By Dr. Saurabh Pokhariyal
The COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to its knees amidst global unreadiness for a highly-transmissible and relatively deadly disease. As doctors, scientists, and virologists continue to unravel the many facets of the Coronavirus disease (SARS-CoV), various mutations and variants continue to emerge, putting a strain on the progress the world is making. As the days go by, there are indications that there may be more to learn about the virus and how it interacts with the kidney.
Comorbidities in COVID-19 patients such as chronic kidney disease (CKD) among other diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, cerebrovascular accidents, hypertension, etc., have been shown to increase mortality or severity. However, there’s also a need to find out if COVID-19 complications can lead to the exacerbationof comorbidities like kidney failure. Available evidence suggests that there is a connection.
COVID-19 can cause severe damage to organs like the kidney, affecting its function even after the person recovers. In fact, some people suffering from severe COVID-19 complications will show signs of severe kidney damage. This includes those with underlying kidney problems, and these signs often manifest in high levels of blood or protein in the urine as well as abnormal blood work. The results of several studies cited in a report by Johns Hopkins Medicine showed that at least 30 percent of all hospitalized patients with COVID-19 develop some form of kidney injury.
COVID-19 complications and impact on the kidneys
One of the major complications of COVID-19 that could increase the chances of kidney failure is reduced oxygen. Severe cases of the COVID-19 disease usually lead to pneumonia which can result in low levels of oxygen in the patient’s blood. This abnormal oxygen level can lead to kidney problems or aggravate existing kidney problems which can lead to a failure, if not properly managed. The condition, known as hypoxemia, is associated with breathing or circulation difficulty, which is a major symptom of COVID-19.
Another major complication that’s of concern is the nature of the receptors of kidney cells which allows COVID-19 to attach to them. COVID-19 targets these cells and enables duplication of these cells which can potentially damage them. These receptors, similar to those found in lung and heart cells may become easy targets for the new Coronavirus which may further causerenal damage leading to kidney failure. This phenomenon clearly describes the nature of COVID-19 attacking crucial cells and further weakening the effectiveness of the kidney.
There are other ways the kidney can be affected by the Coronavirus disease and lead to failed function. One of them is the body’s immune system’s reaction to the virus which can result in a cytokine storm. This rush of cytokines, a group of small proteins, is a communicative mechanism of the cells as the body’s immune system fights off infection. However, the sudden rush of cytokines can result in inflammation which can destroy the healthy tissue of the kidney. Another worry for us is the blood clot that COVID-19 can cause in the bloodstream and further clog tiny blood vessels in one’s kidney.
COVID-19’s impact on the kidney can be truly devastating because an attack on the kidney’s function can affect the function of other crucial organs like the heart and lungs. This can be even fatal in some circumstances, especially for those requiring dialysis, according to a study.
It is therefore important for patients with COVID-19-induced kidney injury to always follow up with their health provider to ensure the kidney is regaining normalcy. Whilst dialysis may help, even after recovery from COVID-19, the best remedy is to adhere to prevention instructions, including vaccines and boosters, handwashing, physical distancing, and masking, among other measures.
(The author is the Co-Founder, VitusCare Dialysis Centres. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)