Care to guess what the following conditions have in common?
- Itching and dry skin
- Difficulty concentrating
- Bad breath
It could be anything, right? Or maybe nothing. Most of us get symptoms like those from time to time and think nothing of them.
But that is precisely the problem. Many people exhibiting little telltale signs that all may not be well simply miss them—or fail to see them as cause for concern.
Let’s add a few other conditions to the list:
- Unintended weight loss
- Bone pain
- Changes in the nails
- Increased tendency to bruise
With such a mixed bag of conditions, it may still be hard to draw a line to any ailment in particular. But, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), all of these symptoms are among the telltale signs to look out for as possible indicators of end-stage renal disease (ESRD).
According to the NIH, other symptoms of ESRD include:
- Abnormally dark or light skin
- Numbness in the hands or feet
- Swelling of the hands or feet
- Low libido
- Increased thirst
What is ESRD?
According to the NIH, ESRD is “when the kidneys are no longer able to work at a level needed for day-to-day life.” More specifically, ESRD refers to kidney disease that has advanced to the point where a patient is likely to die without proper treatment.
The most common causes of ESRD in the United States are diabetes, uncontrolled hypertension, and polycystic kidney disease.
It is important to be aware of the symptoms of potential kidney problems. The NIH reports that “ESRD almost always comes after chronic kidney disease. The kidneys may slowly stop working over 10 – 20 years before end-stage disease results.”
ESRD treatment focuses on slowing the progression of the disease, and usually involves one of two forms of renal replacement treatment: dialysis, a process that cleanses the blood, or kidney transplantation.
Although it may prolong life indefinitely, dialysis severely limits quality of life. Kidney transplantation is usually the most successful treatment for ESRD, but transplantation comes with a risk of surgical complications.
Other ESRD treatment options include controlling hypertension and limiting fluids and the intake of salt, potassium, phosphorous, and other electrolytes.