Why Infection IS a Big Deal With Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
By Marika Wamback, BSc. R.D.
Although it may not always appear to be important, especially when you feel well, infection IS a big deal if you have chronic kidney disease (CKD). For those of you with CKD, balancing the demands of infection control with the demands of life can be a challenge. As you may seem healthy on the outside to the people around you, it can be difficult for them to understand your heightened risk for infection. Below, are some of the reasons why infection IS a big deal when you have CKD.
- Compromised Vital Organ Function: When you have CKD, your kidney function is compromised. They are vital organs; necessary for life. They help regulate electrolytes, blood pressure, and fluid. This is necessary for a properly functioning cardiovascular system and reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Infection can put damaged kidneys at further risk of impairment, thus affecting other vital organs.
- Diabetes: Diabetes is the primary cause of kidney failure. Overtime, uncontrolled diabetes damages these organs by interrupting the blood flow to the organ, depriving it of oxygen and nutrients. High blood sugars provide food for bacteria and viruses, enabling them to reproduce, thus creating a longer and more severe infection. Controlling blood sugars is essential to reducing your risk of infection.
- Heart Disease: The primary cause of death from kidney disease is heart disease. If you have kidney disease and heart disease, you are at greater risk for infection. This is because both vital organs functions are weakened and may not withstand the stress of infection.
- End Stage Renal Disease: When you are on dialysis, you have open sites into your body allowing access for dialysis. When there are openings in the skin, the skin cannot protect you from bacteria and viruses. Proper cleaning and care of your access is essential to prevent infection. Peritonitis is a serious infection that can occur with peritoneal dialysis, as is sepsis from catheter or fistula infection. These infections can affect other vital organ functions such as the liver, lungs, and heart.
- Kidney Transplant: Kidney transplant can place you at greater risk of infection due to surgery, healing time, and having only one kidney. During this time, the body’s immunity is stressed as the body is trying to accept the new kidney. Anti-rejection medications are prescribed to help the body accept the new kidney, but they suppress the immune system, making it more difficult for the body to fight any infection.
- Malnutrition: Up to 50% of the CKD population can have malnutrition, which is a primary risk factor for infection and mortality. Following your renal diet is imperative to keep you well nourished.
- Other Auto-Immune Disorders: If you have an auto-immune disorder along with CKD, your risk of infection is greater due to having a compromised immune system. It is not able to fight infections as effectively, which can prolong the infection or increase the severity of it.
To reduce your risk of infection, seek and follow the advice of your renal team. Taking your medications as prescribed, following your renal diet, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, completing required medical tests, and attending appointments as scheduled are all important in staying healthy while living with CKD.
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