One of the most commonly injured organs in the urinary tract is the kidney. The injuries can be either due to blunt force or penetrating ones which are referred to as AKIs (Acute Kidney Injury). Injuries sustained in vehicle crashes, falls, sports are usually blunt in nature. Gunshot or stabbing wounds would fall in the category of penetrating injuries. Sometimes injuries can also occur during diagnostic tests like biopsy, extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy which is treatment for kidney stones.
Blunt kidney injuries are usually minor, but can get serious. If the serious blunt injuries or penetrating ones are not treated in time, complications like kidney failure, high blood pressure, infection or delayed bleeding might occur.
Kidney Injury Symptoms
Every person with kidney problems may not experience the symptoms given below. However, some of the functional problems faced by a patient with acute kidney injury are:
- Changes in urination: The frequency of urination might increase or decrease while night urination might increase, the color of urine might change, there might be blood present in urine, it could be foamy or bubbly and there could be difficulty in urination.
- Swelling: There can be abdominal swelling, or due to water retention in the body, the swelling might reach the legs, ankles, feet, face and hands.
- Fatigue: Anemia might set in due to reduced production of the hormone erythropoietin, which is responsible for sending signal to produce RBC. With less RBC, the body received less oxygen and tires quickly, leaving the person fatigued.
- Skin rash or itching: Due to improper purification of blood by kidneys, there is accumulation of waste in the blood stream which causes rashes and itching on the skin.
- Metallic taste or ammonia breath: This is also due to buildup of wastes in the body and is a result of uremia. There is loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting which in turn results in weight loss.
- Shortness of breath: Anemia and fluid buildup in the lungs can cause shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing.
- Other kidney injury symptoms: feeling cold, pale and cool to touch skin, dizziness, decreased alertness, drowsiness, trouble in concentrating, severe flank or leg pain.
When to See a Doctor
If any of the below kidney injury symptoms or if there is a history of the following, the doctor should be notified immediately:
- Exposure to toxic substances
- Illness or infection
- Physical injury
If there is decreased urine output after a kidney injury, the person should be taken to the ER, as it could be symptoms of kidney failure.
Kidney Injury Diagnosis
Sometimes the diagnosis for kidney injury happens when the person is in the hospital for some other ailment. If this is not the case, the doctor might diagnose it by discussing the symptoms, medications taken and if any tests were done. Blood and urine tests can also help in determining the functioning of the kidney. It can include the sodium, potassium and calcium levels. An ultrasound report can show the image of the kidney and it will be checked by the doctor.
Kidney Injury Treatment
The treatment for kidney injury depends on the type of injury and the reason for the kidney problem. The kidney injury symptoms will help in determining the type of kidney problem as well. The patient might be required to be hospitalized and the duration of stay will depend on the type of problem and how fast the kidneys respond to the treatment. Preventive treatment to avoid complications will also be given to the patient. Some of the treatments for this are as given below:
1. Fluid Balance Correction
If the acute kidney injury has occurred due to decreased body fluids, intravenous fluids might be administered. However, if there is accumulation of fluids in the body causing edema, the doctor will prescribe diuretics to remove the extra fluid from the body.
Medications like Calcium, glucose and sodium polystyrene sulfonate will be given if potassium levels have increased in the body. This condition is serious as it can cause arrhythmias. If the calcium levels are falling, calcium infusion might be recommended.
When there is accumulation of the fluids and waste in the body, the patient is made to undergo dialysis, where the blood from the body is filtered by a machine and returned to the body. The machine acts like an artificial kidney. This helps the kidneys in healing as well.
What Can You Do to Prevent Kidney Injury?
Kidney injury and associated kidney injury symptoms can be avoided by following simple precautionary steps given below:
- Keep yourself aware of the surroundings and things which can cause exposure to toxic substances and lead poisoning like oil paints, vapors from lead coated metals and alcohol distilled in recycled car radiators.
- Ensure that all instructions given by the doctor or pharmacist are followed when taking any medications or OTC drugs.
- All instructions given when treating conditions like Gout or other illness should be followed.
- Safety equipment and protective gear should be worn during working and playing.
- The fumes from cleaning products, solvents and fuels can be toxic and hence should be used on well–ventilated areas only.
- Ensure that you are always wearing a seat belt and driving carefully.