What is Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)?
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a syndrome of progressive and irreversible loss of kidney function resulting from kidney damage. It’s estimated that 37,000 people in the United States have CKD and over 800 million worldwide are affected by CKD, although most remain undiagnosed (1). Kidney function is evaluated based on the glomerular filtration rate (GFR), which measures how efficiently waste products are cleared from the blood by the kidneys to exit through urine (2). As kidney function worsens, electrolytes become unbalanced, and nitrogenous waste rises in the blood. This buildup can lead to serious medical complications if left untreated. There are five stages of CKD, advancing in severity from mild kidney damage to kidney failure. However, not all people with kidney disease end up with kidney failure. Keep reading to learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of CKD so you can slow the progression of kidney damage and reduce your risk of kidney failure.
Chronic Kidney Disease Causes:
People with diabetes or hypertension run the highest risk of developing CKD. In fact, 3 out of 4 newly diagnosed CKD patients have at least one of these conditions (1).
Other potential causes and risk factors of CKD include:
- Glomerulonephritis (inflammation of the kidney’s filtering components)
- Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) or other hereditary kidney diseases
- A direct and forceful injury to the kidneys
- Being African American, American Indian, or Hispanic (3)
- If CKD runs in your family (routine testing is encouraged if someone in your family has CKD)
- Prolonged consumption of certain medications like aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen
Chronic Kidney Disease Symptoms:
The early stages of CKD are likely to occur without noticeable symptoms. Although impaired, the kidneys still do their job well enough to keep you from feeling ill. Edema is swelling from fluid retention and can be an early sign of CKD. Edema is commonly seen in the lower extremities. It occurs when the kidneys can no longer efficiently filter out excess fluids and salt from the blood. Symptoms of more advanced CKD include:
- Increased or decreased urine output
- Cloudy urine
- High blood pressure
- Dry, itchy skin
- Decreased appetite
- Muscle cramps
CKD can have adverse effects on several parts of the body. Some of the most common complications associated with CKD include high blood potassium, heart disease, fluid retention, anemia, and weak bones.
Kidney disease is irreversible, but you can manage medical conditions and complications linked to CKD.
- Maintain a healthy blood pressure
- Stay within your blood sugar target range as much as possible
- Be physically active and eat a nutrient-dense diet to help manage blood pressure and blood sugar
- Take medications as prescribed by your doctor for blood pressure, diabetes, edema, or anemia if needed
The fifth stage of CKD is considered kidney failure. The kidneys are no longer functioning at a level that is adequate to sustain life without treatment. Treatment options for kidney failure include hemodialysis (HD), peritoneal dialysis (PD), or kidney transplant. Dialysis, whether it be HD or PD, is a procedure that removes excess toxic byproducts of metabolism from the blood.
CKD involves a gradual loss of kidney function that can result in kidney failure. Having diabetes or hypertension significantly increases your risk of developing CKD. Signs and symptoms usually don’t occur until the more advanced stages. To help prevent CKD and reduce your risk of kidney failure, manage risk factors, get tested annually, make lifestyle changes, and take medicine as prescribed by your doctor.