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A Kidney Transplant: Indiana Doctor on Making It Last

IU Health Dr. Dennis Mishler on Selena Gomez and lupus, diabetes, and taking care of yourself.

INDIANAPOLIS--You may have heard about Selena Gomez's kidney transplant from a volunteer donor. An Indiana transplant nephrologist, or kidney doctor, says there are several reasons people get kidney transplants, and doctors are now able to help people live longer than they used to with transplants.

The number one cause

"The number one cause is diabetes, that causes kidney failure and need for dialysis, and long-standing hypertension, which can be with diabetes," said Dr. Dennis Mishler, with IU Health University Hospital. 

But, with Selena Gomez, it was lupus, a disease with which your immune system attacks healthy cells. It's more common in women than men, and in minorities than in Caucasian people, said Mishler.

"Usually we can put these people in remission with strong anti-inflammatory medications to calm down the immune system because lupus is beating up on its own body," said Mishler. "It's attacking its own body, and sometimes attacks the kidneys. It attacks vessels."

Those blood vessels need to be healthy for the kidneys filtering system to work so that your body can properly dispose of waste, in the form of urine.

If you find a living donor

He said that if you are having kidney failure, and you can find a living donor, as in Gomez's case, you could be in somewhat better shape. But, you have to do everything the doctor says to make sure the dnated kidney keeps functioning.

"It's also great if you get a living donor from a loved one or fiend that can kick your ass if you're not doing the right thing," said Mishler. "We as doctors and nurses try to tell people, this is what you need to do. But, we really depend on the loved ones to make sure that they're doing everything they can because the goals are high. We want this to last 20 to 30 years, not two to three years."

Before dialysis

Mishler said you can now get a kidney before you go on dialysis. That wasn't the case in the past. But, now the thinking is that you will do better if you get a transplant before your kidney function is down into the single digits.

Donating a kidney

If you are thinking of donating a kidney to someone, you should know that it is possible to function with one kidney.

"It's kind of scary to give up a kidney. Why do we have two kidneys? The more kidney mass you have, the more it can do. When you take one out, we hope the one that's left can compensate and maybe do 80 percent of what two kidneys can do," said Mishler.

But, he said if you want to donate to a friend, consider that a family member may need a donation later. He said that may not be the sole deciding factor, but it's something to consider, especially if people in your family have conditions that could cause kidney failure.

PHOTO: Chris Davis/Emmis

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