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How to manage your kidney disease medications

If you are living with kidney disease you may need to take medications to:

  • protect your kidneys from further damage
  • support treatments, such as dialysis and kidney transplants
  • control other conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure
  • compensate for functions that the kidney can no longer carry out (eg balancing acidity of the blood).

So it’s important that you know how to manage them. This means knowing exactly what drugs you need to take and why – and being aware of some common painkillers and over-the-counter medicines that you may need to avoid.

Many people find that they can maintain greater control of their lives by managing their medications. But this doesn’t mean that you have to do everything on your own. You can:

  • get help from your GP, kidney doctor and pharmacist
  • ask a family member or friend to assist you.

Talk to your doctor

Tell them what you are taking

Make sure that your GP and kidney doctor know about all the medications you are taking for your kidney disease and any other conditions. Medications prescribed for non-kidney conditions can sometimes interfere (‘interact’) with medications prescribed for kidney disease. Dose adjustments are often required. It’s important that you also tell them about any non-prescription items, such as hayfever tablets, cold remedies, digestive preparations, vitamin supplements and herbal remedies, as some can:

  • interfere with medicines which have been prescribed for you
  • potentially damage your kidney function.

For example, common painkillers such as Ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) should be avoided because they can reduce blood flow to the kidneys.

Tell them about any problems

Drugs are often prescribed to protect your kidneys from further damage so it’s vital that you keep on taking them, even if you’re feeling absolutely fine. But speak to your doctor straight away if any of your tablets or medicines are making you feel unwell.

Make sure you also read the information leaflets that come with your medications. They will list all possible side effects and tell you about any potential problems that could arise from taking the drugs with other medicines or supplements. This doesn’t mean that you will also experience these potential side effects. Information leaflets must, by law, include all possible reported adverse effects (even if some of the side effects have also been reported by people taking the placebo version of the drug).

Don’t be afraid to ask

You may not always get to see the same GP or kidney doctor so don’t hesitate to ask them to check through your drugs to make sure that they are compatible, especially if you are being prescribed a new medication or being treated for a different condition. You can ask your pharmacist to double check, too.

Charlie Sutcliff and family

Get help from your family and friends

You may wish to ask a family member or close friend to help you with the day-to-day management of your medications, for example working out times to take your tablets and collecting repeat prescriptions. You may also want them to come along to some of your GP or hospital appointments, especially if you have any queries about your medications or kidney disease.

Become your own expert

Many people choose to take an active role in all aspects of their care and treatment – including gaining a detailed understanding of their kidney disease. If you would like to do the same you could:

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