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The kidneys are one of the most complicated organs in the body. Their proper function is essential to maintaining good health. Besides their well-known function of removal of certain wastes, the kidneys also help maintain blood pressure, balance blood electrolytes, and perform many other functions. Unfortunately, chronic kidney disease is on the rise, with over 25 million Americans afflicted.
Many medicines can affect the kidneys. Of note, are three medicine classes: non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), diuretics, and certain blood pressure drugs. NSAIDs are medicines like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, which have a side effect of the constriction of certain vessels in the kidney. If large doses are taken daily for long periods, this may cause some damage. Consult with your doctor for more than occasional use. Diuretics are medicines which alter the kidney’s filtration system so as to produce more urine. Certain blood pressure drugs can alter kidney function as well. Discuss any concerns with your doctor for more details, and always read medicine labels.
Two tests are commonly used for measuring kidney function. One is a blood electrolyte screening to tell if you are eliminating wastes and maintaining a healthy electrolyte balance. The other is a urine protein measurement, which can determine if your kidneys are leaking protein into the urine. Your doctor may order these tests on a regular basis if you have any disease or are taking any medicines which could affect the kidneys.
If you already have kidney disease, you might want to mention testing Cystatin C, which is lesser used but may be better at discerning subtle kidney function loss.
During the summer months, it is especially important to keep up your fluid intake. Drink plenty of water to keep the “beans” healthy!