Besides being sudden and undesirable, the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a plethora of harmful effects on human health, many of which are complex and not easily detectable. Some of the common complaints heard from patients who were affected by the virus were heart palpitations, loss of taste and smell for a long period of time, ringing in the ears, etc. However, the brain and heart aren’t the only organs to get affected. The virus badly affects the kidneys, especially if they were already weak or malfunctioning in the patient.
This article shall discuss the damage caused to the kidneys due to COVID-19 and the various issues prevailing around it.
Some people with severe COVID-19 infections exhibit symptoms of kidney impairment, even if they had no underlying renal issues prior to being contaminated with the coronavirus. High quantities of protein or blood in the urine, as well as abnormal blood work, are signs of renal issues in COVID-19 individuals.
Another common sign associated with damage is kidney pain. Kidney pain is commonly reported as soreness in the back part and sides of the upper abdomen. This type of discomfort is known as “flank pain.” It’s felt just below your ribcage and over your hips as well as your pelvis.
However, there might be other causes of kidney pain besides COVID-19. Some of them are kidney stones, tumors, or some other infection. While a COVID test will confirm the infection, one can take a kidney function test for proper evaluation of renal health.
Tests to Undertake
As mentioned earlier, one is required to undergo a COVID test to confirm getting infected by the virus. Once that happens, the affected person is expected to remain in quarantine unless recovered. Hospitalization might be necessary in severe cases. If during the recovery process or post-recovery, any sudden pain is observed in the kidney region, one must consult a medical professional. Kidney function tests may be suggested to check how well the kidneys are functioning.
How Does COVID-19 Cause Kidney Damage?
Many of you must be wondering, how the kidneys get damaged when the virus is mainly known to attack the lungs. Research is going on to find the exact answer, although few mechanisms are being regarded as responsible for this.
- Affecting immunity: After getting infected, most patients have a high level of cytokines in their bodies, which are proteins known to trigger inflammation during infection. This inflammation may possibly damage the renal tissues.
- Clotting of blood: Several reports suggest that the virus leads to blood clots. Now, these clots are likely to block blood vessels, which may harm the kidneys.
- Lack of oxygen: Insufficient oxygen in the blood is one of the common signs of COVID-19 infection. Low levels of oxygen have a damaging effect on almost every organ, including the kidney.
Acute kidney damage (AKD) is mostly reported in patients, with the statistics being as high as 36.6 percent to 46 percent. Hospitalized and severely affected patients were the majority, suffering from kidney damage.
People At Risk
Those who have renal disease or other serious chronic medical disorders are more likely to develop serious sickness. Dialysis patients may have weakened immune systems, making it more difficult to fight off infections. Individuals who have had a kidney transplant must take anti-rejection medications (also known as immunosuppressants). Such medications function by suppressing the immune system, making it more difficult to tackle infections. Older folks, who are typically suffering from various long – term medical illnesses, are especially at risk.
Medical experts believe that people with acute renal impairment caused by COVID-19 who do not undergo dialysis will fare better than those who do. Patients with acute renal damage who require dialysis are even more prone to suffering than those who do not have acute kidney injury. Approximately one-third of those who survive will not get back to full renal function even by the time they are discharged from the hospital.
Research and Future
Additional patient data is needed for researchers to have a better grasp of the association between renal injury and COVID-19. According to the existing studies, AKI significantly raises the chance of acute COVID-19 and mortality. This is most probably because AKI impairs the immune system and leads to fluid irregularities, waste accumulation in the circulation, and, finally, organ failure.
Among the various concerning questions, one such important one is how to tackle the risk of acute kidney damage due to COVID-19 and minimize it as soon as possible. Whenever researchers can find answers to these concerns, it might lead to novel strategies for healthcare practitioners to help prevent severe COVID-19 consequences and lower the chance of mortality.
It has been around two years since the pandemic struck mankind. Hence, the research on the complications brought by it is still in its initial stages. It’ll take more time to reach some solid conclusions, especially regarding the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the human body and organs. Till then, maintaining a balance between diet and necessary medicines is a good way to stay healthy.