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The A-Z gives the correct definitions of words you will often come across as a kidney patient. The medicines guide describes some of the medication you may be prescribed.

The definitive guide to kidneys and your health

Medicines for kidney patients


Phosphate binders

Medicine to help control your phosphate levels.

This glossary tells you about some of the medicines commonly prescribed to kidney patients. Always consult your doctor before taking any medicine.

Anti-hypertensives (blood pressure tablets)
You might need anti-hypertensive tablets to lower your blood pressure.

Prolonged high blood pressure can damage your blood vessels, heart and kidneys. This might mean you need a transplant or dialysis sooner.

There are many different tablets available. Some of the most common ones prescribed for kidney patients are called Doxazosin, Atenolol, Ramipril and Irbesartan.

Reducing your blood pressure will not make you feel better in the short-term. However, in the long-term, the tablets will help you to stay healthy.

Diuretics (water tablets)
Healthy kidneys are very good at producing the right amount of urine to match the fluid you take into your body when you eat and drink. Damaged kidneys are not so good at producing urine. This may mean that fluid builds up in your body, causing swollen ankles, difficulty breathing and high blood pressure.

Diuretics are tablets which encourage your kidneys to produce more urine. This makes you go to the toilet more. The most common diuretic is Furosemide.

When taking diuretics it is important not to drink too much fluid because the medication will be less effective and you will need to take higher doses.

Erythropoietin (EPO)
Erythropoietin is often known as EPO. It is a hormone which is produced by healthy kidneys. EPO stimulates the bone marrow to make red blood cells. When your kidneys are not working properly you do not make enough EPO and you become anaemic. You may then feel tired, weak, cold and generally unwell.

In this situation you will be prescribed EPO injections. You can be taught how to do this yourself at home.

There are several brands of EPO available.

Hepatitis B vaccination
Anyone needing dialysis is at a slight risk of getting hepatitis B. This is a viral infection spread through infected blood or bodily fluids. Therefore you may be advised to have an hepatitis B vaccination.

Iron supplements
Iron is essential for making red blood cells. Without it you will become anaemic.

You may require iron supplement tablets. The most commonly prescribed tablet is ferrous sulphate.

People with CKD are often unable to absorb iron from their stomach and sometimes they will need iron injections.

Phosphate binders
These help to control your blood phosphate levels. The medication may be called Calcichew®, Adcal®, Fosrenol®, Renagel® or Phosex®. These need to be taken up to 15 minutes before, or with, food.

Reducing your phosphate levels can help to prevent itchiness and bone weakness. It may help reduce your risk of heart problems.

Sodium Bicarbonate
This is given to help prevent the build up of acid in your body.

If your kidneys function decreases there is less acid in your urine. This causes your bicarbonate level to drop. A low bicarbonate level can be bad for your heart and can hasten the deterioration of your kidney function.

Statins (cholesterol tablets)
You might need statins to lower your blood cholesterol level. High cholesterol can lead to heart disease.

There are many different brands of statins available including simvastatin, pravastatin and atorvastatin.

A healthy diet and exercise can also help to lower your cholesterol.

Vitamin D
This helps control calcium in your body and protects your bones.

The medication may be called alfacalcidol. You take this daily or weekly depending on the instructions.

Over the counter medicines and herbal remedies
Some medications that you can buy from a pharmacy or supermarket without a doctor's prescription are not suitable for people with CKD. You should talk to your doctor or nurse before taking any of these medications or any herbal remedies.