Health & Wellness

Can High Blood Pressure Hurt Your Kidneys?

Adults with high blood pressure are at a higher risk for developing kidney disease—but early detection and treatment can help.

Can High Blood Pressure Hurt Your Kidneys?

Photo credit: WindNight/Shutterstock.com

By 

Leslie Pepper,   

Apr 28, 2020 • 3 min read

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While you may not think much about your kidneys, these vital organs are hard at work for you 24/7. Located just below your rib cage, kidneys play an essential role in filtering waste, toxins, and excess fluid from your blood. Unfortunately, high blood pressure can damage your kidneys over time, hindering their ability to keep you healthy.

What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the force created as blood pushes against the walls of the arteries while traveling throughout the body. When the pressure is too high, the blood flows through the vessels and can eventually cause damage, including hardening and narrowing of the vessels throughout the body. This reduces the blood supply to the kidneys, as well as damages the tiny filtering units in your kidneys, limiting their ability to remove waste and fluid from the body. This creates a vicious cycle—extra fluid in the blood vessels can raise blood pressure, which causes even more damage to the kidneys.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists high blood pressure as the second leading cause of kidney disease and failure in the United States, second only to diabetes. 

How will I know I have kidney damage?

In the early stages of kidney disease, most people won’t know that anything has gone awry. If kidney function worsens, waste can build up in the body and symptoms can emerge, including:

  • Fluid retention (called edema), particularly in the lower half of the body, although the hands and face can also swell

  • Difficulty urinating, a decrease in the amount of urine, or a need to urinate more often

  • Stomach issues like loss of appetite, nausea, or vomiting

  • Exhaustion

  • Trouble concentrating

  • High/worsening of blood pressure

“High blood pressure is thought to be silent, but people can have symptoms such as headache, shortness of breath, or fatigue,” says Nieca Goldberg, MD, Medical Director of NYU Women’s Heart Program.

How is kidney disease diagnosed and treated? 

Kidney function is measured with a series of blood tests known as an electrolyte panel, says Dr. Goldberg. These tests include BUN (blood urea nitrogen), creatine (a waste product from muscle breakdown) and GFR (glomerular filtration rate). A urine sample may also be collected to look for excess protein in the urine (called proteinuria), which is usually associated with kidney disease. Your doctor may also do an ultrasound to look for any problems in size or structure, or any blockages in the kidneys.

Treatment depends on the extent of the kidney disease, but the goals are to get your blood pressure within normal levels, and to keep the kidney disease from progressing. This usually involves lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise. Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and/or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) have been shown to be the most effective in slowing the progression of kidney disease due to high blood pressure, says Dr. Goldberg. 

Examples of ACE inhibitors:

Examples of angiotensin II receptor blockers:

If you’re prescribed a high blood pressure medication, check to see if you can get it at a discounted price and with free home delivery through Blink Health.

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This article is not medical advice. It is intended for general informational purposes and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your physician or dial 911.

Blink Health is not insurance. The discount prescription drug provider is Blink Health Administration, LLC, 1407 Broadway, Suite 2100, New York, NY 10018, 1 (844) 265-6444, www.blinkhealth.com.

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