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The Effects of Obesity on the Kidneys

The kidneys, two fist sized organs in the upper, back of the abdomen, act as a filtration system for blood, removing waste, balancing liquids, and maintaining appropriate levels of electrolytes. Waste product from the kidneys are expelled from the body as urine.

The Role of Obesity in Chronic Kidney Disease

Obesity and the incidence of chronic kidney disease are clearly linked. By some estimates, patients have a 30% greater risk of developing kidney disease when they are obese. Excess weight and obesity can contribute to the worsening of the disease and can significantly increase the risk of end stage renal disorders. This is largely caused by the chemical and hormonal compounds created by fat tissue in the body…especially around the abdomen.

Not only does excess weight increase the risk of kidney disease, but many of the comorbidities of obesity, such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure can contribute as well.

Chronic kidney disease is insidious in part because the kidneys can often function without significant symptoms, even when they are severely debilitated. This means that kidney problems can steadily worsen without our knowledge. By the time a patient experiences symptoms of kidney disease, it may already be too late.  If allowed to progress untreated, kidney dialysis or a kidney transplant become the only treatment options.

What to do?

The only way to significantly reduce risk of kidney disease is through prevention. Maintaining a healthy weight is the best preventative measure or treatment for any obesity-related kidney concern. The kidneys are very resilient organs, however not all damage can be repaired. Therefore, it is imperative that patients realize that their lifestyle needs to change to preserve or restore kidney function. Medical weight loss programs, weight loss medication, medication for underlying diseases such as type II diabetes and hypertension as well as surgical intervention such as weight loss surgery are all potential options. However, patients must understand their diagnosis and, with the help of a qualified physician, weigh the pros and cons of each these therapies to make the appropriate decision for their circumstance.

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