RA and the kidneys

RA and Your Kidneys

Rheumatoid disease/arthritis is autoimmune and systemic. It causes the body’s immune system to attack and attempt to destroy synovial tissues throughout the body.

Hardest hit by RD’s widespread inflammation are the joints—and thus, the “arthritis” in the name of the disease. But it may also affect your organs: the synovial linings of your heart, your lungs, your eyes, and your circulatory system.

How does RA affect the kidneys?

The chronic inflammation RD causes may also affect the kidneys. According to a 2014 Mayo Clinic study, rheumatoid disease patients are more likely to develop chronic kidney disease than the average person.

What is the role of the kidneys in the body?

The kidneys — two, bean-shaped, fist-sized organs in the low back — are the body’s workhorses, filtering waste molecules from the blood for excretion in the urine, regulating electrolytes (and salts) in the body, and maintaining the body’s pH balance. Chronic kidney disease causes a progressive loss of kidney function over months or years, eventually causing death.

Risk factors for chronic kidney disease

There are several risk factors that the study, conducted over a 20-year period with 813 patients with RD and 813 without RD, illuminated.

The risk factors are:

  • Severe inflammation during the first year of rheumatoid disease. This is one of the reasons that rheumatologists like to treat the disease aggressively from diagnosis. The aim is to reduce inflammation as quickly as possible and prevent the disease from progressing further.
  • Corticosteroid use.Rheumatologists commonly prescribe corticosteroids to treat joint pain. The Mayo Clinic study suggests that doctors be more careful with these and other drugs for RD that may have an adverse effect on the kidneys over time.
  • High blood pressure. Heart disease is common among RD patients. The study suggests that RD patients with high blood pressure should work to lower it and keep it under control through regular exercise, a healthy diet, and medications if necessary.
  • Obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease go hand in hand. If you’re overweight or obese, it’s a good idea to slim down to your optimum weight for your age, gender, height, and build to reduce the likelihood of developing these and, over time, chronic kidney disease.
  • High cholesterol. High cholesterol levels in the blood contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease.
  • High sodium levels. Too much salt in the blood also contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease, and in their turn, chronic kidney disease. Pay attention to the hidden salt in your foods—check labels on processed foods, and stay away from the salt shaker. Instead, eat a diet packed with fresh vegetables, whole grains, chicken and fish, eggs, beans and legumes, and limited dairy foods, like milk and cheese. Use plant-based fats like olive or canola oil for cooking and eating. Drink lots of water and stay away from sugary foods except for the occasional, rare treat.

Other drugs, including some NSAIDs (Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) may affect kidney function, so the study suggests that doctors and patients use them with care. The study further suggests that patients have blood tests and urine analysis once a year or more to check for kidney problems.

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