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Sickle Cell Nephropathy

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What are kidneys and what do they do?

Your kidneys are bean shaped organs each about the size of your fist. They are located in the middle of your back, just below the rib cage. Your kidneys filter your blood to remove waste products and extra water while keeping things your body needs in the blood.

What does Sickle Cell disease have to do with the kidneys?

Sickle cell disease damages the tiny blood vessels within the kidneys that do the filtering. At first, only small amounts of a protein called albumin may leak into the urine (this is called microalbuminuria). As more damage occurs the amount of albumin and other proteins increases (called proteinuria). These changes happen without any symptoms.

How do I know my kidneys are affected?

As part of comprehensive care for sickle cell disease urine should be tested each year starting at the age of five. If this test shows a high level of proteinuria, a 24 hour urine collection is requested. The 24 hour urine test gives a better picture of kidney functioning and the degree of damage. If this level is also high a referral is made to the kidney doctor.

What can I do to help prevent problems?

Get regular check ups in the Comprehensive Sickle Cell Clinic so that any problems can be picked up early and treated to prevent worsening problems. Drinking plenty of fluids may help prevent damage to the kidneys from sickle cell disease. Get treatment immediately for urinary tract infections. Get urine tested regularly at your comprehensive sickle cell clinic appointments. Hydroxyurea may also slow the progression of kidney damage.

What is the treatment?

Treatment for the kidneys damaged by sickle cell disease includes taking a medication that is frequently used for blood pressure. This medicine helps protect the kidney and decrease proteinuria. The kidney doctor may suggest a change in diet to help prevent worsening of the damage. End stage kidney failure is treated with dialysis. The goal is to prevent kidney failure requiring dialysis.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 08/05

(757) 668-7000