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Dr. Rajan Ravichandran Renowned Nephrologist
Dr. Rajan Ravichandran

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Myths and Facts about Kidney Diseases

Myths Facts
Kidney disease is Hereditary. Very few kidney diseases are hereditary for example polycystic kidney disease.
Single or double kidney failure. All medical diseases affect both kidneys. The word kidney failure refers to both kidneys not functioning. If a single kidney is not functioning, the blood urea will not go up.
Dialysis once started has to be permanent. This depends on whether the patient has acute or chronic kidney failure.Acute failure might require only temporary dialysis.
It is not safe to donate a kidney. If the general health of the donor is normal (without diabetes or blood pressure) it is safe to donate a kidney. Donors have led a normal life including marriage and childbirth, etc.
Water should be consumed in large quantities by all patients with kidney disease. Often restriction in water consumption may be required to prevent hyponatremia (Low serum sodium) since maintenance of water balance in the body is one of the functions of the kidneys.
Beer drinking is good for the kidneys. Beer,because of its large water content produces increased urine output and does not improve kidney functioning.
Salt substitutes can be used in kidney patients. Salt substitutes, being potassium chlorides, are more dangerous in patients with kidney failure as potassium excretion is already affected.


There has been a remarkable increase in the incidence of kidney disease in the last decade because of both increasing detection and a true increase in the occurrence of the disease itself. High occurrence of diabetes, hypertension, lack of physical exercise and the use of drugs toxic to the kidneys are possible causes for the rise that we see.

The basic functions of the kidneys are :-

  • Maintenance of the internal environment i.e the pH, water content and electrolyte content of the body so that each and every cell and organ in the body can function properly. This is why, when the kidneys are diseased, the symptoms and signs are sometimes seen in different organs.

  • Excretion of waste products of metabolism and drugs from the body. Again a very important function which explains why drugs should carefully be used in kidney patients.

  • Production of hormones responsible for the bone growth(Vitamin-D), blood production by the marrow (Erythropoietin) and blood pressure (Renin).

Types of kideny Diseases - Acute and Chronic

  • Acute - it means a sudden reduction in the kidney function due to reduced blood supply following dehydration due to conditions like gastroenteritis, heart attack or blood loss. If the underlying disease is not rapidly corrected, the patient may die. On the contrary if the underlying disease is corrected, the patient recovers fully and may require only temporary dialysis.

  • Chronic - The most important cause of this is diabetes in the middle aged or elderly population. High blood pressure is also an important reason and can add with diabetes to produce a bad outcome. Both the above conditions slowely affect the kidney over the years.

The body can adapt itself till ninety percent of the kidney is damaged and hence patients do not show any symptoms. Detection is done by laboratory testing of the urine and blood. Albumin leak is the earliest parameter warning of kidney damage. Subsequently the urea and creatinine rise in the blood indicate the severity of kidney failure. It is unfortunate that still many patients are detected at this stage and not at the early stage of albumin leak when corrective measures can be taken. An important marker of possible kidney damage in a diabetic individual is reduced vision due to retinopathy.

Another curse of modern development is the excessive intake of drugs such as pain killers, so called tonics and various other unstudied alternate or native medical preparations. Over a long period of time, these drugs tend to damage the kidney. Needless to say, patients are often asymptomatic and only after a careful laboratory evaluation is the kidney disease detected.

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