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Know the Symptoms: Kidney Disease: March 11, 2011

Nestled in your back near the spine lie two important organs in the body. Each about the size of a deck of cards, your kidneys play an important role in flushing out toxins and waste from the body. But a malfunction in the system may not surface immediately. "Symptoms related to kidney disease, in general, don't manifest until people have developed more advanced kidney disease," warns Dr. Evan Gross, a nephrologist on the Lee Memorial Health System medical staff.

Kidney disease usually affects both kidneys. The inability to filter the body's system may cause toxins to back up. "Usually in the early stages of kidney disease, blood tests or urine tests would be the way to determine if there is any evidence of kidney damage."

While most kidney disease symptoms do not surface until the later stages, Dr. Gross says there are some early warning signs. "Sometimes things like swelling of the legs, or nausea, fatigue, those types of things can be seen," adds Dr. Gross. Kidney diseases come in many forms and why the disease develops remains a mystery. However, researchers are finding that our lifestyle habits can help or hinder the development of the disease. "People who have high risk factors for developing kidney disease such as diabetics, people with hypertension, high cholesterol levels, or heart disease should be screened at least once a year with a urinalysis as well as a simple blood test."

Our kidneys not only flush out dangerous toxins, they are also responsible for releasing hormones that regulate blood pressure and help spread healthy vitamin D throughout the body. Because of this, Dr, Gross advises patients to speak with their physician about their risk of developing kidney disease.