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This topic provides
information about chronic kidney disease. If you are looking for information
about sudden kidney failure, see the topic
Acute Renal Failure.
What is chronic kidney disease?
kidney disease means that for some time your
kidneys have not been working the way they should.
Your kidneys have the important job of filtering your blood. They remove waste
products and extra fluid and flush them from your body as urine. When your
kidneys don't work right, wastes build up in your blood and make you
Chronic kidney disease may seem to have come on suddenly.
But it has been happening bit by bit for many years as a result of damage to
Each of your kidneys has about a million tiny
filters, called nephrons. If nephrons are damaged, they stop working. For a
while, healthy nephrons can take on the extra work. But if the damage
continues, more and more nephrons shut down. After a certain point, the
nephrons that are left cannot filter your blood well enough to keep you
One way to measure how well your kidneys are working is to figure out your glomerular filtration rate (GFR). The GFR is usually calculated using results from your blood creatinine (say "kree-AT-uh-neen") test. Then the stage of kidney disease is figured out using the GFR. There are five stages of kidney disease, from kidney damage with normal GFR to kidney failure.
There are things you can do to slow or stop the damage to
your kidneys. Taking medicines and making some lifestyle changes can help you
manage your disease and feel better.
Chronic kidney disease is
also called chronic renal failure or chronic renal insufficiency.
What causes chronic kidney disease?
kidney disease is caused by damage to the kidneys. The most common causes of
this damage are:
Other things that can lead to chronic kidney disease
What are the symptoms?
You may start to have
symptoms only a few months after your kidneys begin to fail. But most people don't have symptoms early on. In fact, many don't have symptoms for as long as
30 years or more. This is called the "silent" phase of the disease.
How well your kidneys work is called kidney function. As your kidney
function gets worse, you may:
- Urinate less than normal.
swelling from fluid buildup in your tissues. This is called edema (say
- Feel very tired or sleepy.
- Not feel
hungry, or you may lose weight without trying.
- Often feel sick to
your stomach (nauseated) or vomit.
- Have trouble sleeping.
- Have headaches or trouble
How is chronic kidney disease diagnosed?