By Antoine Azar, M.D.
March is National Kidney Month, and it is a great time to remind people in Central New York of the importance of our kidneys. It’s also a good time to talk about what nephrology is. Simply put, nephrology is the branch of medicine that deals with the functions and diseases of the kidneys.
The kidneys serve many important functions, including filtering blood and wastes, regulating blood pressure, producing vitamin D and controlling production of red blood cells.
Nationally, over 30 million people suffer from kidney disease — most are unaware they have a kidney problem. This is a serious concern as by the time symptoms appear kidney disease may have progressed to a more serious stage.
The potential symptoms of kidney disease include fluid retention in the legs and face, difficulty breathing, decreased appetite, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating and skin itchiness. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the major causes of kidney disease. Other risk factors include heart disease, obesity and a family history.
The only way to find out if people have kidney disease is through blood and urine tests to measure kidney functioning and check for protein in the urine. Lab test results are extremely important to measure kidney function.
Patients and providers at our practice, Nephrology Associates of Syracuse (NAS), work together to develop a plan to slow the progression of kidney disease, and regularly monitor health status.
Encouraging patients to understand their illness and become engaged in their health care is a priority at NAS.
Individual, one-on-one patient education visits are available for patients and their loved one to meet with a kidney disease practitioner, and have an in-depth discussion about the patient’s condition and what can be done in terms of diet, exercise, and lifestyle to best manage health. Medical nutritional therapy is available from a registered dietitian on site.
To prevent kidney disease and lower risk for kidney failure, control blood pressure and blood sugar levels, maintain a healthy body weight, avoid smoking and check with your doctor before taking certain medications.
I recommend that individuals with risk factors or who are experiencing symptoms be screened by their primary care physician. If warranted, your provider will make a referral for a kidney consultation at our office.
Physician Antoine Azar earned his medical degree from University of Aleppo, Syria, and is board-certified in internal medicine and nephrology. He completed a nephrology fellowship at SUNY Upstate Medical University and his internal medicine residency at UlC/Advocate Christ Medical Center in Chicago. He has been with Nephrology Associates of Syracuse since October 2016.
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