Our kidneys are the bean shaped organs located behind our abdomen in our body. However, bean-shaped doesn’t mean bean-sized. Infact, they are fist-sized. 👊🏾
Their job is to filter waste substances in our blood, regulate water and other body fluids such as plasma, and control the ion concentration, pH, hormones etc. in our body.
There are severe repercussions when our kidneys do not perform their day-to-day tasks. Problems as little as a blockage in one of its vessels, can manifest into kidney disorders.
Children are just as prone to kidney disorders as adults are, surprisingly enough, kidney disorders aren’t only caused by drugs and alcohol abuse. In fact there are certain kidney diseases prone to children at certain ages.
From Birth to age 4, the leading cause of kidney disorders are birth defects and hereditary diseases. Meaning, if there’s a problem during a child’s development in the womb, it can affect the kidneys. The child could be born with that defect. An example of such a disease is Renal Agenesis. With Renal Agenesis, the newborn is missing either one or both kidneys.
Hereditary diseases can be thought of as a kind of birth defect , that are transferred, through genes, from the parents to the baby. An example of a kidney disorder that is hereditary is PKD, Polycystic Kidney Disorder. This results in many fluid-filled abnormal sacs, known as cysts, developing on your kidneys making them appear larger than normal and more dangerously, interrupting the kidneys function. Hence the name.
Between ages 5 to 14, hereditary diseases, nephrotic syndrome and systemic diseases are the issues to blame for malfunctioning kidneys. The thing about hereditary diseases is that because they are caused by genes, they don’t tend to show unless the gene has been activated. Because of this it can be expressed during any stage of your childhood.
Nephrotic syndrome though is a collective kidney disorder, that is susceptible to children between this age range only (5 to 14 years). It is a combination of Hyperlipidemia, Oedema, Hypoalbuminemia and Albuminuria. The overall cause of nephrotic syndrome is the body excreting too much protein in the urine. This causes salts and extra fluids to build up on your body and leads to oedema, hyperlipidemia and high blood pressure.
Systemic diseases normally affect the whole organ system rather than the organ. Lupus Nephritis – results from systemic lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disease – is a systemic disease that leaves the glomeruli inflammed. This prevents them from filtering blood and leaves a build-up of waste substances in the kidney, which eventually causes kidney failure.
And from 15 to 19 our glomeruli work against us to damage our kidneys. The glomeruli are tiny units in the nephrons of our kidneys that help with blood filteration. When the glomeruli are damaged and can no longer perform their function, it is known as glomeruli disease. Glomeruli disease may be caused by an infection, drugs or a disease such as diabetes or lupus. The different diseases cause different damage to the glomeruli. For example Sclerosis causes the glomeruli to become scarred but inflammations cause it to swell. Either way they damage the glomeruli, and eventually cause a build up of waste substances in the kidney.
Other causes such as trauma or blockage can also lead to kidney failure. Trauma such as burns, bleeding or surgery can result in low blood pressure. This means less blood flows to your kidney resulting in kidney failure. A blockage in the urinary tract, for example, between the kidney and urethra, will cause the urine to flow back into the kidney and can cause serious damage as well as infections. This is know as reflux urine.
Treatment for kidney disorders are dependent on the cause. Children are referred to paediatric nephrologists – a kidney doctor – for treatment. Normally Trauma patients are treated using a dialysis machine. For blockages that don’t go away after a short time, surgery may be needed to remove the obstruction. Reflux patients’ treatment involve treatment of urinary tract infections and use of antibiotics to prevent infections.
Lupus Nephritis patients are treated by trying to control the flares of the disease; it is an autoimmune disease after all. Immosuppressants and medication that lowers blood are used to perform this task.
Other forms of treatment that are way beyond my level of understanding are used for more complex cases such as nephrotic syndrome. Depending on whether it is needed, as in the case of Renal Agenesis, kidney transplants are also a form of treatment.
Although it is hard to be treated if you don’t know you have a kidney disorder. So how do you know you have a kidney disorder? Well one or more of the following tests could be taken: Urine test, Blood test, Imaging studies and Kidney biopsy. The urine test will help estimate the amount of protein excreted, if it’s more than normal then your kidneys aren’t performing their function effectively. Blood tests show how much blood the kidney filters per minute. Imaging studies provide pictures of the kidneys and a Kidney biopsy is a procedure that involves taking tissue from the kidney for examination.
Prevention is better than cure. I don’t know about most of you but I’d prefer to not have a piece of my kidney cut out of me to test to see if I have a kidney disorder, so I think I’ll stick to the path of prevention. Your diet is one of the most important factors that can affect how well the kidneys work. Foods high in both fats and salt tend to increase your blood pressure. An increase in blood pressure can cause the vessels around the kidneys to weaken and become hard. This will eventually decrease the amount of blood carried to the kidneys. A diet high in protein will cause the kidneys to overwork themselves and may eventually cause damage. So you see a diet plan is needed to help your body get the right amount of nutrients to enable your body to function properly. Depending on your body type you can talk to your doctor to help fix one up. If you want to know more about eating healthy and balanced diets, you can refer to our previous article, Body Goals, diet edition.
I know this is a lot of information to take in, and quite scary to be honest. But it is good to know things because an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.