What your Doctor means by Kidney disease

This is a guest post by Dr. Omada Idachaba.

During my encounters with my patients, I notice certain conversations that commonly occur. One such conversation occurs anytime I tell patients that their kidney function is diminished. They automatically and rightly relate this to their urinary function,

“..oh, so that means I need to drink  more water…”

Or “…..so that’s why I am having a difficulty urinating….

Even though the conduction of urine through the urinary tract is closely tied to the function of the kidneys, their problems may not always show up at the same time or be related to one another.

Let me explain how these two relate.

Kidney disease.

The kidneys are a pair of vital organs that perform many functions to keep the blood clean and chemically balanced.


The terms “renal function” and “kidney function” mean the same thing. Health professionals use the term “renal function” to talk about how efficiently the kidneys filter blood.

People with two healthy kidneys have 100 percent of their kidney function. Small or mild declines in kidney function – as much as 30 to 40 percent – would rarely be noticeable. Kidney function is now calculated using a blood sample and a formula to find the estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR).

For many people with reduced kidney function, a kidney disease is also present and will get worse.

Common causes of reduced kidney function include:

  • diabetes
  • hypertension
  • glomerular diseases that attack the tiny blood vessels, or glomeruli, within the kidney that can result from autoimmune diseases and some kidney infections
  • inherited kidney disorders
  • direct trauma to the kidneys and
  • poisons.

Urologic disease

urinary system

This is any disease state affecting the urinary system. The urinary tract is the body’s drainage system for removing wastes and extra water. Any disorder along the tract causes any of the following symptoms:

  • urinary retention – inability to void urine
  • urinary frequency – urinating many times a day
  • urinary urgency -difficulty holding urine till the appropriate time
  • urinary incontinence- loss of ability to control voiding.

Some symptoms that could signify a kidney problem but manifest in the urine include blood in the urine, decreased urinary output and the finding of protein in the urine.

I hope these explanations help you understand what it means if your doctor mentions kidney disease. Your doctor can explain further the differences between kidney disease and urinary tract disease as they may apply in your case.

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