The body is a miraculous tool that allows us to work, live, play and thrive in various environments. From the moment we’re born, our bodies can adapt and process numerous factors that we face, keeping us healthy and happy throughout our everyday lives. In order to function at optimal capacity at work and remain healthy at home, our bodies have to be able to keep themselves free of wastes and toxins that come in through outside substances.
The kidneys are fist-sized organs located below the back of the rib cage that serve as the body’s primary filtration system. Blood flows into the kidneys, where it is cleansed of toxins, waste products such as creatinine – a waste produced by our muscles when they’re worked – and excess fluids. Then, the blood is returned to the bloodstream and the toxins are passed out of the body through urine.
The kidneys must be kept healthy in order to keep the blood and body in working order. If there is too much waste in the blood from poor diet, existing kidney damage, diabetes or other causes, the kidneys cannot filter it out efficiently and may face further damage. Eventually, unaddressed kidney damage can develop into more serious conditions like chronic kidney disease (CKD) or end stage renal disease (ESRD) and require regular dialysis treatments.
If your physical health begins to impact your work life, it may be time to speak to a doctor about how to prevent or treat any health concerns you may be experiencing, such as kidney failure. These 5 workplace signs could mean that your kidneys are in danger:
1. You experience excess stress at work
Workplace stress can cause an array of health concerns, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol. While it’s not guaranteed that those with high blood pressure or cholesterol will have kidney damage, they are among those most vulnerable to develop chronic kidney disease and kidney failure.
If you experience high amounts of stress during the workday or have a history of cardiovascular issues in your family, you may want to speak to your doctor about scheduling regular check-ups and blood tests to measure your GFR levels. Estimating your glomerular filtration rate can help determine how well your kidneys are cleaning your blood, if your kidneys are functioning properly and whether or not you should be treated for kidney damage or CKD. The results of this test can vary between healthy kidneys and end stage renal disease (ESRD):
• 90 or higher – Healthy kidneys (Or stage 1 of CKD if kidneys are damaged)
• 89-60 – Stage 2, mild loss of kidney function
• 30-59 – Stage 3, mild to severe loss of kidney function
• 29-15 – Stage 4, severe loss of kidney function
• 15 or less – Stage 5, end stage renal disease
Finding the right treatment plan and stress management at work can make your environment significantly less stressful, which in turn, ensures further kidney health.
2. You can’t concentrate or feel fatigued at work
It’s not uncommon for employees to experience the occasional distraction or off day. However, if you notice your fatigue and inability to concentrate persisting on a regular basis, there could be something more serious going on.
Fatigue can be a sign of numerous conditions that impact your physical health and can be caused by a number of factors, such as your lifestyle (diet and exercise routine, stress level, etc.), medical history and mental health issues. It can also occasionally be a sign of kidney failure, due to the toxins that build up in your blood.
When your kidneys can’t filter waste out of your bloodstream properly, you’ll likely start feeling shaky or tired. If you notice that you feel weak and achy during normal activities or have a hard time concentrating at work, talk to your medical team to learn about more serious issues that could be going on with your kidneys.
3. Your day is disrupted by trips to the restroom
Leaving your desk frequently throughout the day to urinate may be a sign of kidney damage as well. When the kidneys are damaged, they can cause an increased urge to urinate due to infection or excess fluids. Kidney damage can also cause excess protein, which results in foam or bubbles in the urine. You may notice blood in your urine as well, as a result of ruptured blood cells in your system. If your kidneys are in danger, you may experience one or all of these signs.
If your day is disrupted by increased trips to the restroom, if you experience chronic urinary tract infections or if you have any type of discomfort while urinating, it may be time to see a doctor about your kidneys and get a urine creatinine test. Meanwhile, be aware of your daily routines and listen to your body when you think something may be wrong.
4. You’re distracted by dry or itchy skin throughout the day
As mentioned, the kidneys’ primary job is to filter toxins out of the body, as well as excess fluids. They also help produce red blood cells, promote strong bones and regulate minerals throughout the body.
Dry and itchy skin sometimes accompanies a bone and mineral disease that is often related to chronic kidney disease or end stage renal disease. This occurs when the kidneys aren’t able to maintain the right balance of minerals and nutrients in the blood, which can cause skin irritation, redness or swelling.
Next time you reach for the lotion at your desk or are distracted by itchy skin during a meeting, take a look at your other signs and symptoms to see if your kidneys need some extra care. Often, if detected early enough, these symptoms can be treated relatively easily. If these problems have persisted for a longer period of time, you may need to begin dialysis treatments to prevent further advancement of CKD.
5. Your legs, feet or ankles are swollen
Human beings are not sedentary creatures by nature. Sitting still for eight hours per day can take its toll on your body. To address this issue, many employees take advantage of standing desks or a quick walk around the office to keep circulation moving throughout the day.
However, if you notice that your legs, feet or ankles are swollen and getting up to move around doesn’t seem to help, you could be retaining sodium in your system that your kidneys can’t filter out. This is a key sign of kidney damage, as the kidneys aren’t able to filter out excess fluids, and therefore it finds its way to your tissues and begins to build up.
Swelling and water retention could be a sign of health conditions and aren’t exclusive to kidney damage. Regardless, you should consult a medical professional to determine the best course of action if you are experiencing any type of swelling in your limbs or extremities.
Workplace discomfort can negatively impact your productivity and quality of life, so it’s important to listen to your body when it feels off. If you experience any combination of these workplace discomforts, you may benefit from talking to your doctor or scheduling a blood test to ensure your kidneys are functioning as they should.
If you have kidney damage or at any stage of CKD, stay in communication with your employer, work team or HR director about the challenges you face throughout the work day, and keep a line of communication open with your doctor as well. You may have to schedule time for dialysis treatments or follow a specific diet when you are looking out for your kidneys. Most employers will appreciate you making them aware of your situation so they can empower and support you in your role.
You can also find additional support at home with your family, your friends, or even a support group or forum who can relate to your circumstances. If you have the right resources and people around you, it’s very possible to manage your health concerns and continue growing your success at work.