactly work. Let’s try again. Bingo! It was in SlowItDownCKD 2014,

“Creatinine: chemical waste product that’s produced by our muscle metabolism and to a smaller extent by eating meat. {MayoClinic.org}”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

A Different Kind of Fatigue

Busy with the holidays? Chanukah has passed, but we still have Christmas, Kwanzaa, and the New Year coming up. Feeling like you’re just too tired to deal with them? Maybe even fatigued? What’s the difference, you ask. Let’s go to Reuters at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-fatigued-tired-s-idUSCOL75594120070207 for the answer:

“’People who are tired,’ Olson [Dr. Karin Olson, with the faculty of nursing at the University of Alberta] explained, ‘still have a fair bit of energy but are apt to feel forgetful and impatient and experience muscle weakness following work, which is often alleviated by rest.

People who are fatigued, on the other hand, experience difficulty concentrating, anxiety, a gradual decrease in stamina, difficulty sleeping, and increased sensitivity to light. They also may skip social engagements once viewed as important to them.’”

Got it. When I was describing how tired I was to another caretaker, her suggestion was to have my adrenals checked. Hmmm, what does that have to do with Chronic Kidney Disease I wondered. Let’s find out.

First of all, what and where are the adrenals? As I reported in SlowItDownCKD 2016,

“According to Reference.com, a new site for me at https://www.reference.com/science/function-adrenal-gland-72cba864e66d8278:

“Adrenal glands are triangular-shaped, measure approximately 1.5 inches high and 3 inches long and are composed of two parts, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. The outer part is the adrenal cortex, which creates cortisol, aldosterone and androgen hormones. The second part is the adrenal medulla, which creates noradrenaline and adrenaline.

Cortisol is a hormone that controls metabolism and helps the body react to stress, according to Endocrineweb. It affects the immune system and lowers inflammatory responses in the body. Aldosterone helps regulate sodium and potassium levels, blood volume and blood pressure. Androgen hormones are steroid hormones that are converted to female or male hormones in other parts of the body.

Noradrenaline helps regulate blood pressure, increasing it during times of stress, notes Endocrineweb. Adrenaline is often associated with the adrenal glands, and it increases the heart rate and blood flow to the muscles and the brain.”

Okay then, is adrenal fatigue exactly what it sounds like? According to Dr. James L. Wilson at http://adrenalfatigue.org/what-is-adrenal-fatigue/:

“Adrenal fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms, known as a syndrome, that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level. Most commonly associated with intense or prolonged stress, it can also arise during or after acute or chronic infections, especially respiratory infections such as influenza, bronchitis or pneumonia. As the name suggests, its paramount symptom is fatigue that is not relieved by sleep but it is not a readily identifiable entity like measles or a growth on the end of your finger.

You may look and act relatively normal with adrenal fatigue and may not have any obvious signs of physical illness, yet you live with a general sense of unwellness, tiredness or ‘gray’ feelings. People experiencing adrenal fatigue often have to use coffee, colas and other stimulants to get going in the morning and to prop themselves up during the day.”

I still wanted to know what the connection to CKD was. LiveStrong at https://www.livestrong.com/article/139350-adrenal-glands-kidneys/ had the following to say about the connection:

“Blood Pressure

The adrenals and kidneys also work together to regulate blood pressure. The kidneys make renin, which is a chemical messenger to the adrenals. The renin put out by the kidneys signals the adrenals to make three hormones: angiotensin I, angiotensin II and aldosterone. These hormones regulate fluid volumes, vascular tension and sodium levels, all of which affect blood pressure.

Prednisone

Many kidney patients take prednisone to minimize the amount of protein spilled into the urine by the kidneys. Prednisone also has a powerful effect on the adrenal glands.

Prednisone acts as a corticosteroid, just like the ones produced by the adrenals. When patients take prednisone, the adrenals cease producing corticosteroids. When patients stop taking prednisone, they gradually taper the dosage down to give the adrenal glands the opportunity to ‘wake up’ and start producing corticosteroids again”.

I don’t take prednisone and my blood pressure is under control via medication. Where does this leave me… or you if you’re in the same situation?

I went to WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/adrenal-fatigue-is-it-real#1 for more information.

“Your body’s immune system responds by slowing down when you’re under stress. Your adrenal glands, which are small organs above your kidneys, respond to stress by releasing hormones like cortisol. They regulate your blood pressure and how your heart works.

According to the theory, if you have long-term stress (like the death of a family member or a serious illness), your adrenal glands can’t continuously produce the extra cortisol you need to feel good. So adrenal fatigue sets in.”

This makes sense to me, although adrenal fatigue is not accepted by the Endocrine Society as a diagnose and there are warnings that accepting it as one may mask another problem (read disease) with the same symptoms. I am a caretaker as well as a CKD patient. I am under constant stress even when I’m sleeping. You’ve heard of sleeping with one eye open? I sleep with one ear open, but I do sleep so I can rule out tiredness.

While writing this blog has helped me understand what adrenal fatigue is and how it might affect me, I’m still going to keep my cardiology appointment to explore why my blood pressure is often ten points higher in one arm than another. That’s also a possible heart problem. Maybe adrenal fatigue is affecting how my heart is working … or maybe it’s a blockage somewhere. Why take a chance?

In the meantime, I intend to partake of as many of those holiday party invitations as I can. I can always come home early if I have to or I can rest before they start. Here’s hoping you do the same whether or not you think you have adrenal fatigue.

Oh, there’s still plenty of time to order any of my books on Amazon.com or B&N.com in time for the remaining holidays. There are links to the right of the blog for the kidney books. Click on these links for the fiction: Portal in Time and Sort of Dark Places.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Happy Holidays!

The holiday season is upon us full strength right now, but you have Chronic Kidney Disease. You don’t need the stress associated with the holiday season. The National Kidney Fund at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/Stress_and_your_Kidneys explains why:

“As the blood filtering units of your body, your kidneys are prone to problems with blood circulation and blood vessels. High blood pressure and high blood sugar can place an additional strain or burden on your kidneys. People with high blood pressure and diabetes are at a higher risk for kidney disease. People with kidney disease are at higher risk for heart and blood vessel disease. If you already have heart and blood vessel disease and kidney disease, then the body’s reactions to stress can become more and more dangerous. Therefore, whether your goal is to prevent heart and/or kidney disease, or improve your health while living with heart and/or kidney disease, managing stress is an important part of maintaining your overall health.”

So what’s a CKD patient to do? First, you need to identify that you are stressed. In an article on caretaker stress at https://www.davita.com/education/ckd-life/caregiver/caregiver-stress-and-chronic-kidney-disease, DaVita outlined some of the symptoms. These are the same whether you’re the patient or the caretaker. I happen to be both a CKD patient and my Alzheimer’s husband’s caretaker, although we call me his care partner as suggested by the Alzheimer’s Association.

Physical signals

  • Inability to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Change in posture—walking with your head down or with a stooped posture
  • Chronic headaches, neck pain or back pain

Emotional signals

  • Anger
  • Frequent crying spells
  • Inability to think clearly or concentrate
  • Excessive mood swings
  • Feelings of sadness that don’t go away

Behavioral signals

  • Withdrawing from usual activities and relationships
  • Quitting or changing jobs frequently
  • Becoming more impulsive and over-reacting to things
  • Using alcohol or drugs to feel better

Uh-oh, I recognize quite a few of these in myself. How about you?

Today is the last day of the eight day Chanukah celebration for us and all of you who celebrate this holiday. We usually throw a blowout party for anywhere from 30 to 50 people. But just a couple of months ago, we hosted a blowout pre-wedding potluck party for my daughter and her fiancé … and it was wonderful. Yet, it was clear that we can no longer handle undertaking such large parties. I had expressed my doubts last year about how long we’d be able to keep up the Chanukah party.

I was getting more and more stressed dealing with Bear’s medical issues and my own and then the party, so I did what I consider the logical thing to do, I delegated. We’ll still have the party, but a friend of my daughter’s will be hosting it. Instead of assigning different foods to specific guests, we’ve asked them to let us know what they’re be bringing. No prepping of the house (Shiloh sheds an entire other dog every few days) and no post party clean up. More importantly, no stress. I just bring the religious articles necessary and toss in a batch of cranberry chicken as my food contribution. Easy-peasy.

My very capable neighbor came in with cookies she’d just baked the other day. She knows about Bear’s sweet tooth. We started chatting as we’re wont to do and she brought up the point that she finds delegating stressful. Amy wants to make sure whatever it is that’s being delegated is done and done well, so she has to be careful about who she choices. I see her point, but I think that if you know your friends and family and how responsible (or not) each is, this shouldn’t be a problem.

But enough about me. What else can you do to reduce your stress at this time of year?

One thing is make sure you aren’t overeating. Avoiding comfort eating can be a real struggle. According to Baylor College of Medicine’s Dr. Sreedhar Mandayam in an article at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-11-overeating-holidays-bad-kidneys.html,

“For people with kidney disease, even eating normal amounts of food puts stress on their kidneys. If you consume large amounts of carbohydrates, protein or fat the stress on an overworked, half functioning kidney will get even worse and can accelerate your kidney dysfunction.”

How about exercising? This is when I get on the exercise bike and watch a good movie. Why? The Mayo Clinic at  https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469 explains far better than I could:

Exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, which puts more pep in your step every day. But exercise also has some direct stress-busting benefits.

  • It pumps up your endorphins. Physical activity helps bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a runner’s high, a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike also can contribute to this same feeling.
  • It’s meditation in motion. After a fast-paced game of racquetball or several laps in the pool, you’ll often find that you’ve forgotten the day’s irritations and concentrated only on your body’s movements.

As you begin to regularly shed your daily tensions through movement and physical activity, you may find that this focus on a single task, and the resulting energy and optimism, can help you remain calm and clear in everything you do.

  • It improves your mood. Regular exercise can increase self-confidence, it can relax you, and it can lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Exercise can also improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety. All of these exercise benefits can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life.

 

Of course, you could give yourself permission to curl up with a good book for half an hour or so. You might like Portal in Time or Sort of Dark Places for sheer escapism or any of the SlowItDownCKD series (including What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease) for edifying yourself. Oh, the shameless self-promotion here! All are available on Amazon although,personally, if I’m stressed, I want pure escapism.

 

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Say That Again

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

This is from SlowItDownCKD  2011:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to WebMD

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

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

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

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

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

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

“SUMMARY

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

DETAIL REPORT

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!