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Frequently Asked Questions

What is kidney disease? Is it preventable?

Not uncommonly, there can be a lot of information to take in when one first learns about the kidneys and what kidney disease means. 

Here we provide some information that may answer your questions. 

Useful Information About Kidney Disease


Kidney disease is a condition that affects the kidneys, resulting in them not being able to filter waste, electrolytes, and other substances from the blood as efficiently as normal.


What causes kidney disease?

The most common cause of kidney disease in Singapore and around the world is diabetes. Hypertension (high blood pressure) is another common cause.

Glomerular diseases (glomerulonephritis, GN) are a group of diseases that cause inflammation in the kidneys, an example of a common type of GN is IgA nephropathy.

Some other causes include polycystic disease, reflux nephropathy, obstructive nephropathy, and medication-induced nephropathy, to name a few.


How do I lower my risk of kidney disease?

Keeping a healthy and active lifestyle, through a balanced diet and regular exercise to maintain a healthy weight, can reduce the risk of diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which are among the top causes of kidney disease.
Most of us consume too much salt in our diet; besides added salt, there is often "hidden" salt. Having a lower salt diet is an important step to take towards healthier living.

Regular health checks to screen for kidney disease are recommended in individuals who are at risk of developing kidney disease, such as those who have diabetes, hypertension, and/or cardiovascular disease, or a family history of kidney disease. Early detection will allow for early intervention and advice from your doctor to prevent disease progression.


What are the symptoms of kidney disease?

It is important to note that early kidney disease is often asymptomatic, and can only be detected via screening (blood and urine tests).

In more advanced disease, one may feel lethargic, have swelling around the ankles/legs, protein in the urine (frothy urine) and/or blood in the urine, loss of appetite, and itchiness.

In late stages of kidney disease, one may also suffer breathlessness, nausea, vomiting and chest pain.


How is kidney disease treated?

Treatment depends on the underlying cause; for example, for patients with diabetes and/or hypertension, the management is directed at optimising control of blood sugars and blood pressure. There are also medications for treating protein in the urine.


Appropriate treatment and regular follow up with your doctor are needed to monitor and optimise your management in order to prevent unchecked disease progression.


What happens in kidney failure?

When your kidneys are unable to clear waste products, excess fluid, and balance electrolytes and acidity in your blood normally, it results in increasing symptoms as described above.
Dietary and fluid restrictions will be required, as well as medications. When such treatment is no longer able to manage patient symptoms effectively and control the complications of kidney failure adequately, the doctor will recommend further treatment options, which include dialysis, kidney transplantation or conservative care.

Conservative care is an option for patients who do not wish to undergo dialysis or transplant, instead choosing to be managed with medications only.


What does dialysis involve?

There are 2 forms of dialysis; haemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Both types will require the patient to have access created for dialysis to happen.


Haemodialysis (HD), commonly known as "blood dialysis", is where blood is drawn from either a fistula or a catheter and circulated through a machine for clearing of waste products and excess fluid. In Singapore currently, patients travel to dialysis centres 3 times a week for their HD sessions.


Peritoneal dialysis (PD), commonly known as "water dialysis", involves instilling a dialysate solution into the abdomen via a catheter; the solution is left to dwell to allow removal of waste product and excess fluid, then drained after a period of time. PD can be performed at home and hence offer patients more freedom in their lifestyle.


What is kidney transplantation?

Kidney transplantation is one of the ways of treating an individual whose kidneys have failed. It is superior to dialysis in terms of better longevity and quality of life.

The donor kidney can come from an organ donor who has passed away (deceased donor), or a living donor who is a loved one of the potential recipient and has stepped forward to donate his/her kidney voluntarily.

After transplant surgery, the recipient will no longer require dialysis or medications for kidney failure when the transplanted kidney starts functioning well. The recipient will need to take lifelong anti-rejection medications (immunosuppressants) and attend regular follow up visits to their kidney specialist.

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