By Enyeribe Ejiogu    

Once again, Nigerians are in the celebratory Yuletide mood. And for that reason, many will gorge of food and pour litres of varieties of alcoholic drinks into their stomachs, like water passes over the respiratory gills of fishes in water.

When the body is done with digesting the foods, and absorbing the nutrients it requires, the bulk of the digested stuff not utilised as well as the un-metabolised  alcoholic beverage, etc, must be removed from the body, to ensure the good health and optimal functionality of the organs and tissues.

The kidneys play a major role in removing metabolites from the body. The kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs on either side of the human spine, located just below theribs and positioned behind the belly. Each kidney is about 4 or 5 inches long, roughly the size of a large fist.

The main job of the kidneys is to filter the blood. They remove wastes, control the body’s fluid balance, and keep the right levels of electrolytes. All of the blood in the body passes through them several times a day.

Whenever blood flows into the kidneys, the waste products of metabolism are removed. In the process of doing this, the kidneys monitor and adjust the levels of salt, water and minerals in the blood. The filtered blood is returned to the lungs for oxygenation, pumped into the heart for re-pumping out to the whole body. The chemical waste of metabolism, mainly urea, is further processed in the kidney and changed into urine, which is stored in the bladder, pending when the individual would empty the bladder.

Each kidney has around one million tiny filters called nephrons. The kidney can sometimes function with just 10 per cent of its capacity and the individual would not notice any symptoms of a problem. If blood stops flowing into a kidney, part or all of it could die. That can lead to kidney failure.

A number of medical conditions are known to give the kidneys “frustration and severe headache as it were” says Dr. Chinasa Njoku (not her real name), who wished not to be properly identified in print, given that she is a serving youth corpsmember in a Federal Medical Centre and was not authorised to address media inquiries.

“For instance, pyelonephritis is a condition whereby bacteria may infect the kidney, usually causing back pain and fever. It is mainly caused by bacteria spreading out into the kidney as result untreated bladder infection. Another common condition is glomerulonephritis is results when the immune system becomes overly active and may attack the kidney, thereby causing inflammation that further leads to tissue damage. In this case, you find that blood and urine are common problems when a person has glomerulonephritis. The really troubling thing about this condition is that it can result in kidney failure, if not properly handled.”

Continuing, Njoku says that in some instances a person may develop kidney stones, a medical condition known as nephrolithiasis. In this case, mineral elements in the urine form crystals (or stones), which may grow large enough to block urine flow. According to her, nephrolithiasis is a very painful condition that creates intense discomfort. However, most kidney stones pass out on their own, but some are too large and need to be treated.

Another problem associated with the kidneys is nephrotic syndrome, in which damage “to the kidneys causes them to spill large amounts of protein into the urine.” In such situations, a symptom of this particular kidney problem is edema or swelling of the legs. Some families are known to suffer from particular kidney problems that pass through generations. An example is polycystic kidney disease, which is a genetic condition that results in large cysts developing in the kidneys and preventing from functioning effectively.

Dr. Njoku warns that not being careful to recognise symptoms of kidney problems and going to see an doctor, to initiate proper medical management oftentimes to lead to life-threatening outcomes such as acute renal failure, otherwise called kidney failure. Acute renal failure can result from dehydration or blockage in the urinary tract, or kidney damage can cause acute renal failure. The good news is that acute renal failure may be reversed, but cases of chronic renal failure, which is a permanent partial loss of effective kidney function, diabetes and high blood pressure have been identified as the most common causes.

“The grandfather of kidney problems is end-stage renal disease (ESRD), which is the outcome of a complete loss of kidney function caused by untreated and progressive chronic kidney disease. That is people who are unfortunate to suffer from ESRD require regular dialysis for survival. There are some other problems associated with kidneys, such as papillary necrosis, diabetic nephropathy, hypertensive nephropathy, cancer of the kidney, intestinal nephritis, among others.

In all these, a number of common signs can now give an early warning of kidney problems that requires urgent attention by a doctor.


1. You’re always tired

Kidneys filter waste from your blood and such waste is passed out through the urine. When your kidneys don’t work right, toxins can build up. One common tipoff is fatigue. You may feel spent, weak, or have trouble concentrating. Kidneys make a hormone that tells your body to create red blood cells. If you have fewer of them, your blood can’t deliver as much oxygen to your muscles and brain as they need.


Poor sleep

Studies show a possible link between sleep apnea and chronic kidney disease (CKD), which over time damages body organs and may lead to kidney failure. Sleep apnea may hurt your kidneys in part by preventing your body from getting enough oxygen. CKD in turn may cause sleep apnea by narrowing your throat, toxin buildup, and other ways.


Itchy skin

This may happen if your kidneys can’t flush out toxins and they build up in your blood.  That can cause a rash or make you itch all over. Over time, your kidneys may not be able to balance the minerals and nutrients in your body. This can lead to mineral and bone disease, which can make your skin dry and



Swollen face and feet


When the kidneys can’t get rid of sodium well, fluids build up in your body. That may lead to puffy hands, feet, ankles, legs, or a puffy face. You might notice swelling especially in your feet and ankles. And protein leaking out in your urine can show up as puffiness around your eyes.



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Muscle cramps


Cramps in your legs and elsewhere can be a sign of poor kidney function. Imbalance in the levels of sodium, calcium, potassium, or other electrolytes can interrupt how your muscles and nerves work.




When you have kidney disease, your organs don’t make enough of a hormone called erythropoietin. The hormones signal your body to make red blood cells. Without it, you can get anaemia and feel short of breath. Another cause is fluid buildup. You might have a hard time catching your breath. In serious cases, lying down may make you feel like you’re drowning.



Foggy head


When your kidneys don’t filter all waste out of your body, the toxins can affect your brain. Anemia also may block your brain from the oxygen it needs. You may feel dizzy and have trouble with concentration and memory. You may even become so confused that you have trouble with simple tasks.



Low appetite


Kidney disease can cause nausea or vomiting and upset your stomach. That may leave you with little craving for food. That sometimes may lead to weight loss.



Foul breath


When your kidneys can’t filter out waste, it can cause a condition called uremia. That can make your mouth smell. Also, toxins in your bloodstream can give food a metallic or off taste.



Foamy, brown, or bloody urine


Bubbly pee could be a sign of too much protein called albumin. That can result from kidney issues. So can brownish or very pale urine. Faulty kidney function also may let blood leak into your bladder. Blood in your urine also can be caused by kidney stones, tumours, or an infection.


  •With additional material from