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The Be Well Podcast: Kidney Health - Jimmy Thomas, MD

Listen in or read from the partial transcript below as Jimmy Thomas, MD, Nephrologist at Skagit Regional Health, discusses the importance of kidney health, possible symptoms to look out for if things don't feel right and more.

Prakash Chandran (Host): The main function of the kidney is to remove waste from the body and balance the body's fluids. I'm Prakash Chandran and in this episode of Be Well with Skagit Regional Health, we're gonna be talking all about the kidneys and the importance of kidney health. Here with us to discuss is Dr. Jimmy Thomas. He's a staff nephrologist at Skagit Regional Health. Dr. Thomas, thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate your time. First things first, what exactly do the kidneys do and what are some of their basic function? 

The Be Well Podcast: Kidney Health -  Jimmy Thomas, MD

Jimmy Thomas, MD: Prakash, as you mentioned, the kidneys eliminate waste from the body, and that is the short version of it. The long answer is anything that you eat or drink must be eliminated by your body and you either poop it out or pee it out. And in the process of peeing it out, your kidney regulates a whole bunch of things. And so the first thing it does is it eliminates waste, as you mentioned, but then it helps to regulate your blood pressure by deciding how much sodium your body is gonna keep. Two and three, it regulates your body levels of electrolytes, the sodium, potassium, magnesium, the levels of each and every one of those electrolytes is regulated by your kidney.

And then four, the kidney helps to activate vitamin D and therefore helps maintain the health of your bones. And five of the kidneys secret to hormone called erythropoietin. And that hormone helps your bone marrow to make blood. And so the kidneys do a lot more than just the, clearance of toxins. So five different things. Yeah.

Prakash Chandran (Host): Okay. So they're quite an important organ in the body. When we talk about things happening to the kidney, can you talk about some of the most common diagnosis related to the kidneys?

Jimmy Thomas, MD: So the most common diagnosis that I'm referred patients with is chronic kidney disease. So CKD, and this really is a secondary diagnosis, so to speak. So chronic kidney disease is a disease that affects the kidney because of another primary condition. And most of these conditions are pretty common. Diabetes, high blood pressure, any kind of blood vessel disease, people who had strokes and heart attacks. So those conditions tend to affect the kidney, and that's what causes chronic kidney disease. That is the most common reason I see patients.

And then you have some other conditions which primarily affect the kidneys themselves, relatively rare. These are the nephrotic syndromes and the nephritic syndromes, but we don't really have to go there because they're not as common.

Prakash Chandran (Host): Okay. So just to unpack that a little bit, when you're saying, CKD generally is caused by another primary condition, these are things like high blood pressure, diabetes. Is there anything else that might cause chronic kidney disease?

Jimmy Thomas, MD: Yeah. Right. So diabetes is the most common cause then hypertension. Any disease that affects your blood vessels. And so, people who had strokes and heart attacks or smokers, smoking does cause CKD because of that people who have multiple kidney stones over the course of a lifetime that affects the kidney function. People who have recurrent tract infections, that causes CKD. And then people who have chronic inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis those things eventually do begin to affect the kidney via inflammation. Certain medications have taken for a long time start to affect the kidney function so that the whole bunch of them, but the most common ones, diabetes, blood pressure, diabetes, blood pressure.

To listen to the podcast or read the full transcript, visit here.