Dr. Apenteng writes: All you need to know about kidney disease and health consequences

The kidney is a vital organ that plays a crucial role in maintaining the overall health of the body.

kidney disease

The kidney is a pair of bean-shaped organs located in the lower back on either side of the spine aided by fat deposits.

Each kidney is about the size of a fist and weighs around 0.11-0.14kg.

The kidney serves it’s purpose through the following avenues.

1. Waste removal: The kidney filters waste and excess fluids from the blood, producing urine.


2. Fluid balance: The kidney regulates fluid levels in the body, preventing dehydration or overhydration.

3. Electrolyte balance: The kidney maintains the balance of essential electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and calcium.

4. Blood pressure control: The kidney helps regulate blood pressure through the production of hormones and the management of fluid levels.

5. Red blood cell production: The kidney produces erythropoietin, a hormone that stimulates the production of red blood cells.

6. Vitamin D activation: The kidney converts vitamin D into its active form, which is essential for bone health.


7. Acid-base balance: The kidney helps maintain the body's acid-base balance by regulating the levels of acidic and basic substances.

8. Hormone regulation: The kidney produces hormones that help regulate blood pressure, produce red blood cells, and maintain strong bones.

Though the kidneys play an incommensurable role in the body, it usually faces bouts of diseases which lowers its performance and astute delivery of service to the body.

Chronic glomerulonephritis: Glomerulonephritis is a type of kidney disease in which the glomeruli, tiny blood vessels in the kidneys that filter waste and excess fluids from the blood, become inflamed and scarred.


Diabetes mellitus: High levels of blood sugar can damage the kidneys' filters, which can cause them to leak and lose protein in the urine.

Hypertension: High blood pressure can damage the blood vessels in the kidneys and increase the risk of kidney failure.

Others include kidney stones, nephritis, kidney cancer, hydronephrosis, Polycystic kidney disease etc.

Kidney failure prevalence: Kidney failure is common in Ghana, and haemodialysis (HD) is the most common treatment modality for survival.


Gross inequities: There are gross inequities in the regional distribution of HD centers in Ghana, with a low HD prevalence and nephrology workforce despite a high burden of CKD.

HD centers: There are 51 HD centers located in 9 of the 16 regions of Ghana. Of these, only 40 centers are functioning, as 11 had shut down or are yet to operate.

HD machines: There are 299 HD machines yielding 9.7 HD machines per million population with a median of 6 machines per center.

Nephrologists: Ghana has 0.44 nephrologists per million population.

Cost of HD: The mean cost of HD session is GH¢750 and the cost remains prohibitive, mainly paid out-of-pocket, limiting its utilization.


Foamy urine: One of the earliest signs of kidney disease is proteinuria, which includes persistent foam or bubbles in the urine.

Frequent urination at night: Excess fluid buildup may cause nocturia, which can also disrupt your sleep, leading to insomnia and fatigue.

Swelling: When the kidneys aren’t able to clear extra fluid and waste from the body, you may experience swelling, along with muscle cramps.

Fatigue: Kidney disease may cause you to feel tired and weak. You may also have difficulty concentrating.


Itchy skin: Kidney disease may cause mineral and bone disease, which can cause itchy skin.

Bone or joint pain: People with advanced kidney disease may experience bone or joint pain.

Shortness of breath: Some people with kidney disease may experience dyspnea, which may occur during physical activity and interfere with daily activities.

Chest pain: In advanced stages of kidney disease, symptoms may include chest pain.

Dry skin: In advanced stages of kidney disease, symptoms may include dry skin.


Numbness: In advanced stages of kidney disease, symptoms may include numbness.

Loss of appetite: In advanced stages of kidney disease, symptoms may include loss of appetite.

Changes in taste and smell: In advanced stages of kidney disease, symptoms may include changes in taste and smell.

Sleep problems: In advanced stages of kidney disease, symptoms may include sleep problems.

Nausea: In advanced stages of kidney disease, symptoms may include nausea.


Vomiting: In advanced stages of kidney disease, symptoms may include vomiting.

Weight loss: In advanced stages of kidney disease, symptoms may include weight loss.

The state of kidney disease prevalence and treatment options have not seen the best of improvement since the last 5 decades and as such emphasis must be placed on preventive education on kidney health in leu of of treatment to better help Ghanaians reduce the prevalence of kidney disease.

Preventing kidney disease requires a combination of healthy lifestyle choices and managing underlying medical conditions.


1. Maintain a healthy blood pressure: High blood pressure is a leading cause of kidney disease. Monitor and manage your blood pressure regularly.

2. Keep your blood sugar under control: If you have diabetes, work with your healthcare provider to manage your blood sugar levels.

3. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water and limit sugary drinks.

4. Eat a kidney-friendly diet: Focus on whole, plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources. Limit processed and salty foods.


5. Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes.

6. Don't smoke: Smoking can damage your kidneys and increase your risk of kidney disease.

7. Limit alcohol intake: Excessive alcohol consumption can harm your kidneys.

8. Get enough physical activity: Regular exercise can help lower blood pressure and improve overall health.

9. Manage stress: Chronic stress can increase your risk of kidney disease.


10. Get tested for and treat all infections in the body especially STIs and UTIs untreated infections at the pelvic region puts the kidneys at risk of disease.

11. Get tested for kidney disease: If you have risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure, or a family history of kidney disease, get tested regularly.

Remember, early detection and prevention are key to protecting your kidney health.

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Written by Dr Andrews Ofosu Apenteng


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