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Men’s Health Awareness

November is traditionally the month when an emphasis is placed on men’s health issues, particularly those conditions which are preventable or where early treatment can make a significant difference – conditions like Alport syndrome. Getting a diagnosis of kidney disease can be a scary experience for anyone but some basic practices can make all the difference in how the disease is managed – and therefore make a difference in the patient outcomes.

Kidney disease is a disease that often progresses without any noticeable signs of its presence so it is often diagnosed only after it is quite advanced. When you feel good it is easy to feel complacent about receiving regular medical care or following the prescribed treatment of your doctor. This can be dangerous as the majority of early stage kidney disease can be managed to slow the progression.

Regular Kidney Screenings
For patients who have Alport syndrome and other kidney diseases, regular visits provide a critical method of tracking the health of your kidneys. A simple urine test is an inexpensive way to watch for symptoms or changes and respond quickly before they become a bigger issue. There are medications available to prolong kidney function and it is important to start them early in the course of the disease to get the most protective effect. Be sure to share your Alport syndrome diagnosis with all healthcare providers so they know you have the disease and can treat you appropriately.

It is common for Alport syndrome to affect more than one family member. It is important to understand who else in your family might be affected and make sure they have been tested. If they don’t show any symptoms, have them ask for routine screenings as part of their general checkups to make sure.

Regular Hearing Screenings
For patients with Alport syndrome, a regular hearing screening is also important. Most hearing loss is very gradual so watch for signs of it. For example, if you are turning the television or your music up higher and higher over time, it’s most likely time to get your ears checked. Hearing loss usually precedes kidney failure so if you are experiencing increased hearing loss, it may be time to talk to your doctor about your kidneys, as well.

Hearing loss is often one of the first symptoms of Alport syndrome and frequently begins during late childhood or early adolescence. If hearing loss is caught early it can significantly improve a child’s school experience. Not all families affected by Alport syndrome experience hearing loss.

Medication and Diet
Most of today’s medications are geared toward slowing the progression  of Alport syndrome, but they are most effective when taken before kidney deterioration begins. If you have been prescribed medication, take it according to the doctor’s orders and be as consistent as possible. Set your watch or use an app to help you remember when to take your medication.  If your doctor is not sure if you need medication yet, treatment recommendations for both pediatric and adult patients with Alport syndrome are available on the ASF website.

Your doctor may also prescribe dietary restrictions. Diet plays a significant part in overall health for any individual, but for patients with a kidney disease diet can be crucial to the life of your kidney.  Be sure to communicate with your doctor any concerns you have that might impact adherence to your doctor’s recommendations. View ASF’s Renal Nutrition Guide.

Following these simple practices can potentially extend the life of your kidneys and postpone the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant. If you have already reached kidney failure and begun dialysis or received a transplant, regular kidney screenings and following medication and dietary counsel from your doctor are still vitally important to your health.