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Understanding Kidney Disease -- the Basics

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What Causes Chronic Kidney Disease?

Kidney damage and decreased function that lasts longer than 3 months is called chronic kidney disease (CKD). Chronic kidney disease is particularly dangerous because you may not have any symptoms until considerable, often irreparable, kidney damage has occurred. Diabetes (types 1 and 2) and high blood pressure are the most common causes of CKD. Other causes are:

  • Immune system conditions such as lupus and chronic viral illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.
  • Urinary tract infections within the kidneys themselves, called pyelonephritis, can lead to scarring as the infection heals. Multiple episodes can lead to kidney damage.
  • Inflammation in the tiny filters (glomeruli) within the kidneys; this can happen after strep infection and other conditions of unknown cause. 
  • Polycystic kidney disease , in which fluid-filled cysts form in the kidneys over time. This is the most common form of inherited kidney disease.
  • Congenital defects, present at birth, are often the result of a urinary tract obstruction or malformation that affects the kidneys. One of the most common involves a valve-like mechanism between the bladder and urethra. These defects, sometimes found while a baby is still in the womb, can often be surgically repaired by a urologist.
  • Drugs and toxins, including long-term exposure to some medications and chemicals, such as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), like ibuprofen and naproxen, and use of intravenous “street” drugs.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on March 22, 2014
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