Kidney Damage and Blood Pressure
The kidneys are filters of our blood. In the kidneys are tiny units called nephrons that remove waste and extra fluid from the blood to be excreted as the urine. In addition, the kidneys produce and respond to hormones that regulate blood pressure. Therefore, when the kidneys are damaged, not only do waste and excessive fluid accumulate and cause damage on the body, the body also loses a vital means of controlling its blood pressure.
The reverse is also true: high blood pressure can damage the kidneys. The excessive force that propels the blood throughout the body can cause tears to the vessels supplying the kidneys. Fat deposits at the tear sites narrow the vessels, which may become blocked. When this happens, the kidneys are deprived of nutrients and oxygen, and they lose their functions. The accumulation of excessive fluid further raises blood pressure, resulting in a vicious cycle. In fact, hypertension is the second leading cause of kidney failure after diabetes. Knowing the risk factors and managing your blood pressure are some of the initial steps to protecting your kidneys.
Who should be checked?
Individuals at the early stages of kidney disease may not exhibit any symptoms. By the time the symptoms are noticed, the kidneys may have lost 50% of their functions. An estimate of two million Canadians are unaware that they are at risk for or have kidney disease.
A blood test is often needed for testing the functions of the kidneys, and a urine test for testing potential damage to the kidneys. If you have the following risk factors, consider ordering a test with your doctor:
Living with diabetes
High blood pressure
Family history of renal disease