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What is Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)?

Chronic kidney disease symptoms

Chronic kidney disease includes conditions that damage your kidneys and decrease their ability to keep you healthy by doing the jobs listed. If kidney disease gets worse, wastes can build to high levels in your blood and make you feel sick. You may develop complications like high blood pressure, anemia (low blood count), weak bones, poor nutritional health, and nerve damage. Also, kidney disease increases your risk of having heart and blood vessel disease. These problems may happen slowly over a long period of time. Chronic kidney disease may be caused by diabetes, high blood pressure, and other disorders. Early detection and treatment can often keep chronic kidney disease from getting worse. When kidney disease progresses, it may eventually lead to kidney failure, which requires dialysis or a kidney transplant to maintain life.

Symptoms of CKD

Signs and symptoms of chronic kidney disease develop over time if kidney damage progresses slowly.

Signs and symptoms of kidney disease may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Sleep problems
  • Changes in how much you urinate
  • Decreased mental sharpness
  • Muscle twitches and cramps
  • Swelling of feet and ankles
  • Persistent itching
  • Chest pain, if fluid builds up around the lining of the heart
  • Shortness of breath, if fluid builds up in the lungs
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) that’s difficult to control

Signs and symptoms of kidney disease are often nonspecific, meaning they can also be caused by other illnesses. Because your kidneys are highly adaptable and able to compensate for lost function, signs and symptoms may not appear until irreversible damage has occurred.

What causes CKD?

The two main causes of chronic kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure, which are responsible for up to two-thirds of the cases.

Diabetes happens when your blood sugar is too high, causing damage to many organs in your body, including the kidneys and heart, as well as blood vessels, nerves, and eyes.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when the pressure of your blood against the walls of your blood vessels increases. If uncontrolled, or poorly controlled, high blood pressure can be a leading cause of heart attacks, strokes, and chronic kidney disease. Also, chronic kidney disease can cause high blood pressure.

Other conditions that affect the kidneys are:

  • Glomerulonephritis, a group of diseases that cause inflammation and damage to the kidney’s filtering units. These disorders are the third most common type of kidney disease.
  • Inherited diseases, such as polycystic kidney disease, cause large cysts to form in the kidneys and damage the surrounding tissue.
  • Malformations that occur as a baby develops in its mother’s womb. For example, a narrowing may occur that prevents normal outflow of urine and causes urine to flow back up to the kidney. This causes infections and may damage the kidneys.
  • Lupus and other diseases affect the body’s immune system.
  • Obstructions caused by problems like kidney stones, tumors, or an enlarged prostate gland in men.
  • Repeated urinary infections.

How can I prevent CKD?

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of CKD. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, working with your doctor to keep your blood sugar and blood pressure under control is the best way to prevent kidney disease.

Living a healthy lifestyle can help prevent diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease, or help keep them under control. Follow these tips to lower your risk for kidney disease and the problems that cause it:

  • Follow a low-salt, low-fat diet
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes on most days of the week
  • Have regular check-ups with your doctor
  • Do not smoke or use tobacco
  • Limit alcohol

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