Hepatitis: How this Liver Disorder Impacts Kidneys

Representational image. PTI

The liver plays a crucial role in converting food into nutrients for the body and eliminating toxins. Viral hepatitis, caused by viruses like hepatitis A, B, C, and E, can lead to acute liver failure, which carries a high risk of complications if left untreated. Interestingly, liver failure has a close association with kidney disease, and this article aims to explore the lesser-known link between hepatitis and its impact on kidney function.

One of the liver’s functions is converting nitrogenous waste from food into a less toxic substance called urea, which is then eliminated by the kidneys through urine. When the liver is damaged, toxins build up and can harm kidney function. Additionally, the inflammation caused by viral hepatitis and the body’s immune response can also lead to kidney damage in susceptible individuals. In some cases, hepatitis B and C viruses can directly invade the kidneys, causing kidney disease.

Over time, the cumulative effects of toxins, inflammation, and direct viral assault can result in chronic kidney disease (CKD) and, in severe cases, kidney failure. Studies have shown that 10-20% of patients with chronic hepatitis B and C may develop kidney disease during their illness. Some of these individuals may progress to end-stage renal disease (ESRD), where dialysis or kidney transplantation becomes necessary. These statistics highlight the critical importance of timely screening and proactive management of kidney health in hepatitis patients.

Furthermore, hepatitis poses a growing health risk to patients undergoing hemodialysis, a treatment for kidney failure, if the medical facility fails to follow infection control guidelines meticulously. Detecting kidney problems early is crucial to prevent irreversible damage and the progression to kidney failure. Hepatitis patients should be alert to the warning signs of kidney disease, including changes in urination patterns (increased frequency, foamy or dark-colored urine, or the presence of blood), swelling (especially in the legs, ankles, and around the eyes), fatigue and weakness, persistently elevated blood pressure, and electrolyte imbalances (potassium, calcium, and phosphate).

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Hepatitis patients can take proactive steps to protect their kidney health and reduce the risk of kidney complications. Here are some tips:

1. Regular medical check-ups: Undergo regular kidney function tests to monitor renal health. Early detection of kidney issues allows for timely intervention and management.
2. Treat hepatitis: Work closely with your healthcare provider to manage hepatitis through appropriate antiviral therapies and necessary lifestyle changes. Keeping hepatitis under control can help reduce its impact on kidney function. Fortunately, newer medications have improved the outlook for patients with hepatitis.
3. Maintain a healthy diet: Consume a balanced diet that is low in sodium, refined sugars, and saturated fats. Opt for fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins to support kidney health.
4. Stay hydrated: Ensure adequate hydration, as it helps the kidneys flush out toxins and waste products. However, consult with your healthcare provider about the appropriate fluid intake for your specific condition.
5. Avoid nephrotoxic substances: Some medications, herbal supplements, and over-the-counter pain relievers can harm the kidneys. Always check with your doctor before taking any new medications or supplements.

Protecting the health of the liver and kidneys is crucial for overall well-being. Hepatitis patients must remain vigilant about their kidney function, recognize early signs of kidney disease, and take proactive steps to protect their kidneys with the help of healthcare professionals. With timely intervention and proper management, the risk of kidney complications can be mitigated, ensuring a healthier and better future for hepatitis patients.

The author of this article is a leading Nephrologist and a Consultant at NephroPlus. The views expressed in this piece are personal and solely those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Firstpost. For the latest news, trending topics, cricket news, Bollywood updates, and more, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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