Better Me

What You Need To Know About Kidney Health

It started as a pain in my lower back and side. I thought I had pulled a muscle lifting one of my kids. The pain continued through the weekend and by Monday I started running a low grade fever.  I soon began to be concerned that something could be wrong with my kidney, so I called my physician and scheduled an appointment for the next day.

Throughout the evening, my temperature continued to rise and it soon became clear that I would not be able to make it to the next morning without medical attention. By the time I reached the Emergency Room, my fever was at a 106 and my heart rate was elevated.

A CT scan revealed that sometime in the past week I had passed a large kidney stone, which had damaged my kidney and caused an infection. I stayed overnight in Banner Del E. Webb’s observation unit, and was release with very strong antibiotics and pain medication.

I was so surprised that this kidney infection had come out of nowhere – or had it? About a week or so prior to this event, I had what I thought was a minor urinary tract infection, including some pain with urination and some spotting.

According to urologist Matthew Steinway, MD, with Banner – University Medical Center Urology Clinic, blood in the urine is a key symptom of urinary tract and kidney infections.

“Hematuria (blood in the urine) could be a sign of many diseases of the urinary tract, including the kidneys.  This may include conditions such as infection, kidney stone, malignancy, and intrinsic disease of the kidneys like glomerulonephritis,” Dr. Steinway said.

I had always heard the old wives tale that drinking cranberry juice could prevent and even help heal kidney infections, but Dr. Steinway notes this is not the way to treat an infection. While some believe the juice can prevent infections from binding to the bladder (Dr. Steinway adds that a few studies show this is not the case) – it cannot stop an infection that is already there.

“Cranberry juice is not an effective treatment for a urinary tract infection.  Bladder infections, if untreated, can lead to kidney infections and this can subsequently cause damage to the kidneys,” Dr. Steinway said.

While the juice may not be key to healthy kidneys, drinking water is one component, especially for those who are already prone to forming stones.

“There are many factors that affect one's fluid status.  Drinking enough water is important -- as long as you do not have any fluid restrictions due to other medical conditions,” Dr. Steinway said. “For stone formers, it is recommended to produce at least 2 liters of urine per day to keep from stone formation.”

Overall, Dr. Steinway says that a healthy lifestyle equates to healthy kidneys.

“The two biggest insults to kidney function are high blood pressure and diabetes.  A healthy diet and active lifestyle with proper maintenance and monitoring of blood pressure and blood sugar is essential for kidney health,” Dr. Steinway said.

If you have any concerns about your kidney health, please consult with your physician.

“Any blood in the urine, gross or microscopic, should be discussed with their physician and a consultation with a urologist may be required for further evaluation,” Dr. Steinway said.

Also read: Kidney stone treatments: your options



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