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Chronic Kidney Disease

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What Happens

At first with chronic kidney disease, your kidneys are still able to regulate the balance of fluids, salts, and waste products in your body. But as kidney function decreases, you will start to have other problems, or complications. The worse your kidney function gets, the more complications you'll have and the more severe they will be.

When kidney function falls below a certain point, it is called kidney failure. Kidney failure has harmful effects throughout your body. It can cause serious heart, bone, and brain problems and make you feel very ill.

Recommended Related to

Kidney Dialysis

Your kidneys help filter waste, excess fluid, and toxins from your blood. They are also important for blood cell production and bone health. If kidneys don't work properly, harmful substances build up in the body, blood pressure can rise, and too much fluid can collect in the body's tissues, which leads to swelling, called edema. If your kidneys fail, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant to take over their job.

Read the Kidney Dialysis article > >

After you have kidney failure, either you will need to have dialysis or you will need a new kidney. Both choices have risks and benefits.

Complications of chronic kidney disease

  • AnemiaAnemia. You may feel weak, have pale skin, and feel tired, because the kidneys can't produce enough of the hormone (erythropoietin) needed to make new red blood cells.
  • Electrolyte imbalanceElectrolyte imbalance. When the kidneys can't filter out certain chemicals, such as potassium, phosphate, and acids, you may have an irregular heartbeat, muscle weakness, and other problems.
  • Uremic syndromeUremic syndrome. You may be tired, have nausea and vomiting, not have an appetite, or not be able to sleep when substances build up in your blood. The substances can be poisonous (toxic) if they reach high levels. This syndrome can affect many parts of your body, including the intestines, nerves, and heart.
  • Heart disease. Chronic kidney disease speeds up hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart failure. Heart disease is the most common cause of death in people with kidney failure.
  • Bone disease (osteodystrophy). Abnormal levels of substances, such as calcium, phosphate, and vitamin D, can lead to bone disease.
  • Fluid buildup (edema). As kidney function gets worse, fluids and salt build up in the body. Fluid buildup can lead to heart failure and pulmonary edema.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 29, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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