The 6 Harmful Impacts of Smoking On Kidney Function

Smoking is a prevalent global health concern affecting various body organ systems. While the harmful effects of smoking on the lungs and cardiovascular system are widely recognized, its detrimental impact on kidney health is often overlooked. 

Our team at Durham Nephrology explores the significant consequences of smoking on kidney function and the development of kidney diseases. With this information, you can make lifestyle changes based on their impact on your kidney health. 

The Impact of Smoking On Kidney Health

Decreased Renal Blood Flow

Smoking has a vasoconstrictive effect, narrowing the blood vessels and reducing blood flow to vital organs, including the kidneys. This diminished renal blood flow hampers the kidneys’ ability to filter waste products and toxins from the bloodstream, leading to a gradual decline in kidney function.

When your kidneys cannot function at their optimal levels, it can lead to various problems that will impact one’s quality of life. 

Increased Risk of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

Numerous studies have shown a strong correlation between smoking and the development of CKD. Smoking contributes to the progression of kidney disease by promoting inflammation, oxidative stress, and the formation of kidney-damaging free radicals. Individuals who smoke have a higher risk of developing CKD and are more likely to experience a faster kidney function decline than non-smokers.

That is why your decision to stop this can impact the possibility of developing CKD. However, patients often make this decision too late to reverse the implications. 

Accelerated Progression of Kidney Disease

For individuals already suffering from CKD, smoking exacerbates the progression of the disease. Smoking further damages the kidneys’ delicate blood vessels and nephrons, leading to increased proteinuria (presence of excess protein in urine) and declining glomerular filtration rate (GFR). Consequently, smokers with CKD are at a greater risk of reaching end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and requiring dialysis or kidney transplantation.

Impaired Response to Kidney Injury

It also impairs the kidneys’ ability to recover from acute injury or insult. When exposed to toxins or medications that can potentially damage the kidneys, smokers exhibit a reduced capacity to repair and regenerate kidney tissue compared to non-smokers. This compromised response to injury increases the likelihood of chronic damage and the development of irreversible kidney disease.

Association with Kidney Cancer

Smoking is a well-established risk factor for several types of cancer, including kidney cancer. Studies have shown that smokers have a significantly higher risk of developing renal cell carcinoma (RCC), the most common form of kidney cancer. The harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke directly affect the renal cells, leading to genetic mutations and the uncontrolled growth of cancerous cells.

Impact on Kidney Transplantation

For individuals requiring a kidney transplant, smoking poses additional challenges. Smoking adversely affects both the donor and recipient in transplantation outcomes. Smokers receiving a kidney transplant are at a higher risk of complications such as delayed graft function, rejection, and reduced long-term graft survival. Moreover, smoking before transplantation increases the risk of cardiovascular complications, which are already heightened in patients with kidney disease. There is no need to increase this risk further by continuing to smoke. 

The impact of smoking on kidney health is undeniable. It is crucial to raise awareness about these detrimental effects and promote cessation programs to protect kidney health and reduce the burden of kidney disease globally. Quitting smoking remains one of the most effective ways to preserve kidney function, improve overall health, and enhance the quality of life. Are you interested in learning more about the impact on kidney health? Our team is here to help. Check out our website or give us a call at (919) 477-3005 for more information.


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