Our highly skilled nephrologists (kidney specialists) provide innovative, effective treatment for all types of kidney disease
Kidney disease is a major health issue in the United States. The National Kidney Foundation estimates that more than 26 million adult Americans already suffer from chronic kidney disease (CKD). Millions more are at risk for CKD, with African-Americans, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans and seniors particularly likely to develop the condition.
What is kidney disease?
Chronic kidney disease may be the result of other disorders and illnesses, including diabetes and high blood pressure, and it is strongly associated with higher rates of heart and blood vessel disease, anemia, nerve damage, weak bones and poor nutritional health. In addition to producing hormones that help regulate blood pressure and assisting in the balance of fluids and other substances in the body, your kidneys are responsible for removing waste products from the bloodstream and passing this waste out of the body through urine. As a result, when your kidneys do not function properly, it can have a negative effect on many of your body’s systems.
Not all kidney disease is chronic or long-term. For example, kidney stones are a painful condition in which small crystals or solid clumps of chemicals form in the kidneys and may interfere with the flow of urine. Acute kidney failure involves a rapid, life-threatening decline in kidney function, and can be caused by a number of issues, including injuries or infections.
Nephrology is the area of medicine concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of conditions related to the kidneys. Physicians who specialize in kidney disease are called nephrologists. At Hurley Medical Center, our nephrologists work closely with primary care and internal medicine physicians, cardiologists, endocrinologists and other medical professionals to help identify kidney disease as early as possible in its progression, and provide a variety of treatment options for patients affected by the disorder and its related conditions.
Chronic Kidney Disease
If chronic kidney disease is detected in its early stages, it is easier to treat and manage. Early detection enables the patient and his or her physician to address the underlying causes of poorly functioning kidneys, minimize complications and associated health problems, and achieve better long-term outcomes.
The nephrologists of Hurley Medical Center have developed specific protocols, or methods, to identify those at increased risk for kidney disease and to test for the presence of the condition. Outside of our own offices, we work with the National Kidney Foundation and other community organizations to provide free screenings for CKD to individuals throughout the Flint area who may not have regular access to a physician or health care professional.
When a patient is identified as being at high risk for CKD, additional tests may be performed. These tests may include blood tests, imaging (such as CT scans), and kidney biopsies (in which a tiny piece of the kidney is removed and examined).
When it comes to treating CKD, our most important tool is patient and family education. Understanding the lifestyle issues that may cause or aggravate CKD, and making behavioral changes such as eating a balanced diet and exercising appropriately, can have a significant, positive effect on the progression of the disease. Patients with diabetes are taught to check their blood glucose (blood sugar) levels regularly and may be prescribed insulin to help regulate their condition.
For patients with more severe kidney disease, more aggressive treatments may be necessary, including various forms of dialysis (in which waste is removed from the blood), which can be conducted at home or in a clinic. In the most extreme cases, a kidney transplant may be necessary.
Acute Kidney Failure
Acute kidney failure can be caused by injury, infection, poisoning or illness, and involves temporary or permanent damage that results in the decrease or loss of normal kidney function. The sooner acute kidney failure is detected and treated, the more likely the patient is to have a positive outcome and return to health.
As with chronic kidney disease, your Hurley nephrologist may use a variety of tests to diagnose acute kidney failure, including blood and urine tests; x-rays, ultrasounds and other imaging methods; electrocardiograms (ECG or EKG); and kidney biopsies. Depending on the cause of the kidney failure, treatment options may include hospitalization, intravenous (IV) fluids, medications, dialysis and transplantation.
Acute kidney failure can have widespread effects on the body. Our nephrologists work closely with specialists in many departments, including pediatricians (for children suffering kidney failure), cardiologists, surgeons and other members of the Hurley medical team to ensure that all aspects of treatment and care are coordinated effectively.
Although generally less serious than other kidney conditions, millions of Americans know the pain of kidney stones first hand. Kidney stones are small crystals or solids formed in the kidneys by chemicals that are removed from the blood by the kidney as a part of its normal duties. Many of these stones are small enough that they are passed from the body in the urine without being noticed. However, if they become large enough or are positioned in such a way that they block the free flow of urine, severe pain can be the result.
White Americans are more prone to kidney stones, and men are more likely to develop them than women. The peak age for developing stones is between 20 and 50 years old. Kidney stones are associated with many things, including not drinking enough water, too much or too little exercise, weight-loss surgery, eating too much salt or sugar, and other lifestyle factors. Obesity, infections, family history and consumption of certain toxins may also increase the likelihood that kidney stones will form. Repeated or long-term episodes of kidney stones can increase the likelihood of developing chronic kidney disease.
Kidney stones are typically diagnosed using x-rays, CT scans and other imaging methods. Once diagnosed, they may be treated through a variety of methods, including increasing the amount of water the patient drinks (in order to help the stone pass more freely), shock-wave therapy (which breaks up the stone into smaller particles through sound waves), and minimally invasive surgery. More severe cases may require surgery.
The nephrologists at Hurley Medical Center treat patients with persistent or repeated episodes of kidney stones. We work closely with Hurley’s urologists to identify the specific causes of persistent kidney stones in a particular patient, and develop appropriate prevention and treatment regimens in order to minimize occurrences of this painful condition.