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Fight Through the Different Stages of Chronic Kidney Disease

There are five stages of chronic kidney disease. Early intervention can improve symptoms of the condition and prevent complete organ failure.

Woman grimacing while holding the right side of her waist with both hands.

Malaysia’s former Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin recently revealed that the number of people diagnosed with chronic kidney disease has surpassed 40,000 and is likely to reach 106,000 by 2040. What’s more concerning is that approximately 30% involve people below the age of 45.

Chronic kidney disease will damage and impair the organ’s ability to filter blood properly. With this, excess waste and fluid could remain in the body and lead to other conditions such as stroke or heart disease.

Other issues that can crop up include depression, anaemia, recurring infections, and a loss of appetite. 

What are the Different Stages of Chronic Kidney Disease?

Woman rubbing her swollen left foot with her right hand.
Swollen feet and hands are notable signs of stage 3 chronic kidney disease.

There are five stages in chronic kidney disease. The different stages depend on the estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR); a measure of the kidneys’ ability to filter toxins or waste from the blood.

Stage 1 

You may not necessarily experience symptoms, but could show signs of kidney damage, such as protein in the urine.

Stage 2 

Like in stage 1, you won’t show symptoms but will develop protein in the urine.

Stage 3 

A sign of this stage is mild to moderate organ damage. Your kidneys will struggle to filter waste and excess fluid from the blood. Blood pressure will rise, and your risk of bone disease will heighten. Weakness, fatigue, and swelling of the feet and hands can also occur.

Following a clinical treatment regimen and practicing healthy habits can prevent stage 3 kidney disease from progressing to stage 4 or 5.

Stage 4  

Here, you may face the same problems as you did with stage 3. You might also be susceptible to heart disease and lower back pain.

Because this is the final stage before kidney failure, it’s necessary to work with a nephrologist – a clinical specialist who treats kidney diseases – to slow the damage and develop a treatment plan for organ failure. 

Stage 5  

In stage 5, the body’s organs would be close to failure or may have already failed. Waste will build up in the body, making you extremely sick. The available treatment options during this stage are dialysis or a kidney transplant.

What Causes Chronic Kidney Disease? 

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the main reasons behind chronic kidney disease onset. Other health conditions that could cause chronic kidney disease are: 

  • Kidney stones or tumours, a urinary tract infection, or an enlarged prostate gland in men  
  • Glomerulonephritis: A group of diseases that cause inflammation and damage the kidney’s filtering units 
  • Autoimmune diseases: Lupus nephritis can inflame the small blood vessels that filter wastes in the kidneys 
  • Inherited diseases: Polycystic kidney disease is a hereditary condition that refers to the formation of large cysts in the kidneys and damage to the organ’s surrounding tissue 
  • Pre-birth kidney and urinary tract abnormalities: Deformities that may happen when a foetus develops in the womb  

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) relates chronic kidney disease onset to Deficiencies of the five viscera.

If a person has a Heart, Liver, Spleen, Lungs, or Kidney Deficiency, they are susceptible to the formulation and accumulation of pathogenic factors. They include phlegm, Cold, Heat, Dampness, fluid retention, Blood Stasis, and Qi Stagnation. These factors will in turn damage and further weaken the renal function.

Real Health Medical’s Senior Physician Brandon Yew

What are the Treatment Options?  

While the condition isn’t curable, healthy habits and clinical and traditional treatments can help improve the symptoms. 

Lifestyle modifications

Man refusing an alcoholic beverage by crossing his hands while sitting on a sofa.
Moderating your weekly alcohol intake may help minimise kidney damage.

Making a switch to a healthy and disciplined lifestyle can help minimise kidney damage and support the treatment of the condition. These changes include: 

  • Exercising regularly 
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet 
  • Limiting salt intake to less than 6 grams a day 
  • Limiting alcohol intake to a maximum of 14 units weekly 
  • Losing weight if you’re overweight or obese 
  • Quitting smoking 
  • Avoiding over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, unless advised by a nephrologist 

Clinical prescription medication 

The prescription of pharmaceutical drugs by a nephrologist will target the underlying triggers of chronic kidney disease and may include cholesterol-regulating medication, diuretics, or phosphate binders. 

Dialysis 

This procedure uses a machine to aid in the removal of waste products from the body. There are two dialysis types – haemodialysis and peritoneal. 

Haemodialysis circulates blood through the machine to remove excess water and salt while peritoneal is a dialysis solution given to a person through the abdomen. It absorbs waste before being removed from the catheter. A new solution is then added to continue the cleaning process.

Kidney transplant 

This surgical procedure gives you a new lease on life. It involves the replacement of a failing or failed kidney with a healthy one.

Herbal formulas 

Specific herbal formulas can help address the various pathogenic factors associated with chronic kidney disease. A few remedies that Physician Yew recommends are: 

  • Yue Bi Tang (越婢汤): Dispels Heat and fluid retention; expands the Lung meridians to enhance fluid circulation 
  • Zhen Wu Tang (真武汤): Regenerates Kidney yang (active energy) to dispel fluid retention; restores and enhances fluid circulation 
  • Wu Pi Yin (五皮饮): Restores fluid and qi circulation to dispel fluid retention, Dampness, and Qi Stagnation 

Acupressure point stimulation 

An alternative approach to achieve mild symptomatic relief is to massage acupressure points. However, it isn’t able to correct the pathologies behind chronic kidney disease onset. Acupuncture by a qualified TCM practitioner is highly encouraged for a more holistic and effective treatment. 

The points that may help include the following:  

  • Cheng shan (BL57, 承山): Removes Dampness and fluid retention 
  • Fu liu (KI7, 復溜): Strengthens the Kidneys to restore and enhance fluid circulation 
  • He gu (LI4, 合谷): Dissolves Qi Stagnation; restores and enhances qi circulation 
  • Tai chong (LR3, 太沖): Soothes and revitalises the Liver, dispels Heat, Blood Stasis and Qi Stagnation 
  • Nei guan (PC6, 內关): Strengthens the Heart to restore and enhance blood circulation; dissolves Blood Stasis 
  • Zhong wan (RN12, 中脘): Removes phlegm, Dampness, Heat, and Qi Stagnation; strengthens the Spleen and Stomach 

Early treatment of chronic kidney disease may help prevent complete organ failure. If you’re looking at trying alternative remedies, discuss it with a licensed TCM practitioner beforehand to avoid potential contraindications. 

If you or someone you know might have chronic kidney disease, share this article to help them out.

References

  1. New Straits Times. 2022. Alarming rise in kidney problems in Malaysia. [online] [Accessed 5 November 2022] 
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chronic Kidney Disease Basics. [online] [Accessed 5 November 2022] 
  3. American Kidney Fund. 2022. Stages of kidney disease. [online] [Accessed 5 November 2022] 
  4. National Kidney Foundation. Chronic kidney disease (CKD). [online] [Accessed 5 November 2022] 
  5. National Health Service. Treatment – Chronic kidney disease. [online] [Accessed 5 November 2022] 
  6. Cleveland Clinic. Kidney Disease / Chronic Kidney Disease. [online] [Accessed 5 November 2022] 

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