Kidney Disease

In case your kidneys are not working properly and begin to lose their function is considered kidney disease. If left untreated, over time it may lead to chronic kidney disease (CKD). The most common causes that provoke CKD are diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure). Unfortunately, CKD cannot be cured and only you can do, to take some steps that will preserve function as long as possible. A kidney transplant or dialysis is used in the late stage of CKD.

What is Chronic Kidney Disease?

Chronic renal disease and chronic kidney disease mean that your kidneys are not working as well as they should. Kidneys in your body filter out toxins, extra water, wastes, and others. Additionally, they also help with other body functions including bone and red blood cell health. In case your kidneys begin to work less than usual, the waste builds up in your blood.

This condition is called β€œchronic” because the kidney function gradually decreases over time. If you are not treating this condition it may lead to kidney failure, which is the last stage of kidney disease. In any case, not everyone can develop the last stage of this health condition. Fortunately, different treatment options are available that will help to maintain kidney function. For example, dialysis and transplantation are the most common options in the end-stage of kidney disease.

Furthermore, kidneys are organs that are located in your back on either side of your spine. Everyone has two kidneys underneath their rib cage and they are about the size of your fist. This organ also helps to balance the quantity of electrolytes (such as potassium and salt) and minerals in your body.

What are the Stages of Chronic Kidney Disease?

There are 5 stages of CKD and are based on how your kidneys can filter waste from your blood. However, a blood and urine test can help to identify what stage of CKD an individual experiences. Physicians usually determine your kidney function based on information on the glomerular filtration rate (GFR). This is a number that shows the amount of creatinine (a waste product) found in your blood. Check below the five stages of kidney disease in detail:

  • Stage 1 (GFR 90 mL/min or higher) – In this stage, your kidneys work normally but are symptoms of mild kidney damage.
  • Stage 2 (GFR 60 to 89 mL/min) – There are more symptoms of kidney damage.
  • Stage 3a (GFR 45 to 59 mL/min) – This means that your kidneys are not working properly as they need. This is the most common stage and symptoms show mild to moderate kidney damage.
  • Stage 3b (GFR 30 to 44 mL/min) – This stage, shows moderate kidney damage and with suitable treatment may never advance to stage 4.
  • Stage 4 (GFR 15 to 29 mL/min) – Poor kidney function, which means severe kidney damage or close to not working at all.
  • Stage 5 (GFR less than 15 mL/min) – A person who experiences this stage of CKD requires dialysis or transplantation.

In addition, roughly 15% of adults in the U.S. suffer from chronic kidney disease.


In most cases, the early stages of kidney disease are asymptomatic. However, as the disease worsens, you may notice the following symptoms. Examples include:

  • Pee more often than usual
  • Weakness, tiredness, decreased energy level
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling of your ankles, feet, or hands
  • Shortness of breath
  • Foamy or bubbly pee
  • Puffy eyes
  • Dry and itchy skin
  • Concentrating problems
  • Sleeping disturbances
  • Numbness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Darkening of your skin
  • Muscle cramps

Furthermore, it may need years for waste to build up in your blood and provoke these symptoms. Immediately, talk with a doctor if you experience any of them.


The most common causes of kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure. There are other health conditions and causes that may provoke CKD. For example:

  • Glomerulonephritis – It is damage to the glomeruli, which are filtering units in your kidneys.
  • Membranous Nephropathy – In this health condition, your immune system attacks the waste-filtering membranes in your kidneys.
  • Polycystic Kidney Disease – A disease that causes many fluid-filled cysts to grow in your kidneys. Thus, it leads to decreased kidney function. Moreover, it is a genetic disorder.
  • Urinary Tract Obstruction – An enlarged prostate, cancer, or kidney stones.
  • Vesicoureteral Reflux – This health condition occurs when pee flows back up your ureters to your kidneys.
  • Recurrent Kidney Infection (Pyelonephritis)
  • Diabetes-Related Neuropathy – Damage or dysfunction of one or more nerves, which are caused by diabetes.
  • Lupus and other immune system disorders that provoke kidney issues (such as polyarteritis nodosa, sarcoidosis, Goodpasture syndrome, and Henoch-Schonlein purpura.
  • Nephrotic Syndrome

In addition, this health condition is hereditary and can run in biological families.

Risk Factors

This disease can get anyone and you are at higher risk of developing CKD in the following cases. For example:

  • Family history of kidney disease
  • Abnormal kidney structure or size
  • You are older than 60
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Diabetes
  • Long-term use of NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)


In case you ignore symptoms and leave CKD untreated, it may lead to some unwanted complications. Examples include:

  • Gout
  • Metabolic acidosis
  • Hypertension
  • Anemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Weak and brittle bones
  • Nerve damage
  • Hyperkalemia (high levels of potassium in the blood)
  • Hyperphosphatemia (elevated levels of phosphorus)
  • Weak immune system and elevated risk of infections
  • Heart and blood vessel disease (such as the increased risk of stroke, myocardial infarction, and others)
  • Fluid buildup (that leads to swelling of your feet, hands, or ankles)


Generally, it is not a curable condition but by taking some steps, you may prevent the degradation of kidneys. Check below some tips if you experience decreased kidney function:

  • Visit a nephrologist regularly to monitor your kidney function.
  • Try to decrease sugar in the blood if you have diabetes.
  • Do not use painkillers while suffering from CKD because it may be worse.
  • Check regularly your blood pressure.
  • Quit smoking.
  • It is advised to lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Aim for 30 minutes of exercise five days a week.
  • Adopt a kidney-friendly diet, which includes limiting protein, sodium (salt), and potassium intake.

Moreover, your doctor may prescribe some medicines that will help to maintain kidney function. For example:

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB) to reduce your blood pressure.
  • Phosphate binder that helps to get rid of phosphates.
  • Diuretics (used to remove extra fluid from the blood).
  • Drugs used to lower cholesterol levels.
  • If you experience anemia, Erythropoietin.
  • Calcitriol and vitamin D to decrease the risk of bone loss.

In case you have any questions, ask your healthcare provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is kidney dialysis?

This is a procedure that uses machines that help to remove waste products from your body when the kidneys are not able to do this function. Dialysis is used because CKD is not a curable condition. There are two types of dialysis (such as Hemodialysis and Peritoneal Dialysis).

What is a kidney transplant?

This is a surgery in which is replaced an unhealthy kidney with a healthy kidney. This procedure is done in the end-stage of CKD only. People wait approximately three to five years for a kidney from a deceased donor. Discuss with your healthcare professional for more details.

What are bad foods for the kidneys?

If you suspect that you have kidney problems, it is advised to avoid the following foods. Check below some foods that you should avoid:

  • Foods high in salt
  • Large amounts of protein
  • High phosphorus products
  • High-potassium products (such as bananas, oranges, potatoes, and others)

Talk with your doctor if you are not sure what products you can eat and what foods you should avoid.

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