Kidneys are vital organs that play a crucial role in filtering waste and excess fluids from our blood. Despite their importance, there are many misconceptions and myths surrounding kidney disease. In this blog, we will debunk a few of the most common kidney disease myths, shedding some light on this often misunderstood condition.
Myth 1: Kidney Disease Always Comes with Back or Side Pain
One of the most persistent myths is that kidney disease is always accompanied by severe back or side pain. While it’s true that kidney infections, stones, or cysts can cause such discomfort, kidney disease often progresses silently, with no noticeable symptoms in the early stages. This lack of symptoms makes regular check-ups and kidney function tests crucial for early detection.
Myth 2: Alcohol Causes Kidney Disease
Another misconception is that excessive alcohol consumption directly causes kidney disease. While heavy drinking can harm your kidneys, especially over time, kidney disease is typically caused by factors like diabetes, high blood pressure, and genetic predisposition. Moderate alcohol consumption, in the absence of these other risk factors, is unlikely to lead to kidney disease.
Myth 3: You Need to Drink 8 Full Glasses of Water to Flush Your Kidneys Daily
The “8×8 rule,” which suggests drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day to maintain healthy kidneys, is a well-known myth. While staying hydrated is essential, your water needs vary depending on factors like your age, activity level, and climate. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, listen to your body and drink when you’re thirsty. Overhydration can also strain your kidneys, so it’s essential to strike the right balance. The notable exceptions are patients who have kidney stones or polycystic kidney disease who are recommended to produce at least 2-3 quarts of urine daily and should drink accordingly.
Myth 4: Frequent Urination Is a Good Sign of Healthy Kidneys
Many people believe that frequent urination indicates healthy kidneys actively filtering waste. However, frequent urination can be a sign of various underlying health issues, including diabetes and urinary tract infections. Moreover, diseased kidneys that are unable to concentrate urine produce large amounts of it while not removing waste products, which results in frequent urination and, subsequently, increased sensation of thirst. On the contrary, chronic kidney disease in late stages can lead to reduced urine output. Therefore, it is crucial not to jump to conclusions based solely on the frequency of urination.
Myth 5: Chronic Kidney Disease Is Uncommon
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is often thought of as rare, but it is more prevalent than you might think. In fact, millions of people worldwide suffer from CKD, and many are unaware of their condition due to its asymptomatic early stages. Regular health check-ups, especially if you have risk factors like diabetes or high blood pressure, can help identify CKD in its early stages when interventions can be most effective.
Myth 6: You Will Know If You Have Kidney Disease
Assuming that kidney disease always presents noticeable symptoms can be a dangerous misconception. As mentioned earlier, kidney disease often progresses silently, showing no symptoms until it reaches advanced stages. Regular kidney function tests are essential for early detection and treatment, especially if you have risk factors or a family history of kidney disease.
Myth 7: Dialysis Is the Only Treatment for Kidney Disease
While dialysis is a life-saving treatment for those with severe kidney failure, it is not the only option. Kidney disease can often be managed through medication, dietary changes, and lifestyle adjustments in its earlier stages. Dialysis is typically considered when kidney function drops below a certain threshold and certain complications arise. Kidney transplantation is another option for those with end-stage kidney disease.
Myth 8: Chronic Kidney Disease Is Genetic and Cannot Be Prevented
While genetics can play a role in kidney disease risk, it is not solely determined by your genes. Many lifestyle factors, such as diet, exercise, and managing conditions like diabetes and hypertension, significantly impact your kidney health. Therefore, taking proactive steps to maintain a healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk of developing CKD or slow its progression if you already have it.
Myth 9: You Need Two Kidneys to Live
While having two healthy kidneys is ideal, it is possible to live a relatively normal life with just one functioning kidney. Living kidney donation is a common procedure, and the remaining kidney can typically compensate for the loss of its counterpart. Also, people born with only one kidney can lead healthy lives with proper medical care and attention to kidney health.
Myth 10: Testing for Kidney Disease Is Cumbersome
Two simple and inexpensive tests performed during a routine visit with your healthcare provider can detect kidney disease. Detecting a certain amount of protein in the urine can be a marker of CKD while a simple blood test to estimate GFR (glomerular filtration rate) will tell you how well your kidneys are working.
It is essential to separate fact from fiction when it comes to kidney disease. Dispelling these common myths can help raise awareness and promote early detection and prevention. Remember that regular check-ups, a healthy lifestyle, and understanding your risk factors are essential in maintaining kidney health. If you have concerns about your kidney health, consult with Dr. Nic Hristea or another one of our healthcare professionals for guidance and support.