Kidneys: To Love Them Is To Know Them – Dr. Ayu Akida



You don’t know what you have till you lose them.

This common saying is true enough for most things, bits of the body included.  We take our kidneys for granted; we believe that it will be the one organ that will persevere through anything and last us till our final breath. But nowadays, it may be the one thing that fails us first, due to the fact that other related diseases are on the rise, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

So what exactly do they do?

Like other parts of the body, the kidneys are there for a reason. Many reasons, in fact. The one function that is known to almost all is that they filter and remove harmful wastes from the body. They help keep the body’s internal environments in a balanced and constant state and produces hormones that are crucial in the regulation of blood pressure, maintaining calcium in the bones as well as production of blood cells.

So, imagine losing these precious organs. Your body would run havoc. Wastes will build up in your blood, causing a toxic condition that will make you sickly. Your blood pressure would shoot up; there will be a lack in red blood cell production; bones become weak. The possibilities are endless.

Chronic kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) are conditions where the kidneys loses their functions and abilities over time, and are mostly irreversible. However, they may be stopped from getting worse. The culprits of CKD’s are mostly the two conditions mentioned above, namely diabetes and hypertension. Other conditions may also have a say in the development of CKD, such as glomerulonephritis (a group of conditions where there is inflammation and damaged caused to the kidney, especially the internal parts or units that play a major role in the filtering system), inherited kidney diseases such as polycystic kidney disease, developmental malformations that occur even before the baby was born and repeated urinary infections, among others.

In Malaysia, CKD and renal failure are on the rise. The numbers have doubled from ten years ago. More patients are relying on dialysis. Thus, it is important to know your risks.

Time to get it checked?

Persons with early CKD generally do not experience any symptoms that may indicate that they have some sort of kidney problem. Some may not even have any symptoms. Thus, we rely on screening. The list below is a guide to who should be checked for CKD:

  1. Persons with diabetes mellitus
  2. Persons with hypertension
  3. Age >65 years old
  4. There is a family history of CKD or hereditary kidney disease
  5. Structural renal tract disease, renal stones or prostatic enlargement
  6. Blood or protein is detected in your urine
  7. Persons who have taken non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs or commonly known as painkillers) on a prolonged basis or other nephrotoxic (poisonous to the kidney) drugs.
  8. Persons with cardiovascular disease (CVD)
  9. Persons with other multisystem diseases with potential kidney involvement such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. It can affect the skin, joints, kidneys, brain, and other organs).

Screening of CKD is a fairly simple affair, involving just the urine. From there, should there be a need, the doctor may recommend other investigations such as a blood check up or ultrasound.

Phew..I don’t have CKD. Yet.

With our current lifestyle, it is hard to be confident that CKD will not befall upon us. However, there are steps to prevent this.

  1. If you belong in any of the group listed above (see screening list), ensure that you get regular screening for CKD.
  2. If you have diabetes or hypertension, please ensure that your condition is being properly monitored and controlled.
  3. Practice a healthy diet of low fat, salt and sugar content, with more fibre.
  4. Try to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
  5. Quit smoking
  6. Avoid unnecessary use of medications.

Other tips can be found here:

Kidney replacement therapy is no laughing matter. The costs itself is staggering enough, what more the quality of life once you are dependent on it. Thus, before anything wrong can occur, get yourself screened for kidney disease. Remember, screening is vital!

Dr. Ayu Akida is a Public Health specialist. Her area of interest is family health, especially women’s health and infectious diseases. Find out more about her at The Team page.


  • NHMS 2011
  • CPG: Management of chronic kidney disease in adults, 2011
  • National Kidney Foundation, Malaysia

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