March 9 is World Kidney Day. You probably don’t think much about what your kidneys do for you, but the answer is, a lot!
Risk factors for kidney disease
If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or a family history of kidney disease or kidney failure, you are at greater risk for developing kidney disease.  You are also at greater risk if you are of African, Hispanic, Aboriginal or Asian descent.  These are all risk factors that cannot be changed. Being overweight and smoking, however, are contributors to kidney disease risk that can be changed: maintaining a healthy weight and stopping smoking (or not starting!) can help keep your kidneys healthy. 
A healthy diet that is not too high in sodium can help keep your kidneys healthy as well as keep blood pressure and blood cholesterol in check.  Managing weight through diet, exercise, moderating alcohol consumption, and stress reduction, can also help lower your risk of kidney disease. 
Urinary tract infections and kidney disease
While untreated urinary tract infections may spread to the kidneys, UTIs do not usually lead to kidney damage. Typically, urinary tract infections are easy to treat with antibiotics if caught early.  It is important to have UTIs treated early to prevent them from getting worse.
However, prostate problems that may cause UTIs in men, or kidney stones, can lead to kidney damage if not treated. 
Treating kidney disease
Your doctor will often do routine blood and/or urine tests to keep tabs on your kidney function.  Often, 90% of kidney function can be lost before symptoms occur.  Sometimes, kidney damage is reversible or can be treated with medication. Other times, when the kidneys have irreversibly failed, dialysis may be used—dialysis is often done by having the blood cleaned by a machine several times a week (hemodialysis). For some cases dialysis can be done by inserting a catheter (tube) in your abdomen, and allowing a fluid which collects waste products to sit in the cavity for a predetermined amount of time. The fluid and waste products are then drained out of the abdominal area called the peritoneal cavity—this is called peritoneal dialysis and is usually done when some kidney function still remains.  Most people on peritoneal dialysis will eventually require hemodialysis. 
People on dialysis must adhere to a strict treatment schedule, and also ensure they follow the diet and fluid requirements set by their doctor and/or dietitian. If treatment is delayed, a person may get very sick, very quickly.
The only way to cure chronic kidney disease that requires dialysis, is to receive a kidney transplant. Often a family member or sometimes a friend, can donate a kidney, as we only need one kidney to survive.
If you have chronic kidney disease or kidney failure, a kidney disease medical ID bracelet is important in case the unexpected happens.