When you are diagnosed with kidney disease (before dialysis, and later, if you move on to dialysis), you doctor will frequently monitor blood and urine tests to gauge how your kidneys are functioning.
The extent of chronic kidney disease is based upon the presence of kidney damage and your glomerular filtration rate (GFR), which indicates how well your kidneys filter wastes from your body.
Depending upon the results of those tests, doctors may prescribe medications such as:
- Active vitamin D: A hormonally-active form of vitamin D is produced by the kidneys. As patients progress with kidney disease, the level of this vitamin drops significantly and can contribute to the development of bone disease. Doctors will prescribe oral vitamin D supplements when a patient’s kidneys can no longer make enough of the active form.
- Phosphorus binders: The kidneys are responsible for regulating the amount of phosphorus in the body. Phosphorus works in combination with calcium to keep bones healthy and strong. It also supports nerve and muscle function. When levels get too high, excess calcium and phosphorus deposits can increase the risk for heart disease, damaged blood vessels and skin problems. It can also cause weak bones. If your level is high, you will be started on a low phosphorus diet and your doctors may also prescribe oral medications called phosphorus binders that will remove the excess phosphorus from your body.
- Iron: Patients with advanced kidney disease are often anemic. Anemia occurs when your blood lacks the right amount of healthy red blood cells. Iron is needed to make red blood cells. Your physician will check the amount of iron in your blood. If you have low levels of iron, you may be prescribed iron pills or an iron infusion.
- Erythropoietin stimulating agents (ESAs): If you are diagnosed with anemia and have adequate iron in your blood, you, may be prescribed a medication that will stimulate the production of more red blood cells in your bone marrow. Your physician will monitor these medications closely and prescribe the lowest dose possible to treat your anemia.
Do NOT take any medication that is not approved by your kidney doctors. Even over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements can be dangerous to your health.
Your kidney doctor should be aware of any other medications that have been prescribed by other physicians.
Make it a habit to bring a list of current medications, including any over-the-counter medications, to every appointment.
And be sure to let your care team know whenever you have an appointment with a dentist or gynecologist, or plan to have minor surgery. Your doctor may prescribe additional medications to prevent infections.