When you suffer from chronic kidney disease, the organs become damaged and cannot filter the blood as they normally would. Waste products can then build up in your body and protein can leak out into your urine. This causes symptoms that show up in different parts of your body, and doctors say paying attention to your hands and feet can help you spot one specific sign of a potential kidney problem. Read on to find out what to look out for and why this symptom can be detrimental to your health.
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Minor swelling happens to all of us and does not necessarily indicate a more serious health problem. However, Johns Hopkins University experts warn that if your swelling is concentrated around your eyes, arms, and legs, it could be the result of nephrotic syndrome, a condition that results from kidney disease.
Nephrotic syndrome occurs when tiny blood vessels in the kidneys, known as glomeruli, become scarred or damaged due to kidney disease. Because these vessels are responsible for filtering waste and excess water from the blood into urine, this damage can cause too much protein to be expelled from the body during urination. “Healthy kidneys pass less than one gram of protein into the urine per day. In nephrotic syndrome, the glomeruli leak three grams or more of protein into the urine over a 24-hour period,” Johns says. Hopkins. They say your doctor can help you determine if your kidneys are filtering protein properly.
“Protein in the urine is an early sign that the kidney filters are damaged, allowing the protein to seep into the urine,” explains the National Kidney Foundation (NKF). “That puffiness around the eyes could be because your kidneys are excreting large amounts of protein in your urine instead of keeping it in your body.”
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While kidney disease can cause protein to leak out of the body, it can also lead to excess sodium being stored, according to NKF. This can lead to swelling, especially in the hands, feet, or ankles.
Experts say this could have potentially serious health consequences over time. According to Medscape, “As kidney function declines further, sodium retention and an increase in extracellular volume lead to peripheral edema and, not infrequently, pulmonary edema and hypertension.” In other words, what started as swelling in the arms or legs could eventually lead to dangerous fluid buildup in the lungs or high blood pressure.
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While swelling in the arms, legs, or eyes certainly warrants a visit to the doctor, swelling in the legs is not a definitive sign of kidney disease on its own. “Leg swelling can also be a sign of heart disease, liver disease, and chronic leg vein problems,” writes the National Kidney Foundation (NKF). And swelling of the hands and feet is also associated with disorders of the lymphatic system, thyroid disease, blood clots, pregnancy, and more.
The experts add that peripheral edema can also be caused by behavioral or environmental factors. For example, some people experience temporary swelling of the lower extremities after standing or sitting for too long. Allergies or dietary changes can also cause swelling. In this case, the condition may resolve itself.
If your swelling is caused by kidney disease, you may experience additional symptoms. But, Joseph Vassalotti, chief medical officer of NKF, says you’re less likely to experience symptoms until the very advanced stages of the disease, when the kidneys are already failing or when there’s a lot of protein in the urine. “This is one of the reasons why only 10 percent of people with chronic kidney disease know they have it,” he explains on the NKF website.
Possible symptoms of kidney disease include fatigue, difficulty concentrating, dry or itchy skin, frequent urination, blood or foam in the urine, poor appetite, or muscle spasms. However, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) insists that “i.e.Testing may be the only way to know if you have kidney disease. Get tested if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or a family history of kidney failure, all of which put you at an increased risk of kidney disease.
Talk to your doctor if you notice any symptoms of kidney disease, especially if they occur in combination with swelling of the eyes, hands, or feet. “The sooner you know you have kidney disease, the sooner you can get treatment,” advises NIDDK.
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