Chronic Renal Failure
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Updated on May 15, 2020. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
If you’ve just started dialysis due to your chronic renal failure, instead of taking anxiety medications and painkillers to ward off the common and often debilitating side effects, you may want to consider medical marijuana for chronic renal failure.
How/Why Marijuana Can Be an Effective Treatment for Chronic Renal Failure
Medical-grade marijuana helps with managing pain. However, there’s still been debating beliefs as to whether or not cannabis harms or helps the kidneys. But the claims that cannabis does injure your kidneys typically points to the smoking of the herb that’s the damaging factor and not the other methods of consumption like using tinctures or vapors or infusing the herb into your food.
According to a joint study by the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary, small symptom improvement by using CBD and THC — both cannabinoids in marijuana — in patients who have difficult-to-treat symptoms can be meaningful clinically.
Many patients who have chronic illnesses in their advanced stages experience significant symptom burden related not only to the illness in itself, but also the treatment side effects. Some patients who are not responding well to traditional treatments for pain and other symptom management could very well benefit from cannabis.
Cannabinoids act on your body in various ways, and often how they work is not entirely understood. However, in theory, when it comes to problems involving your kidneys, marijuana for chronic renal failure could work well, particularly when high drug loads add even more pressure to your kidneys.
Two primary ways marijuana can be an effective treatment for chronic renal failure are:
- Symptom relief. In chronic renal failure, many patients feel extremely burdened with symptoms like nausea, pain, itch, poor sleep and poor appetite, and this leads to a poor quality of life.
- Alternative to narcotic pain relievers. Pain relievers, as well as other standard pharmacologic approaches to manage these and other symptoms, are, in many cases, tolerated poorly because of drug toxicity and kidney failure.
It’s here medical cannabis for chronic renal failure may help these patients.
Cannabis has many compounds in it, many with positive effects. You have an endocannabinoid system in your body, and activating this system when you’re nauseous or are in pain to relieve symptoms is where marijuana comes into play.
Of course, there’s still much to learn. But in the meantime, a reasonable option for many CRF patients is medical weed.
What Specific Side Effects/Symptoms of Chronic Renal Failure Can Medical Marijuana Treat?
Your kidneys work by cleaning your blood, getting rid of excess minerals, fluid and waste. Your kidneys also make hormones to keep your blood healthy and your bones strong. Chronic kidney disease attacks the nephrons, causing damage. This damage can leave your kidneys in a state where they can’t eliminate waste. Medications, genetic problems, injuries and illness can lead to CRF.
Thankfully, there’s an abundance of new scientific research and understanding of how cannabis and chronic renal failure treatment can be beneficial. Most CRF patients, particularly patients who are on dialysis, are seeking ways to relieve their stress, chronic pain, loss of appetite, nausea, insomnia, anxiety and more.
Best Strains of Marijuana to Use for Chronic Renal Failure Symptoms and Treatment Side Effects
You have a variety of strains of medical cannabis for chronic renal failure to choose from to help ease your symptoms. In fact, you can treat most of the symptoms with cannabis to help improve your quality of life. Below are some helpful strains to treat the symptoms of kidney disease.
Nausea and Vomiting
- Cheese – hybrid
- Chocolope – sativa
- Death Star – indica
Loss of Appetite
- Girl Scout Cookies – hybrid
- OG Kush – hybrid
Fatigue and Weakness
- Blue Dream – hybrid
- Sour Diesel – sativa
- Granddaddy Purple – indica
- Skywalker – indica
Muscle Twitches and Cramps
- Cannatonic – hybrid
- Silver Haze – sativa
Swelling of Feet and Ankles
- Harlequin – sativa
- Critical Mass – indica
Best Methods of Marijuana Treatment to Treat Side Effects and Symptoms of Chronic Renal Failure
There are various ways you can treat your chronic renal failure with medical cannabis. Some methods include:
You can add medical pot to just about anything, particularly if you first infuse it into oil, glycerin or butter. From THC chocolate bars or vegan, gluten-free THC bacon strips to strain-specific caramels to lozenges, you’ll find endless recipes.
You may buy or fill tincture dropper bottles with infused glycerin, alcohol or vegetable oil with high CBD content and drop it under your tongue.
Vaporizing the flower lets you use more cannabinoids and get a better taste of the terpenes without having to burn the plant. It also creates leftover vaped material you can use for cooking.
Applying Topical Solution
If you live in a state allowing medical cannabis dispensaries, you could buy a topical marijuana solution. Or you may even want to mix up your cannabis oil with some light coconut oil or almond oil, aloe vera or beeswax.
Becoming a Medical Marijuana Patient for Chronic Renal Failure
You may be able to get a nephrologist’s recommendation for a medical marijuana card if you’re on dialysis and are suffering from some or all of the mentioned symptoms above. Search for a medical marijuana dispensary or cannabis doctor today on our website.
What Is Chronic Renal Failure?
Chronic renal failure (CRF) or chronic kidney disease (CKD) occurs when you gradually lose function of your kidney. Your kidneys are responsible for filtering excess fluids and waste from your blood, which then excretes into your urine. When you reach an advanced stage of chronic renal failure, dangerous levels of electrolytes, fluid and waste may build up in your body.
When you’re in the earlier stages of kidney disease, you may only have a few symptoms since the condition often doesn’t become apparent until the functioning of your kidneys is significantly impaired.
Chronic renal failure treatment works by slowing kidney damage progression, typically by keeping the underlying cause under control. Chronic kidney disease may, however, progress to end-stage kidney failure, which, if you don’t have a kidney transplant or dialysis, can be fatal.
Types of Chronic Renal Failure
Classification of chronic renal failure depends on its primary damage location.
The three main types of chronic renal failure are:
- Pre-renal CRF
- Renal CRF
- Post-renal CRF, or obstructive uropathy
Your type of chronic renal disease can be acute or chronic. Acute may occur due to direct kidney trauma, from an accident or injury for example. Chronic kidney disease occurs over extended period and involves long-term damage.
History of Chronic Renal Failure
The first patient began chronic renal failure treatment through repetitive hemodialysis (HD) in March 1960 at the University of Washington Hospital in Seattle. Over 30 years have elapsed since legislation was passed by the U.S. Congress to create the Medicare End-Stage Renal Disease Program.
Today, many nephrologists aren’t familiar with the history of these political and clinical developments that led to the dialysis treatment we know today.
Symptoms of Chronic Renal Failure
Symptoms and signs of CRF develop gradually if your kidney damage has a slow progression.
Kidney disease symptoms may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sleep problems
- Weakness and fatigue
- Persistent itching
- Urination changes
- Swelling of your ankles and feet
- Decreased mental sharpness
- Hypertension, or high blood pressure
- Chest pain with fluid buildup in your heart’s lining
- Muscle cramps and twitching
- Shortness of breath when you have a buildup of fluid around your lungs
CRF symptoms are many times nonspecific, which means other illnesses can cause them. Since your kidneys can compensate for lost function and are highly adaptable, your symptoms might not show up until there is irreversible damage.
Effects of Chronic Renal Failure
There are both physical and mental effects of chronic renal failure.
CRF may affect any area of your body. Some possible complications could include:
- Fluid retention leading to leg and arm swelling, fluid in your lungs and high blood pressure
- Hyperkalemia — sudden potassium blood level rise — may impair how your heart functions and could be life-threatening
- Weak bones and an increase in your risk of bone fractures
- Blood vessel and heart disease
- Central nervous system damage involving personality changes, difficulty concentrating or seizures
- Erectile dysfunction, decreased sex drive or reduced fertility
- Decrease in immune response, making you more susceptible to infection
- Complications of pregnancy carrying risks for both the developing fetus and the mother
- Pericarditis, or swelling and irritation of the membrane around the heart
- Irreversible kidney damage, or end-stage kidney disease, where you’ll require a kidney transplant or dialysis to survive
Patients often go through a continuous psychological process with CRF to adjust to the new hemodialysis condition and accept their new quality of life.
When you reach the point of requiring dialysis, your quality of life is significantly affected since you’ll have significant changes in your lifestyle and daily habits. Also, your functional status, physical health, economic and social status and personal relationships are also greatly affected.
Common stressors of chronic renal failure and having to undergo routine dialysis are:
- Changes in marital and social relationships
- Financial difficulties
- Inability to take vacations
- Regular hospital admission
- Fear of disability
- Restriction of leisure time
- Fear of death
- Uncertainness about the future
- Problems sleeping
- Increased dependence
- Physical fatigue
- Artificial kidney machine
Another common psychological complication with CRF is depression and its severe impact on the hemodialysis patient’s quality of life. Depression also negatively affects your economic, social and psychological well-being.
Medical marijuana can help with some of the physical effects of chronic renal failure, such as nausea and vomiting, and mental effects of anxiety, major depression and chronic fatigue.
Chronic Renal Failure Statistics
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show:
- Around 15 percent of, or 30 million, adults in the U.S. are estimated to have CRF.
- Ninety-six percent of individuals who have mildly reduced kidney function or kidney damage aren’t aware of having CRF.
- Approximately 48 percent of individuals with severely reduced kidney function who aren’t going through dialysis aren’t aware of having CRF.
Current Treatments Available for Chronic Renal Failure and Their Side Effects
Treatments for end-stage renal disease are a kidney transplant or dialysis — ideally only until a kidney transplant is available. In certain situations, medications and lifestyle changes can help.
Surgery for a kidney transplant involves the surgeon removing your damaged kidneys and inserting a donated, functional kidney. All you need is one healthy kidney — therefore, donors are typically alive, though in some cases, you can obtain a viable kidney from a recently deceased person. They’re able to continue functioning normally after donating one of their kidneys.
You can live a healthy life with one kidney but will need to take immunosuppressive drugs most likely for the remainder of your life to prevent rejection.
Risks of substantial complications with a kidney transplant include:
- Blood clots
- Blockage of or leaking from the ureter, or tube connecting your kidney to your bladder
- Rejection of your new donated kidney
- Failure of a donated kidney
- Heart attack, stroke or death
- Cancer or an infection transmitted by a new donated kidney
You have a couple of options available to you when you’re undergoing dialysis.
This option processes your blood with a machine. This machine uses a solution to filter out waste. The machine then adds new, clean blood back into your body. Hemodialysis is typically used several times a week and takes around three to four hours each session.
2. Peritoneal Dialysis
This option involves the doctor adding a solution into your abdomen. They then remove it later through the use of a catheter. You can conduct peritoneal dialysis at your home with sufficient training. You can have this treatment while you’re sleeping overnight.
Side Effects of Dialysis May Include:
- Sepsis, or blood poisoning
- Low blood pressure
- Itchy skin
- Muscle cramps
- Weight gain
- Other side effects
Dialysis also a time-consuming process and requires you to visit a hospital or dialysis clinic multiple times a week.
If you have hypertension or diabetes, you’ll need to control either of these conditions to lower your risk of end-stage renal disease. Drug therapy is beneficial for both of these conditions using ACE inhibitors (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors) or ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers).
Your doctor can give you specific vaccines to help to prevent severe end-stage kidney disease (ESRD) complications. The pneumococcal polysaccharide (PPSV23) and hepatitis B vaccines may lead to a positive prognosis, according to the CDC — particularly before and during your dialysis treatment.
Side Effects of ACE Inhibitors May Include:
- Dry cough
- Loss of taste
- Hyperkalemia, or increased blood-potassium
You may experience rapid weight changes with fluid retention. Therefore, you’ll need to monitor your weight. You’ll also want to decrease your protein consumption and increase your caloric intake. Consume a diet low in potassium, sodium and other electrolytes, along with fluid restriction.
To avoid too much potassium and sodium consumption, limit these foods:
- Peanut butter and nuts
Take a vitamin supplement of vitamins C and D, calcium and iron to absorb essential nutrients and help your kidney function.
See how medical marijuana could help relieve your chronic renal failure symptoms. Find patient reviews on local doctors and information on treatment options.
Updated on May 15, 2020. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Most everyone is born with two kidneys that reside above your waist on both sides of your spine. Kidneys are responsible for cleaning your blood, filtering out the excess fluids and controlling your blood pressure. Kidney disease can lead to a whole range of unpleasant symptoms, and if not treated, it may be life-threatening. Treatment for kidney disease comes with a range of negative side effects itself. Medical marijuana and kidney disease treatment can help alleviate some, if not most, of these side effects.
How and Why Marijuana Can Be an Effective Treatment for Kidney Disease
If you’ve been considering medical marijuana for kidney disease, but are questioning if it can have an adverse effect on kidney function, you’ll be happy to know there is no link between the two, according to a study published in the American Journal of Medicine.
Chronic pain is not only common, but is also a debilitating symptom for many patients who suffer from chronic kidney disease. Opioids can help manage the pain, but they do come with the risk of adverse effects and can make your kidney disease symptoms worse. They can also negatively impact your quality of life, both physically and emotionally.
Many patients consider marijuana and kidney disease treatment due to its encouraging results in treating not just pain in a whole range of health conditions, but also in treating the problematic symptoms of kidney disease, such as:
- Overall lack of well-being
Cannabis has pharmacologically active compounds that activate CB1 and CB2 receptors throughout your body, including your kidneys. Studies show using pharmacologic agents or their natural ligands to stimulate these receptors can have beneficial effects on your kidneys. However, outcomes depend on the type of renal insult, receptor distribution or the activation timing during chronic or acute kidney injury.
What Side Effects and Symptoms of Kidney Disease Can Medical Marijuana Treat?
Medical cannabis for kidney disease can help alleviate symptoms such as:
- Chronic pain
- Loss of appetite
- General feeling of discomfort
- Severe unintentional weight loss
- Restless leg syndrome
Also, many patients with kidney disease require dialysis. Dialysis helps patients suffering from kidney failure by mimicking the organ’s capability of filtering blood. The procedure is necessary when you are experiencing complications because of kidney failure or when you’re at a critical level of kidney functioning. Dialysis may prolong some patients’ lives and/or provide physicians more time to find a suitable kidney donor.
However, dialysis does come with side effects. Medical marijuana can help combat the side effects of dialysis and improve your quality of life. Common dialysis side effects weed can help with include the following.
- Dry or itchy skin: Patients receiving frequent dialysis may experience dry or itchy skin due to high phosphorus levels. Hemp products and cannabis topicals can help alleviate the dryness and itchiness naturally.
- Muscle cramps: Though doctors don’t know exactly why, dialysis does cause muscle cramps. Dehydration, a vitamin deficiency or medications may be the reason. No matter the cause, muscle cramps are uncomfortable and painful. Combining CBD and THC helps treat both muscle spasms and cramps.
- Low blood pressure: Low blood pressure is a common dialysis side effect. Medical pot may also help support healthy heart function when you’re going through dialysis sessions. If you have a weak heart, however, a CBD strain is a better choice than THC, since THC has been known to increase blood pressure and pulse rate.
- Nausea and vomiting: Those who have kidney failure often have nausea and vomiting, particularly when they’re receiving dialysis treatment. Medical marijuana is a natural, safe medicine that combats nausea and vomiting effectively.
Best Strains of Marijuana to Use for Treating Kidney Disease and Their Side Effects
Medical marijuana and kidney disease strains are plentiful to help with not just the symptoms of the disease itself, listed above, but also for dialysis side effects. Let’s take a look at some good strains to help ease your symptoms of kidney disease and dialysis treatment.
Strains to treat kidney disease symptoms include the following.
- Alaskan Ice (Sativa): Fatigue and depression
- Nova OG (Indica): Lack of appetite, pain, insomnia and depression
- Goo (Indica): Insomnia, nausea, lack of appetite, stress and pain
- Crystal Coma (Sativa): Pain, swelling or inflammation, stress and depression
Medical weed strains to try for dialysis include:
- Afghan Kush (Indica)
- Cannatonic (hybrid)
- Blue Dream (hybrid)
- NYC Diesel (hybrid)
Best Methods of Marijuana Treatment for the Side Effects and Symptoms of Kidney Disease
You can consume cannabis and kidney disease treatment strains in more ways than smoking it. You can eat or inhale the herb, as well as apply it under your tongue or rub it into your skin with a topical cream. Some methods are more effective and safer than others. Therefore, when deciding on the best method for you, you’ll want to consider your options carefully. Some methods of delivery include:
Getting Started With Your Medical Marijuana Treatment for Kidney Disease
If you’re suffering from kidney disease, you could be a good candidate for medical weed. To obtain more information, spend some time reviewing our comprehensive website here at Marijuana Doctors. You can also find a qualified medical marijuana doctor and book an appointment. We also have a list of dispensaries you can browse through to find your perfect cannabis strains and products.
What Is Kidney Disease?
You have a million nephrons in each one of your kidneys. These tiny structures filter your blood and remove excess water and wastes that become urine. Kidney disease usually attacks these nephrons, damaging your kidneys and leaving them unable to eliminate these wastes, which then begin building up in your body. When this happens, it causes:
- Ankle swelling
- Poor sleep
- Shortness of breath
If you don’t receive treatment, this damage can worsen and eventually your kidneys could stop working — which is life-threatening.
When your kidneys are healthy, their job is to:
- Maintain water and balance of minerals such as potassium, phosphorus and sodium in your blood
- Eliminate waste from your blood after muscle activity, digestion and exposure to medications or chemicals
- Help your body manage your blood pressure by making renin
- Help your body produce red blood cells by making the chemical erythropoietin
- Help preserve bone health by making the active form of vitamin D
Numerous things can cause kidney disease, including injuries, genetic problems or medications. Your risk of kidney disease is higher if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or you have a family member with kidney disease. Other kidney issues include:
To check for kidney disease, your doctor will ask for urine and blood tests. You’ll require either a kidney transplant or dialysis if your kidneys fail.
Types of Kidney Disease
Below are five types of kidney failure:
1. Acute Intrinsic Kidney Failure
A trauma directly to your kidneys, such as an accident or physical impact, can cause this type of kidney failure. Other causes may be ischemia, where your kidneys aren’t getting enough oxygen, or toxin overload. Some things possibly causing ischemia include:
- Severe bleeding
- Renal blood vessel obstruction
2. Chronic Prerenal Kidney Failure
When you don’t have enough blood flow to your kidneys for an extended period, your kidneys begin shrinking and lose their ability to function.
3. Acute Prerenal Kidney Failure
When you don’t have sufficient blood flow to your kidneys, it may cause this type of kidney failure. With a lack of blood flow, your kidneys can’t filter toxins from your blood. If your doctor can find out what’s causing the lack of blood flow, they can usually treat and cure acute prerenal kidney failure.
4. Chronic Post-Renal Kidney Failure
You have a long-term urinary tract blockage preventing you from urinating, which then causes pressure and damages your kidneys eventually.
5. Chronic Intrinsic Kidney Failure
This condition occurs when your kidneys experience long-term damage because of intrinsic kidney disease. Direct trauma to your kidneys involving a lack of oxygen or severe bleeding causes intrinsic kidney disease.
History of Kidney Disease
In 1960, a lot changed with a revolutionary medical advancement regarding kidney disease. The invention of the Teflon shunt made it possible for doctors to access patients’ blood repeatedly. Because of this, dialysis could treat kidney failure. Doctors also successfully completed a kidney transplant from sibling donors. Kidney failure went from being a fatal disease to a chronic one. After this milestone, the main mission of the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) became research, advocacy and patient education about kidney failure.
During the 1970s and 1980s, NKF established other essential roles in raising public awareness and placing more emphasis on promoting and encouraging organ donation. Today, NKF is participating in research to help further improve the knowledge about kidney disease, better treatment and better prognosis.
Symptoms of Kidney Disease
The majority of individuals don’t experience severe symptoms until the advanced stages of their kidney disease. However, you might have:
- Less energy and more fatigue
- A poor appetite
- Muscle cramps at night
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
- Swollen ankles and feet
- Itchy and dry skin
- Eye puffiness, particularly in the morning
- To urinate more frequently, particularly at night
Kidney disease symptoms are usually nonspecific, which means other illnesses can be causing them. Since your kidneys can compensate for lost function and are highly adaptable, symptoms might not occur until there’s irreversible damage.
Effects of Kidney Disease
Chronic kidney disease keeps your kidneys from doing their job effectively and involves conditions that could cause kidney damage. If the disease worsens, you can end up with high levels of waste buildup in your blood, making you feel ill. You can develop complications such as:
- Low blood count or anemia
- High blood pressure
- Nerve damage
- Poor nutritional health
- Weak bones
Your risk of blood vessel and heart disease increases too with kidney disease.
These complications can occur gradually over time. Early diagnosis and treatment can usually keep kidney disease from becoming worse. If your kidney disease continues to progress, it can eventually result in kidney failure, where you’ll need either a kidney transplant or dialysis to stay alive.
Patients with any chronic disease often suffer from anxiety, depression and sleep disruptions. When these conditions go untreated, they can lead to serious adverse consequences on the health of the patients. Early mental health assessment in chronic kidney disease can help identify if you’re at high risk of these mental conditions so you can receive adequate treatment to live a healthy, active life.
One study found the prevalence of these conditions among chronic kidney disease patients to be 86.5 percent insomnia, 69 percent depression and 71 percent anxiety.
Kidney Disease Statistics
Facts about the disease, according to the American Kidney Fund, include:
- In the U.S., kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of fatality.
- In the U.S., around 10 percent of the adult population, or 31 million individuals, have chronic kidney disease.
- Nine out of 10 individuals with stage 3 chronic kidney disease don’t realize they have it.
- Chronic kidney disease affects more women than men. However, men have a 50 percent higher risk than women of their chronic kidney disease turning into kidney failure.
Current Treatments Available for Kidney Disease and Their Side Effects
There is treatment for some types of kidney diseases, depending on what the underlying cause is. Unfortunately, more often than not, there is no cure.
The goal of treatment is typically controlling symptoms, reducing complications and slowing the disease’s progression. You will require treatment for end-stage kidney disease if there’s severe damage to your kidneys.
Your physician will give you treatment intended to slow or control what’s causing your disease. Your treatment will depend on the cause. And, even if the doctor can control the underlying condition, damage to your kidneys can continue to worsen.
Possible treatments to control complications and make you more comfortable include medicines for:
- High cholesterol levels
- High blood pressure
- Swelling relief
- Protection of bones
Your doctor may also suggest a lower-protein diet to reduce your blood’s waste products. They may also want to perform follow-up testing regularly to determine if your kidney disease is progressing or remains stable.
If your kidneys can no longer eliminate waste and water by themselves and you develop kidney failure, you’ll receive treatment for end-stage kidney disease — either a kidney transplant or dialysis.
During a kidney transplant, the surgeon surgically places a donor’s healthy kidney into your body. To keep your body from rejecting this new kidney, you’ll have to take certain medicines for the rest of your life. Dialysis patients aren’t required to have a kidney transplant.
Dialysis eliminates extra waste and water artificially from your blood when your kidneys can’t do it on their own. A machine filters excess fluids and waste from your blood in hemodialysis. If you receive peritoneal dialysis, the doctor inserts a catheter into the abdomen. The catheter then delivers a dialysis solution, filling your abdominal cavity to absorb the excess fluids and waste.
Conservative measures are another option if you don’t want a kidney transplant or dialysis, but you would probably only have a few months’ life expectancy once you reach the stage of complete kidney failure.
Your doctor may refer you to a dietitian to evaluate your present diet and suggest a special diet easier on your kidneys as part of your overall treatment plan. The dietitian may recommend consuming foods lower in potassium, avoiding products with added salt and limiting protein consumption. Any diet recommendation the dietitian gives you will depend on how your kidneys are functioning presently and your overall health.
See how medical marijuana could help relieve Kidney Disease symptoms. Find patient reviews on local doctors and information on treatment options.