Learn About Chronic Kidney Disease

What is the definition of Chronic Kidney Disease?

Chronic kidney disease is the slow loss of kidney function over time. The main job of the kidneys is to remove wastes and excess water from the body.

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What are the alternative names for Chronic Kidney Disease?

Kidney failure - chronic; Renal failure - chronic; Chronic renal insufficiency; Chronic kidney failure; Chronic renal failure

What are the causes of Chronic Kidney Disease?

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) slowly gets worse over months or years. You may not notice any symptoms for some time. The loss of function may be so slow that you do not have symptoms until your kidneys have almost stopped working.

The final stage of CKD is called end-stage renal disease (ESRD). At this stage, the kidneys are no longer able to remove enough wastes and excess fluids from the body. At this point, you would need dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the 2 most common causes and account for most cases.

Many other diseases and conditions can damage the kidneys, including:

  • Autoimmune disorders (such as systemic lupus erythematosus and scleroderma)
  • Birth defects of the kidneys (such as polycystic kidney disease)
  • Some toxic chemicals
  • Injury to the kidney
  • Kidney stones and infection
  • Problems with the arteries feeding the kidneys
  • Some medicines, such as pain and cancer medicines
  • Backward flow of urine into the kidneys (reflux nephropathy)

CKD leads to a buildup of fluid and waste products in the body. This condition affects most body systems and functions, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Low blood cell count
  • Vitamin D and bone health
What are the symptoms of Chronic Kidney Disease?

The early symptoms of CKD are the same as for many other illnesses. These symptoms may be the only sign of a problem in the early stages.

Symptoms may include:

  • Appetite loss
  • General ill feeling and fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Itching (pruritus) and dry skin
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss without trying to lose weight

Symptoms that may occur when kidney function has gotten worse include:

  • Abnormally dark or light skin
  • Bone pain
  • Drowsiness or problems concentrating or thinking
  • Numbness or swelling in the hands and feet
  • Muscle twitching or cramps
  • Breath odor
  • Easy bruising, or blood in the stool
  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent hiccups
  • Problems with sexual function
  • Menstrual periods stop (amenorrhea)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sleep problems
  • Vomiting
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What are the current treatments for Chronic Kidney Disease?

Blood pressure control will slow further kidney damage.

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) are used most often.
  • The goal is to keep blood pressure at or below 130/80 mm Hg.

Making lifestyle changes can help protect the kidneys, and prevent heart disease and stroke, such as:

  • DO NOT smoke.
  • Eat meals that are low in fat and cholesterol.
  • Get regular exercise (talk to your provider or nurse before starting to exercise).
  • Take medicines to lower your cholesterol, if needed.
  • Keep your blood sugar under control.
  • Avoid eating too much salt or potassium.

Always talk to your kidney specialist before taking any over-the-counter medicine. This includes vitamins, herbs and supplements. Make sure all of the providers you visit know you have CKD. Other treatments may include:

  • Medicines called phosphate binders, to help prevent high phosphorous levels
  • Extra iron in the diet, iron pills, iron given through a vein (intravenous iron) special shots of a medicine called erythropoietin, and blood transfusions to treat anemia
  • Extra calcium and vitamin D (always talk to your provider before taking)

Your provider may have you follow a special diet for CKD.

  • Limiting fluids
  • Eating less protein
  • Restricting phosphorous and other electrolytes
  • Getting enough calories to prevent weight loss

All people with CKD should be up-to-date on the following vaccinations:

  • Hepatitis A vaccine
  • Hepatitis B vaccine
  • Flu vaccine
  • Pneumonia vaccine (PPV)
Who are the top Chronic Kidney Disease Local Doctors?
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What are the support groups for Chronic Kidney Disease?

More information and support for people with CKD and their families can be found at a kidney disease support group.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Chronic Kidney Disease?

Many people are not diagnosed with CKD until they have lost most of their kidney function.

There is no cure for CKD. If it worsens to ESRD, and how quickly, depends on:

  • The cause of kidney damage
  • How well you take care of yourself

Kidney failure is the last stage of CKD. This is when your kidneys can no longer support our body's needs.

Your provider will discuss dialysis with you before you need it. Dialysis removes waste from your blood when your kidneys can no longer do their job.

In most cases, you will go to dialysis when you have only 10 to 15% of your kidney function left.

Even people who are waiting for a kidney transplant may need dialysis while waiting.

What are the possible complications of Chronic Kidney Disease?

Complications may include:

  • Anemia
  • Bleeding from the stomach or intestines
  • Bone, joint, and muscle pain
  • Changes in blood sugar
  • Damage to nerves of the legs and arms (peripheral neuropathy)
  • Dementia
  • Fluid buildup around the lungs (pleural effusion)
  • Heart and blood vessel complications
  • High phosphorous levels
  • High potassium levels
  • Hyperparathyroidism
  • Increased risk of infections
  • Liver damage or failure
  • Malnutrition
  • Miscarriages and infertility
  • Seizures
  • Swelling (edema)
  • Weakening of the bones and increased risk of fractures
How do I prevent Chronic Kidney Disease?

Treating the condition that is causing the problem may help prevent or delay CKD. People who have diabetes should control their blood sugar and blood pressure levels and should not smoke.

Kidney anatomy
Kidney - blood and urine flow
Glomerulus and nephron
What are the latest Chronic Kidney Disease Clinical Trials?
A Randomized Parallel-group, Placebo-controlled, Double-blind, Event-driven, Multi-center Phase 2 Clinical Outcome Trial of Prevention of Arteriovenous Graft Thrombosis and Safety of MK-2060 in Patients With End Stage Renal Disease Receiving Hemodialysis

Summary: The purpose of this study is to evaluate the efficacy and safety of two different doses of MK-2060 (a monoclonal antibody against Factor XI) in end stage renal disease (ESRD) participants receiving hemodialysis via an arteriovenous graft (AVG). Data from this study will be used to aid dose selection of MK-2060 in future studies. The primary hypothesis is that at least one of the MK-2060 doses is s...

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A Phase 3, Prospective, Randomized, Multicenter, Single-blind, Controlled Study Evaluating Arteriovenous Fistula Outcomes With and Without a Perivascular Sirolimus Eluting Collagen Implant (The ACCESS 2 Trial)

Summary: The primary study objective is to evaluate the benefit of the Sirolimus eluting Collagen implant (SeCI; Sirogen), a single dose prophylactic treatment delivered intraoperatively at the time of surgical creation of an arteriovenous fistula for hemodialysis vascular access.

What are the Latest Advances for Chronic Kidney Disease?
Efficacy and indications of tonsillectomy in patients with IgA nephropathy: a retrospective study.
The prebiotic effects of soluble dietary fiber mixture on renal anemia and the gut microbiota in end-stage renal disease patients on maintenance hemodialysis: a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled study.
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Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: July 27, 2021
Published By: Walead Latif, MD, Nephrologist and Clinical Associate Professor, Rutgers Medical School, Newark, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Christov M, Sprague SM. Chronic kidney disease - mineral bone disorder. In: Yu ASL, Chertow GM, Luyckx VA, Marsden PA, Skorecki K, Taal MW, eds. Brenner and Rector's The Kidney. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 53.

Grams ME, McDonald SP. Epidemiology of chronic kidney disease and dialysis. In: Feehally J, Floege J, Tonelli M, Johnson RJ, eds. Comprehensive Clinical Nephrology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 77.

Taal MW. Classification and management of chronic kidney disease. In: Yu ASL, Chertow GM, Luyckx VA, Marsden PA, Skorecki K, Taal MW, eds. Brenner and Rector's The Kidney. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 59.