- Obstructive kidney disease
Although this is commonly associated with men as they get older, women can also struggle with disorders of the lower genitourinary tract. These can then cause an obstructive nephropathy: any disease which causes obstruction of the outflow of urine will result in back pressure on the kidneys and a reduction in the rate at which kidneys are able to filter. If both kidneys are
blocked it can result in kidney dysfunction or even kidney failure. Specifically any cancer of the vagina, cervix, uterus or even ovaries and do this. A prolapse of the uterus or vagina and even a very large fibroid can all cause obstruction. This is a very good reason to have regular gynaecological examinations, especially if you have a family history of any breast or ovarian cancer or a personal history of HPV infection.
- Pregnancy and pregnancy-associated renal disorders
Although millions of women carry successful pregnancies to term every year, one cannot underestimate the toll a pregnancy can take on a woman’s body.
There are some changes within the kidney that are normal during pregnancy. It is normal for the filtration rate of the kidney to increase during pregnancy and it is also normal to excrete small amounts of protein in the urine. However, any pre-existing kidney disease can be aggravated. It is extremely dangerous for any young female with kidney function <30% to fall pregnant and studies show very poor outcomes for baby and mum.
Urinary tract infections are common during pregnancy and need to be promptly treated.
A number of auto-immune diseases, including lupus and thyroiditis, may flare during pregnancy, many of which affect the kidneys.
But most importantly are pregnancy-induced hypertension, pre-eclampsia and eclampsia during pregnancy. These are all hypertensive disorders that occur during pregnancy and are caused by hormonal changes within the placenta. These can be life-threatening to the mum and baby. That is why your midwife or obstetrician will regularly check your blood pressure and urine dipstix during pregnancy in order to diagnose and treat these complications early.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
Finally, I thought to mention lupus and the kidney. Although lupus can occur in males, it is predominantly a disease of young females. It is an auto-immune disease meaning that your own immune system becomes confused and becomes activated against itself ie. It starts to attack your own body. It is a multi-organ disease and can cause joint pains, mouth ulcers and the characteristic butterfly face rash. However, when the kidneys are involved, the results can be catastrophic! Patients can rapidly develop kidney failure and hypertension. The treatment is aggressive immunosuppressive therapy.
In conclusion, lets take a moment to consider how to keep our kidneys as healthy as possible. As with any organ in your body, the most important thing you can do is live healthy!
- Maintain your ideal weight.
- Ensure you are eating a healthy diet which includes sufficient fresh fruits and vegetables and not too much salt.
- Try to exercise regularly.
- Avoid any anti-inflammatory medications and use alcohol in moderation only.
- Know your numbers: blood pressure, fasting sugar and cholesterol, body mass index.
- If you have any chronic illnesses such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension or HIV or if you are on any long-term medications, you should be examined and have blood tests and urine dipstix every 6 months.
Have a healthy kidney day!