How does the Corona virus affect the kidneys?
COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus that led to the global pandemic – it is known to damage the lungs. But as more people become infected, more understanding of the disease emerges.
Doctors and researchers find that this coronavirus can also cause severe and permanent damage to other organs, including the heart and kidneys. John Sperati, an expert in kidney health, discusses how the new coronavirus could affect kidney function as the disease progresses. And then when the person recovers.
Some people with severe cases of coronavirus show signs of kidney damage, even those who did not have kidney problems before contracting the coronavirus. Early reports indicate that up to 30% of patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 in China and New York developed moderate or severe kidney injury. And reports of doctors in New York say that the proportion may be higher.
Signs of kidney problems in COVID-19 patients include high levels of protein in the urine and abnormal blood functioning
In some cases, kidney damage is severe enough to require dialysis. Some hospitals with surges in patients with Coronavirus have reported that they lack sterile machinery and fluids needed to perform these kidney operations.
“Many patients with severe corona have concurrent chronic conditions, including high blood pressure and diabetes. Both increase the risk of developing kidney disease.
How does the Corona virus damage the kidneys?
It’s not clear what effect COVID-19 will have on the kidneys. But we can offer you some of the possibilities that doctors and researchers are exploring:
Kidney cells may be targeted by coronavirus: The virus itself infects kidney cells. Kidney cells contain receptors that enable the new coronavirus to attach to them, invade them, and make copies of them, which may damage those tissues. Similar receptors have been found in lung and heart cells, as the new coronavirus has been shown to cause infection.
Lack of oxygen can lead to impaired kidney function: Another possibility is that kidney problems in patients with coronavirus are due to abnormally low levels of oxygen in the blood, as a result of pneumonia, which appears commonly in severe cases of the disease.
Cytokine storms can damage kidney tissue: The body’s reaction to an infection may also be responsible. The immune response to the new coronavirus can be severe in some people, leading to what is called a cytokine storm.
When that happens, the immune system sends a surge of cytokines into the body. Cytokines are small proteins that help cells communicate while the immune system fights infection. But this sudden, large influx of cytokines can cause severe inflammation. In an attempt to kill the invading virus, this inflammatory reaction can damage healthy tissues, including kidney tissue.
COVID-19 causes blood clots that may clog the kidneys: The kidneys are like filters that block toxins, excess water, and waste products from the body. Coronavirus can cause small clots to form in the bloodstream, which may block the smallest blood vessels in the kidneys and impair their function.
Organ systems such as the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys depend on and support each other’s functions, so when the new coronavirus causes damage in an area, other areas may be at risk. Basic kidney functions have an effect on the heart, lungs, and other systems. This may be the reason why doctors note that emerging kidney damage in patients with COVID-19 is a potential warning sign of the serious, even fatal, disease of the disease.
Can the kidneys recover after infection with the Corona virus?
So far, Sperati says, it is uncertain how many people with COVID-19-related kidney damage restore their kidney function.
“Patients with severe kidney injury due to COVID-19 who do not need dialysis will have better outcomes than those who need dialysis, and we have seen patients in Johns Hopkins regain kidney function. Of acute kidney injuries who need dialysis, and restore their kidney function later. The number of times this is still unknown, but without a doubt, the need for dialysis is a worrisome development in patients with COVID-19.
Should I continue to take high blood pressure medication?
High blood pressure is a common cause of kidney problems. High blood pressure damages the blood vessels in the kidneys and affects their ability to filter blood. The kidneys also help regulate blood pressure, so damage to the kidneys can lead to an increase in blood pressure. Over time, high blood pressure can cause kidney failure.
Sperati says patients should stay on their medications and discuss concerns with their doctors.
“There are now two sides discussing this issue. One side says, based on animal studies, that these medicines may be harmful, increasing the risk of infection. The other says that these same medicines may protect against lung damage and other problems associated with COVID- 19.
“But all professional associations have published articles recommending that you not change your medications,” he says. He adds that continuing the course with your prescriptions can reduce the risk of heart and kidney damage from uncontrolled high blood pressure.
Sperati recommends that patients with kidney problems stay away from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen. This can raise blood pressure and increase fluid volume in the body, which puts pressure on the kidneys.
Research reveals more about kidney damage in Corona disease
While kidney damage in COVID-19 is still not well understood, more data is revealing how this happens. Sprati, who also conducts research on kidney disease, says that the Johns Hopkins University Department of Nephrology is exploring exactly how the Corona virus and the body’s response to it affect kidney health.
He says that patients with kidney damage related to COVID-19 should follow up with their doctors to ensure their kidney function returns to normal. Permanent kidney damage may require dialysis or other treatments even after COVID-19 is cured.
Mostly, Sperati stresses the importance of adhering to guidelines around physical and social distancing and hand washing, and basics of prevention. “For everyone, especially people with an underlying chronic disease, avoiding catching COVID-19 for as long as possible is critical,” he says.
“At the moment, we do not have a cure or a vaccine for this disease. The longer a person can go without becoming infected, the greater their chances of benefiting from future treatment.”