Inflammatory arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease caused by an overactive immune system. In it, a degenerative joint inflammation occurs that usually affects many joints of the body at the same time.

A disease that affects people of all ages, inflammatory arthritis also puts people at a notably higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease. In fact, studies suggest that one in four people with rheumatoid arthritis, a type of inflammatory arthritis, have the chance of developing chronic kidney disease.

Common symptoms of inflammatory arthritis include: 

  • Stiffness and joint pain after periods of rest or inactivity, specifically in the morning 
  • Redness, swelling, and/or a feeling of warmth in the affected joints
  • Inflammation in other areas in the body, like the skin or internal organs such as the heart and lungs.

Inflammatory arthritis can be of many types. These include ankylosing spondylitis, gout and pseudo gout, Lyme disease, Psoriatic arthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, and Lupus. In this article, we will help you understand how inflammatory arthritis affects kidneys and leads to loss of its function.

Inflammatory Arthritis & Kidney Diseases

Inflammation due to arthritis has long been associated with kidney function. The chronic, systematic inflammation that targets the joints in inflammatory arthritis can also affect other parts of the body like the heart, lungs, and kidneys – the two bean-shaped organs located below the ribcage, behind the abdominal organs and help in the purification of blood by filtration of waste from the bloodstream.

Inflammation is the response of the body’s immune system to protect the body against things that may harm it, such as toxins, infections, and injuries. Uncontrolled inflammation may cause damage to the cells that line blood vessels and contribute to a disease where plaque can build up inside the arteries of the kidneys, or renal arteries, known as atherosclerosis. Over time, this plaque tends to harden and narrow the arteries, limiting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the kidneys leading to kidney disease.

Amyloidosis is another potential kidney problem for people with long-standing, poorly controlled inflammatory arthritis. It occurs when amyloid, an abnormal protein, builds up in the kidneys.

According to research, patients with inflammatory arthritis also have a higher risk of developing glomerulonephritis – an inflammation of the filtering units of the kidneys known as glomeruli. This inflammation can impair kidney function, leading to chronic kidney disease.

Factors that Lead to Kidney Disease

In patients with inflammatory arthritis, several factors may contribute to kidney disease. These include:

  • High levels of inflammation within the first year of diagnosis 
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure 
  • High cholesterol 
  • Use of corticosteroid medicines, like cortisone or prednisone 
  • Chronic use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications 
  • High-salt diet

Arthritis Medications: How They Affect Kidneys?

Medications used for treating inflammatory conditions like inflammatory arthritis usually have little impact on the kidneys when taken as prescribed by the medical professional. However, if the kidney function is already reduced, the doctor may need to adjust the dosage of certain medications or may need to completely stop it. In case the kidney is not functioning properly, medication stays for longer time in the bloodstream, increasing the chances of unwanted side effects of the medicines. 

However, some specific medications for inflammatory arthritis may potentially cause negative effects on the kidney function. These may include: 

  • NSAIDs: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may deteriorate kidney function by affecting the blood flow within the kidneys. Long-term usage of NSAIDs should be avoided by any patient with chronic kidney disease. In some cases, even patients with good kidney function may develop an allergic response to NSAIDs, leading to kidney disorders.
  • DMARDs: Disease-modifying drugs, when taken in very high doses, may damage the kidneys. In cases where the toxicity is detected early, kidney function may recover after the drug is stopped. It is important to follow the dosage of medications as prescribed by the doctors.
  • Steroids: Corticosteroids do not have a direct effect on kidney function. However, over time, they may cause the body to retain fluid leading to an increase in blood pressure. High blood pressure can increase the chances of developing chronic kidney disease.

Warning Signs of Kidney Disease

In most cases, during the initial stages, kidney disease does not exhibit any symptoms. This is because kidneys are adaptable organs that can compensate for damage or loss of function.  

However, on the advancement of the disease, some signs and symptoms may be felt. These may include: 

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weakness or tiredness
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Swelling in legs, feet, or ankles 
  • Changes in the amount of urination 
  • Trouble concentrating 
  • Muscle twitches and cramps
  • Persistent itching 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Chest pain 
  • High blood pressure 

To ward off the symptoms and regulate their kidney functions, it is important for all patients suffering from inflammatory arthritis to regularly get their kidney function test done. Only when detected during initial stages can kidney diseases be stopped and reversed. 

At EPIC Health, we offer regular screening for kidney disease detection and prevention. Our urology experts perform several tests and procedures to examine your body’s inflammation or any other abnormalities or conditions that may be affecting your kidney function. Our healthcare professionals can help you understand the disease as well as empower you to manage your condition in the best way through a personalized diet and medicinal support. 

Our expert counselling sessions led by our physicians, dieticians, and healthcare professionals can help you adopt healthy eating habits, build optimum fitness levels, and maintain a good lifestyle to minimize your risk of developing kidney disease.

Call EPIC Health at (248)-336-4000 or request an online appointment with our healthcare experts for kidney cancer detection and prevention. We can help you live happy, healthy, and better!