If You Feel Pain or Weakness Here, Get Your Kidneys Checked
This strange disorder affects nearly all patients with severe kidney disease.
Over 37 million Americans—or one in seven adults—are currently living with chronic kidney disease (CKD). While the condition causes some better known symptoms, such as the gradual loss of kidney function, it can also come with some more surprising ones that affect different parts of the body. In fact, experts warn that there's one symptom that can gradually damage an important body part, causing pain and weakness beyond the kidneys.
To make matters worse, experts say that this condition appears in nearly all cases of severe CKD. "The disorder is almost always found in the more than 785,000 Americans who have kidney failure and are either on dialysis or had a kidney transplant," writes the National Institute of Health (NIH). However, it can also appear in the earlier stages of the disease. Read on to find out which symptom to look out for, and why you should always let your doctor know if you have pain or weakness in this area.
If you feel pain or weakness in your bones, have your kidneys checked.
Your kidneys are primarily responsible for removing waste and extra fluid from your body. However, they also help maintain adequate levels of minerals and nutrients, keeping your bones strong. If you suffer from kidney disease or kidney failure, these functions cease to work, leaving you vulnerable to a condition known as mineral and bone disorder.
Among those with severe chronic kidney disease, this condition is surprisingly prevalent. "Anyone with CKD is likely to have some level of mineral and bone disorder," writes the NIH. "As kidney function declines, mineral and bone disorder progresses. The disorder is almost always found in the more than 785,000 Americans who have kidney failure and are either on dialysis or had a kidney transplant."
This particular disorder occurs when there is an imbalance in your blood levels of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D. This imbalance causes the parathyroid glands to release extra parathyroid hormone (PTH) into your blood "to move calcium from your bones to restore your blood calcium levels," explains the health organization. This in turn removes much needed calcium from the bones, resulting in bone pain, weakness, brittleness, or even misshapen bones—a collection of symptoms known as renal osteodystrophy.
This condition may worsen existing heart disease.
Besides damaging your bones, mineral and bone disorder can also affect your heart and blood vessels, says the National Kidney Foundation. When calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D levels get out of balance, calcium can build up in the heart and blood vessels, which is known to cause or worsen heart disease.
Additionally, high levels of phosphorus from mineral and bone disorder can cause calcification of the blood vessels, leaving them hardened over time. Those who develop vascular calcification are at higher risk for cardiovascular events such as heart attack, heart failure, blood clots, and more.
You may also notice these other symptoms.
If you do develop mineral and bone disorder, you're likely to have several other symptoms besides those affecting your bones, blood vessels, and heart. People with the condition often report itchy skin, anemia, nerve damage, and "difficulty fighting off germs," says the National Kidney Foundation.
If you suspect mineral and bone disorder, there are several ways for your doctor to screen you for the condition. First, they will most likely run blood tests to check your blood for calcium, phosphorus, PTH, and vitamin D. Next, they may order an abdominal x-ray or EKG of the heart, which can give insights into the state of your heart, blood vessels, and more. Finally, in rare cases, a doctor may perform a biopsy of your bones to identify changes in bone structure or density.
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There are several possible treatment options.
Your doctor may be able to help you minimize the symptoms of mineral and bone disorder by controlling your hormone and mineral levels, thereby preventing bone and blood vessel damage.
In less severe cases, you may see improvements as a result of dietary changes, medication, and mineral supplements, says the NIH. In more severe cases, patients may require dialysis, a kidney transplant, or need further surgery to remove the parathyroid glands.
Speak with your doctor now if you believe you may have symptoms of mineral and bone disorder, or any other signs of kidney disease.