This refers to the scarring of tiny blood vessels within the kidneys called ‘glomeruli’. These blood vessels are responsible for filtering urine and other waste materials from the blood.
But scarring of the glomeruli can impair this function which results in protein in the blood leaking into the urine. This affects the kidneys ability to filter waste products from the blood which over time, results in kidney failure.
There are several causes of kidney scarring, one of these being high blood pressure.
How does high blood pressure affect the kidneys?
The kidneys act as a filtration unit. They sift out waste products and fluid from the blood which then leave the body as urine.
Blood enters the kidneys through a series of arteries which then branch out into tiny blood vessels or glomeruli. These glomeruli act as filters in that they separate urine from protein and blood cells which stay in the blood stream.
But, high blood pressure can damage these arteries leading into the kidneys which then affect its normal function. This can result in several types of kidney disease, for example glomerulesclerosis (kidney scarring). This can lead to kidney failure.
Causes of kidney scarring
High blood pressure is one factor but others include:
- Kidney infection
- Drug use
- Lupus (autoimmune system disease)
A word about diabetes: if you have diabetes then you are at risk of kidney disease and kidney failure. This equally applies to high blood pressure.
But, if you have diabetes and high blood pressure then this risk is increased even more. In other words, it will cause even greater damage to your kidneys.
This is why it is important to regulate both your diabetes and high blood pressure.
Symptoms of kidney scarring
You may not show any symptoms until you undergo a routine check up at your GP’s surgery. Early warning signs include:
- Excess protein in the urine
- Swollen ankles (fluid retention)
- Build up of fluid in the abdomen
- Blood in the urine
It is important to seek treatment if you experience any of these symptoms.
Treatment for kidney scarring
Unfortunately, if the glomeruli within the kidneys have been damaged (scarred) then they cannot be repaired. So the emphasis is on preventing further damage.
The treatment will depend upon the causes of the scarring. It is due to high blood pressure then medication for controlling this will be prescribed. These may include ACE inhibitors which can minimise the effects of kidney damage especially in diabetic patients. Another option is to follow a low protein diet - if you have excess amounts of protein in your urine or take an immunosuppressant drug.
Can kidney scarring be prevented?
There is a risk of kidney damage for both diabetics and people with high blood pressure. The only way of preventing this is to ensure that you control either your blood sugar levels or your blood pressure.
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