How Chronic Kidney Disease affects women’s health
The most common form of kidney disease is Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), which is a long-term condition. It is commonly caused by high blood pressure, which is dangerous for the kidneys because it can increase the pressure on the glomeruli. Glomeruli are the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys where blood is cleaned. Over time, the increased pressure damages these vessels and kidney function begin to decline. Kidney function will eventually deteriorate to the point where the kidneys can no longer perform their job properly. In this case, a person would need to go on dialysis. Dialysis filters extra fluid and wastes out of the blood. Dialysis can help treat kidney disease but it cannot cure it. A kidney transplant may be another treatment option depending on your circumstances.
Diabetes is also a major cause of chronic kidney disease. Usually brought on by obesity, type -2 diabetes is a major risk factor for kidney disease. With diabetes, the small blood vessels in the body are injured. Your body will retain more water and salt than it should, which can result in weight gain and ankle swelling. You may have protein in your urine. Also, waste materials will build up in your blood.
Diabetes also may cause damage to nerves in your body. This can cause difficulty in emptying your bladder. The pressure resulting from your full bladder can back up and injure the kidneys. Also, if urine remains in your bladder for a long time, you can develop an infection from the rapid growth of bacteria in urine that has a high sugar level.
Special issues faced women with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
Menstrual Irregularities: Women with CKD have been shown to commonly experience menstrual irregularities. This can include excessive bleeding, missed periods, and early onset of menopause. In studies of patients with CKD, women enter menopause from 3 to 5 years earlier than patients without CKD. Treatment can be very challenging. Studies of estrogen replacement therapy have shown an increased risk of heart disease and blood clotting disorders. Kidney transplantation will usually correct these abnormalities.
Sexual Dysfunction: Sexual dysfunction includes loss of libido, fatigue, loss of energy, vaginal dryness, and painful intercourse. Many medications used to treat kidney disease, including high blood pressure medications, may cause physical and psychological symptoms that cause a loss of interest sexual activity. Dialysis, a treatment that helps filter your kidneys for you, can correct or improve some of these symptoms. Use of vaginal lubricants and vaginal estrogen have been used for dryness and painful intercourse.
Pregnancy: Women with decreased kidney function are less likely to become pregnant than the general population. Once the kidney function declines to less than 20 percent of normal, it is uncommon for women to become pregnant. Failure to ovulate and miscarriage is a very common outcome in women with CKD and women who are on dialysis. Women with CKD who become pregnant may lose significant amounts of kidney function during pregnancy and need dialysis treatment. Kidney transplantation will improve the likelihood of pregnancy but will not return it to rates in the normal population.
Bone disease: Bone disease including osteoporosis is very common in women with CKD and who are on dialysis. Calcium supplements and Vitamin D are commonly used to treat bone chemical problems in women with CKD. These treatments may help to treat bone disease. Women with CKD may not be able to use traditional osteoporosis medications such as bisphosphonates.
There are a number of steps that can be taken that may prevent advancement of kidney disease. These include consistent screening for kidney disease and adequately controlling blood pressure and blood sugar.