Dr KebuluThe month of March is dedicated as the kidney month. It is a time when we are called upon to reflect, and educate ourselves, members of our families and our communities on the significance of the kidney. It is also during this time that we salute and pay tribute to those affected with any form of renal (kidney) disease. First, I will like to use this opportunity to extend a special thank you to the founder of the Iya Project, Iya Bekondo. Your hard work, dedication and sacrifice towards greater awareness of the kidney cannot be ignored. You have indeed touched our lives. My understanding of the importance of the kidney has greatly improved since the day I met you; and you introduced yourself as a kidney transplant recipient.

Yes, I become truly aware of the importance of a healthy kidney when I first met Iya. As a member of the healthcare field, I would have preferred to attribute my knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the kidney to my college training. I do not mean to say that I didn’t learn anything during the years I spent in pharmacy school. There is a famous saying that ‘we go through school but school doesn’t go through us’.

 In continuing awareness and education on kidney disease, we must keep in mind that March is not just a month of awareness on kidney disease, but also a month of loftiness, regeneration, and preparation of a new beginning. It is essentially the period during which we strive to make necessary changes in our lives.
One important change we are called upon during this period is to improve our knowledge on the effects of medications on our kidneys. The kidney’s main function is to eliminate waste products from the body. It is also essential in the control of blood pressure, production of our red blood cells and the balancing of the amount of key electrolytes in the body. When blood flows to the kidneys, sensors within the kidney decide how much water, potassium, sodium, calcium, chlorides and other important electrolytes to excrete. Due to its structure and functioning the kidney is exposed to many potential harmful chemicals. These potentially harmful chemicals can be introduced to the kidneys through certain drugs or medications we consume. Damage to the kidneys by drugs or medications can be determined by the area of the renal system in which the damage occurs.
Read below for how the misuse of certain drugs/medications could potentially cause damage to specific areas of the kidneys.
1)     Drugs That Cause Kidney Tissue Damage: If not taken properly, certain medications have the ability to cause structural damage to kidney tissues. Examples of such medications include the following:

  • Antibiotics: Aminoglycoside, Gentamicin, and Tobramycin
  • Lithium salts most often used for bipolar disorder
  • Certain dyes (contrast dyes) used in some imaging procedures
  • Statins (Cholesterol lowering medications) e.g Lipitor (atorvastatin), Zocor(simvastatin), Crestor, Pravachol (pravastatin), Mevacor ( lovastatin). Statins have the ability to cause significant muscle breakdown. The end products of such rapid muscle breakdown can clog the filtering system of the kidney, eventually resulting kidney failure.

2)     Drugs That Cause Obstruction of Blood Circulation In The kidneys (intrarenal circulation): Blood circulation within the kidney is essential for its effective functioning. This circulation is regulated by certain chemicals found in the kidneys; such as prostaglandins. Certain medications can influence the processing of these chemicals when not taken as prescribed or recommended and as such; hinder the circulation of blood in the kidney tissues. A common example is a group of drugs found in almost every home, Non Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). These include Motrin (ibuprofen), Advil (ibuprofen), Aleve (naproxen), Aspirin (higher dose); commonly used as pain killers.
3)     Drugs That Affect Blood Volume in the Kidneys: There are certain drugs that function by depleting blood volume. These types of drugs are called diuretics, also known as “water pills”. They are often used to control high blood pressure, reduce edema (swelling of the hands and legs) from congested heart and kidney failure. Excessive use of these drugs can lead to significant low blood volume, thereby decreasing the blood supply to the tissues in the kidney. Examples of such drugs include Lasix (furosemide), hydrochlorothiazide, and combinations of them.
4)     Drugs That Affect the Heart:Some Medications used for heart disease and high blood pressure have as one of their side effect, the ability to weaken the force of contraction of heart muscles (negative inotropic).This effect has the potential to impair kidney function in situations where the heart functioning is already compromised. Examples of such drugs include:
Beta blockers:
.Coreg (carvedilol)
.Toprol XL (metoprolol succinate)
.Lopressor (metoprolol tartate)
.Monocor (bisoprolol)
Some calcium channel blockers:
5)     Miscellaneous: Some other medications have the potential to affect kidney functioning when used in certain compromised conditions. Examples include:

  • ACEI (angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors): lisinopril, enalapril, fossinopril, etc.
  • Vasodilator drugs: minoxidil, prazosin, etc
  • Antiviral medications such as those used to treat HIV and AIDS infections

With your support, The Iya Foundation, Inc is confident a feasible early detection, surveillance and treatment program can be established to slow, and possibly prevent the progression of kidney disease in the U.S, and particularly in the African Immigrant Community in the U.S.
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