When you have chronic kidney disease, your kidneys slowly stop working properly. The damage is lasting and can get worse over time, leading to different stages of chronic kidney disease.
Anyone can get CKD, but some people are more likely to get it. It’s associated with getting older, and is more common in people who are from South Asia or who are Black. When younger people get CKD, the disease tends to worsen, whereas older people over age 65 tend to have stable disease.
There is no cure for chronic kidney disease, but early diagnosis and treatment can help stop your disease from worsening. Many people live long and normal lives with CKD, but it’s important to see your doctor regularly to manage your condition.
What Are the CKD Stages?
Your kidneys keep a healthy balance between water, salts, and minerals like sodium, calcium, and potassium. They also make hormones that control your blood pressure, keep your bones strong, and help make red blood cells.
Your kidneys also filter extra fluid and waste from your body through units called nephrons. Each nephron has a glomerulus, which filters your blood, and a tubule, which removes the waste and returns what you need back to your blood.
Your kidneys’ filtering speed is called the glomerular filtration rate (GFR). If your kidneys are damaged, this GFR will be lower. Blood tests show your estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) and different stages of damage.
The CKD stages are as follows:
- Stage 1 CKD, mild kidney damage with an eGFR above 90 milliliters or greater per minute
- Stage 2, mild damage with 60 to 89 milliliters per minute
- Stage 3a, moderate damage with 45 to 59 milliliters per minute
- Stage 3b, moderate damage with 30 to 44 milliliters per minute
- Stage 4, severe damage with 15 to 29 milliliters per minute
- Stage 5, kidney failure with less than 15 milliliters per minute, a level at which the kidneys are no longer working
Stage 5 CKD is also called end-stage renal disease. At this stage, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant. Not everyone has CKD that worsens, though.
What Causes Chronic Kidney Disease?
CKD is usually caused by other conditions that strain the kidneys, but some lifestyle habits and other factors can also raise your risk.
Some chronic kidney disease causes include:
What Are the Symptoms of Chronic Kidney Disease?
Early stages of CKD usually don’t cause any symptoms because your body can adjust to the lower filtration. Early CKD is often only found on routine tests.
Later stages and worsening chronic kidney disease symptoms include:
What Is the Treatment for Chronic Kidney Disease?
There is no cure for CKD, but treatment can relieve your symptoms and stop your disease from worsening. Chronic kidney disease treatment usually involves treating any underlying conditions and medication to stop kidney damage.
These treatments include:
Are There Lifestyle Changes That Can Help Chronic Kidney Disease?
Your doctor will also recommend lifestyle changes that will help keep you healthy and control some of your other conditions. These can be changes such as:
- Stopping smoking
- Eating a low-fat, low-salt diet
- Getting regular exercise
- Losing weight and keeping a healthy weight
- Drinking less alcohol
- Controlling your blood sugar, if you have diabetes
Some doctors might recommend eating a low-protein diet, too. Along with filtering blood and waste, your kidneys also filter protein. Eating low amounts of protein can ease the strain on your kidneys and might stop the disease from worsening. However, evidence for the effectiveness of this diet for CKD is weak.