Although it might not sound like a deadly condition, constipation may lead to kidney disease if not treated properly. That’s the shocking revelation of a new study that looked into the association between both conditions.
In a report on Friday, Medical News Today cited data from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), which shows that about 42 million Americans suffer from constipation. It is most common among female and/or elderly patients, and about 30 percent of all people may expect the condition to strike at least once in their lives. About 2.5 million patients in the U.S. end up seeing a doctor each year, though patients very seldom ever suffer from complications. Even then, there can be severe consequences for those who ignore their chronic constipation.
Years after an earlier study linked severe constipation to cardiovascular disease in women, the new study looked at the possible association between constipation and kidney disease. Records belonging to about 3.5 million American veterans were analyzed for purposes of the study, with the patients first receiving medical checkups in 2004 and 2006. They were then followed and observed through 2013.
At the time of their first doctor’s visit, all the patients had properly functioning kidneys, but some went on to develop constipation or kidney disease. There were also those who had developed both conditions, as detailed in some of the more telling statistics from the research; according to the study, constipation patients had a 13 percent higher chance of developing chronic kidney disease, and a 9 percent higher chance of having kidney failure. All in all, the researchers were able to spot 360,541 cases of CKD and 7,677 kidney failure cases.
Aside from discovering a link between both conditions, the researchers were also able to pinpoint a proportional link, where the severity of one’s constipation tended to affect the severity of CKD and kidney failure.
“Our findings highlight the plausible link between the gut and the kidneys and provide additional insights into the pathogenesis of kidney disease progression,” said study co-author Dr. Csaba Kovesdy, from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. “Our results suggest the need for careful observation of kidney function trajectory in patients with constipation, particularly among those with more severe constipation.”
The study added that about 10 percent of the American population suffers from CKD in some way, shape, or form. Risk factors for the disease include high blood pressure and diabetes primarily, but may also include cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol levels, and obesity. The condition, however, is asymptomatic, meaning it wouldn’t be unusual if someone has the disease but wouldn’t be aware of it.
Dr. Kovesdy believes that more research may need to be conducted to determine whether there truly is causality between constipation and kidney disease. But should such causality be established, it’s highly likely that the same tools used to relieve or prevent constipation, such as lifestyle changes, the use of probiotics, and a fiber-rich diet, can be used to ensure the health of a patient’s kidneys.
According to WebMD, Dr. Kovesdy was also quoted in an American Society of Nephrology news release where he stressed the need to observe people with severe constipation and gauge the likelihood of these patients developing kidney problems.
“Our results suggest the need for careful observation of kidney function trajectory in patients with constipation, particularly among those with more severe constipation.”
Apart from the lack of causality established, the study also had a few other limitations. According to LiveScience, an extremely high percentage (93.2 percent) of the participants were male, and they had an average age of 60. As such, the researchers aren’t sure yet whether the same link between constipation and kidney disease will be present if females and/or younger participants would be analyzed.
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