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My Personal Experience With Kidney Disease

Having two kidneys provides a backup system in case one kidney becomes damaged or diseased. If one kidney is removed or fails, the other kidney can compensate and take over the majority of its functions.

Having two kidneys provides a backup system in case one kidney becomes damaged or diseased. If one kidney is removed or fails, the other kidney can compensate and take over the majority of its functions.

The Day I Was Diagnosed

"You have stage 3 kidney disease."

"Wh-what?"

That's pretty much how the conversation went with my primary care physician in January of 2021 after she had done my yearly "workup" of lab tests, urine analysis, etc.

I couldn't understand how she could be so calm! I had visions of me and one of my children lying on tables next to each other holding hands as they generously gave me one of their kidneys, allowing themselves to be cut (and I am quoting my mother here): "From asshole to appetite."

So, instead of asking her a thousand questions, I decided to read, read, read everything I could find about the various stages of kidney disease, including information on how much longer I could plan on living. This article encompasses all of the things that I learned, either from books or from my own personal experience with the disease.

The five stages of kidney disease

The five stages of kidney disease

"Me Too"

After I told my husband about my diagnosis, I called both of my grown children to let them know (I didn't want to suffer alone). Then, I called my sister, Susie, who is three years older than I am. When I told her about my diagnosis, she replied: "Me too."

How dare she? I was thinking to myself how she ought to get her own disease and leave me to wallow in the sorrow of my kidney disease.

Turns out that stage 3 kidney disease sounds a lot worse than it is—and apparently my wiser sister had already read all of the information on it. If my physician hadn't told me I had it, I certainly wouldn't have known it. I still wouldn't know. I have no symptoms, no pain, and no problems.

Since I was diagnosed, the only pain reliever I have been able to take is Tylenol, which is acetaminophen and not an NSAID.

Since I was diagnosed, the only pain reliever I have been able to take is Tylenol, which is acetaminophen and not an NSAID.

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

I've had migraine headaches since I was 23 years old, and I remember the first one the way people remember the day President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed. It was memorable, to say the least. For years, when I had a severe migraine headache, I had to go to the emergency room for shots that would knock me out, keep me from puking, and allow me to wake up headache-free.

My Terrible Chosen Alternative to ER

Then, I discovered Excedrin Migraine medicine, which is pretty much aspirin and caffeine.

Up until my kidney disease diagnosis, I had probably taken thousands of those pills, which knocked my migraine out within about 20 minutes. That little bottle of pills was available over the counter and much cheaper than emergency room visits.

It turns out, however, they may be the reason for my kidney disease, as I can no longer take NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like aspirin. I used to keep several bottles around the house within reach of wherever I might be and never hesitated to pop a few when I felt a headache coming on.

At the time I viewed them as lifesavers.

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Unfortunately, NSAIDs can cause the kidneys to retain salt and water, which can cause swelling and high blood pressure, and also may cause the kidneys to produce less urine, which can lead to kidney failure. They may also irritate the kidneys and cause inflammation and scarring, which can lead to irreversible kidney damage.

People with kidney disease should use NSAIDs with caution and only under the guidance and supervision of their doctor.

So, the importance of cutting out NSAIDs was one of the first things I learned.

Drinking water is important if you have kidney disease but drinking the right amount of water, depending on the stage of your disease, is even more important.

Drinking water is important if you have kidney disease but drinking the right amount of water, depending on the stage of your disease, is even more important.

Importance of Drinking Right Amount of Water

My physician told me to drink 64 ounces of water every day.

Well, I can tell you right away that is impossible for me. I manage to drink (possibly) about 48 ounces a day of flavored water, which she said would be fine. I drink Clearly American Sparkling Water from Wal-Mart, but other than two cups of coffee in the morning, water is all I drink. It helps that I hate the taste of any type of cola.

Not Too Much, Not Too Little

If you have kidney disease, there are some guidelines on drinking water that you need to know.

Drinking enough water is important for anyone with kidney disease, as it can help to flush out waste products and toxins from the body. Adequate hydration also helps to prevent dehydration, which can cause further damage to the kidneys.

However, depending on the stage and type of kidney disease, the amount of water that a person should drink may vary. For example, in the early stages, drinking more water may help to prevent dehydration and reduce the risk of kidney stones. However, in later stages, drinking too much water can cause the body to retain too much fluid, which can lead to swelling, high blood pressure, and heart failure.

You should talk to your healthcare provider about how much water to drink each day. You may also need to monitor your fluid intake and limit certain fluids, such as those that are high in sodium or potassium.

Be mindful of the signs of dehydration, such as dark yellow urine, dry mouth, and fatigue, and seek medical attention if they occur.

So, the importance of water was the second thing I learned about kidney disease.

Stages of Kidney Disease

There are five stages of kidney disease, also known as chronic kidney disease (CKD), which are:

  • Stage 1: Kidneys are slightly damaged, and there is a normal or high glomerular filtration rate (GFR) of 90 or above.
  • Stage 2: Kidneys are moderately damaged, and there is a mild decrease in GFR of 60-89.
  • Stage 3: Kidneys are moderately to severely damaged, and there is a moderate decrease in GFR of 30-59.
  • Stage 4: Kidneys are severely damaged, and there is a severe decrease in GFR of 15-29.
  • Stage 5: Kidneys have failed, and there is a very low GFR of less than 15. This stage is also known as end-stage renal disease (ESRD), and requires dialysis or a kidney transplant to maintain life.

The stages of kidney disease are determined by the estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), which is calculated using a formula that includes creatinine level, age, sex, and some other parameters.

Regular monitoring of kidney function and close follow-up with a healthcare provider are important in managing kidney disease and preventing its progression. Early diagnosis and intervention can help slow the progression of the disease and prevent further damage to the kidneys.

So, the last thing I learned was that stage 3 is not as bad as it sounds. It could be a whole lot worse. At this time, there are tens of thousands of people waiting for kidney transplants in the United States alone.

References and Further Reading

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2023 Mike and Dorothy McKenney

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