Managing Your Kidney Health

The kidneys are two organs found below the ribs with one on each side of your spine. They are shaped like kidney beans and are about the size of your closed fist. Your kidneys cleanse your blood of toxins and transform the waste into urine.

What happens when kidneys aren’t working well?

Water builds up in the body. The heart beats faster and it is harder to breathe. Blood pressure rises. A person may experience swelling and weight gain. 

Wastes build up in the blood. A person may feel tired, weak, nauseated, and/or forgetful. They may also experience persistent itchiness, problems sleeping, and a loss of appetite. 

Blood pressure rises. This can lead to severe headaches, fatigue or confusion, vision problems, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and irregular heartbeat. 

The body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells. A person may feel tired and experience low energy. 

Mineral imbalances which can lead to heart problems, weak bones, joint pain, and swelling.

Without treatment, kidney disease can lead to kidney failure, which can cause death. For more information, see Living with Chronic Kidney Disease.

What is kidney disease?

Kidney disease happens when there is damage to the kidneys that causes the kidneys to not work well. In many cases, kidney damage happens slowly over time. You may not know your kidneys are damaged until lots of damage has already happened. 

Acute kidney disease, also called acute renal failure, happens when your kidneys suddenly stop working.  

Chronic kidney disease, also called CKD, happens when your kidneys have been damaged or not working well for more than three months.

What increases my risk of kidney disease?

You are more at risk for kidney disease if you have any of the following:

  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • known kidney problems
  • urinary tract problems
  • autoimmune disease (such as lupus)
  • family history of kidney disease
  • cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease, strokes, or peripheral vascular disease (poor leg circulation)
  • excessive use of known toxins (such as painkillers and others)

If any of these risk factors apply to you, talk to your family doctor or nurse practitioner about kidney disease.

How do I get screened for kidney disease?

Your family doctor or nurse practitioner can request urine and blood tests that tell them how your kidneys are doing. If you do not have a family care provider, you can call 811, access virtual care, or go to a walk-in clinic. If you have diabetes, you can access screening through the Diabetes Program.

Based on the results, your doctor or nurse practitioner will determine your kidney health; and, if required, start a treatment plan for you or refer you to the PEI Provincial Renal Clinic for specialized care. 

Your family doctor and nurse practitioner can also work with you to manage your concerns and risk factors when it comes to kidney health in general.

How can I keep my kidneys healthy?

Visit your doctor or nurse practitioner for regular check-ups. They can check how your kidneys are doing through routine blood and urine tests. Since kidney disease is often silent, this is one of the best ways to ensure early diagnosis. An early diagnosis means some actions can be taken to keep kidneys working for as long as possible. 

If you have diabetes, take steps to manage it. High blood sugar damages the kidneys and causes many other medical issues.

Take medications as prescribed. Tell your doctor, nurse practitioner, and community pharmacist about any over-the-counter medications, vitamins, or supplements you take regularly. Be active. Physical activity can be anything from playing with your kids/grandkids to regularly taking walks. Every bit of physical activity helps

Aim for a healthy body weight. Eat healthy, balanced meals that are low in salt.

Limit alcohol. Follow the Canadian guidelines for limiting alcohol.

Maintain healthy blood pressure. Talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner about what healthy blood pressure is for you.

Know your family’s medical history. If someone in your family had/has kidney disease, you are at risk of kidney disease as well. 

Stop smoking. Learn more about the PEI Smoking Cessation Program. 

About the Provincial Renal Program

Health PEI provides a range of kidney care and related services through the Provincial Renal Program to prevent, diagnose, and treat kidney disease including:  

Contact the PEI Provincial Renal Clinic

QEH Ambulatory Care Centre
60 Riverside Drive
Charlottetown, PE C1A 8T5

Telephone: 902-894-0019
Fax: 902-620-0497

Published date: 
April 27, 2023
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