Conventional Medical Treatments for Chronic Kidney Disease
What is chronic kidney disease?
Chronic kidney disease (CKD), also known as chronic kidney failure, is a term used to encompass damage to the kidneys that is caused by various conditions. It involves the gradual loss of kidney function that develops over months or years. As the kidneys lose the ability to filter the blood and remove waste and extra fluids from the body, a buildup of fluids, electrolytes, and wastes occurs.
Conventional medical treatments
Chronic kidney disease has no known cure; however, obtaining appropriate treatment is essential to slow the progression of the disease and contribute to higher kidney function. There are various medical treatment options for CKD, which can include medications, dialysis, or a kidney transplant.
Certain medications can treat the cause of CKD, slow the progression, and preserve kidney function. They include, but are not limited to, the following:
- ACE inhibitors/angiotensin II receptor blockers
High blood pressure is a common co-occurring condition with chronic kidney disease. Lowering blood pressure can help to prevent kidney function from declining. ACE inhibitors or angiotensin II receptor blockers can help control blood pressure, but may initially decrease kidney activity and change the levels of electrolytes in the body. Therefore, regular blood tests are recommended to monitor the situation.
Swelling in the legs or high blood pressure due to retaining extra fluid regularly occurs with CKD. A diuretic (water pill) may be recommended to balance the fluid levels in the body.
Statins are medications that lower cholesterol. These may be recommended by a health care professional to reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
- Phosphate binder
Calcium deposits can cause damage to blood vessels, which may cause chronic kidney disease. These medications lower the amount of phosphate in the blood, which protects the blood vessels.
As the kidneys fail and become unable to function during end-stage chronic kidney disease, dialysis may be required. Dialysis removes waste and excess fluid from the blood. There are two main types of dialysis treatments available: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.
Hemodialysis is the most common type of dialysis and is typically completed three to five times per week in a hospital or dialysis center, or four to seven times per week for at-home dialysis. It involves surgically creating vascular access into the blood vessels. Through this entrance point, a catheter can be placed and connected to an artificial kidney. A machine removes the blood from the body, filters it through the artificial kidney, and returns the filtered blood back into the body. This process usually takes between three and five hours.
Peritoneal dialysis involves a permanent catheter being inserted into the abdomen to filter blood through a membrane. A medical provider will review how to perform dialysis at home. A solution called dialysate (a special fluid that helps absorb the waste in the kidneys) is inserted through the catheter either four to six times per day manually, or may be done overnight with the help of a machine. The solution helps the blood vessels in the abdominal lining to filter blood.
When the kidneys can no longer support the body’s needs, a kidney transplant is needed. This involves removing the failing kidney and replacing it with a healthy donor kidney. Medication will be required for the remainder of life following a kidney transplant to ensure that the body does not reject the new organ. Dialysis may be required while waiting on a donor kidney.