Kidney related diseases are on the increase now. In Ghana, the awareness is now being made to the public but the question is – how do you know whether you are at risk or have any kidney related disease?
What is the function of the kidneys?
The kidneys have a variety of important functions in the body. These include filtering the waste products from the blood as it circulates through capillaries within the kidneys, regulating blood pressure, maintaining steady levels of electrolytes (for example, calcium, phosphorous, sodium, potassium, and chloride), and contributing to the production of red blood cells.
Where are the kidneys located?
The kidneys are located on either side of the body underneath the diaphragm near the lower back. Each kidney is connected to the bladder in the pelvis by ureters (long tube-like structures) that drain the urine from the kidneys to the bladder. Urine stored in the bladder is excreted from the body through the urethra.
What is a kidney infection?
The main components of the urinary tract are kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Any part of the urinary system may become infected and this is generally referred to as urinary tract infection (UTI).
What are the causes of kidney infection?
Urine, similar to other fluids in the body, is normally sterile without significant bacterial infection. Therefore, the presence of bacteria in the urine is considered abnormal and may lead to urinary tract infection. Typically, bacteria gain access to the urinary system from outside through the urethra (the drainage tube for urine from the bladder). The bacteria may then ascend in the urinary system and cause kidney infections. Kidney infection (upper UTI) is typically more severe than lower UTI because bacteria may infect the blood stream (bacteremia) from the kidneys.
Bacteria may travel from the rectum or the vagina towards the urethra to gain entry into the urinary system. Other bacteria may enter from the skin. Women are more susceptible to urinary tract infections due to the shorter length of urethra.
What are risk factors for kidney and urinary tract infection?
There are many factors that may increase the chances for infection of kidney and urinary tract.
Sexual intercourse (in women) may increase the risk of urinary tract infection because of possible introduction of the bacteria around the urethra into the urinary system (a condition sometimes referred to as “honeymoon cystitis”).
Pregnancy may also increase the incidence of UTI and kidney infection in women, in fact, 2% to 8% of pregnant women may have urinary infections during their pregnancy. This may occur because of slower transit of urine in the ureters during pregnancy from the pressure applied by the uterus.
Urinary catheters (Foley catheters) also increase the risk of developing urinary and kidney infections. These catheters are used in settings where an individual may not be able to urinate due to paralysis, severe illness, bed bound state, incontinence of urine (inability to hold their urine), or bladder dysfunction. Urinary catheters simply provide a physical vehicle for the bacteria from outside to be directly transported into the bladder and the urinary system.
Kidney stones and other structural abnormalities of the urinary system may also cause kidney infection. Impaired draining and blockage of urine may cause bacteria to ascend to the kidney without being washed back down with the urine. Any obstruction to the flow of urine can serve as a focus of infection that can spread to other parts of the urinary tract.
In children, risk factors for kidney infection include female gender, uncircumcised, structural abnormalities of the urinary tract, and Caucasian race (four times higher than African American).