Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is known as a "silent" disease because its symptoms tend to creep up over time instead of all at once. CKD results in the gradual loss of kidney function. When kidneys cannot function normally, it affects the body's ability to filter waste and remove fluids, make red blood cells, regulate bone metabolism and more. This process can take years, and doctors diagnose the disease in one of five stages to determine how far the disease has progressed.
CKD cannot be reversed, but it can be stabilized and even prevented from getting worse through medication and/or changes in lifestyle. If you have CKD, you should take medications as prescribed, eat right and be physically active. If your disease has continued to progress, you will want to take the time to fully understand your various treatment options, including dialysis.
Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease. Diabetes is a disease in which your body does not make enough insulin or cannot use normal amounts of insulin properly. This results in a high blood sugar level, which can cause problems in your body.
High Blood Pressure
The second most common cause of kidney failure is high blood pressure. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is another common cause of kidney disease and other complications such as heart attacks and strokes. High blood pressure occurs when the force of blood against your artery walls increases. When high blood pressure is controlled, the risk of complications such as CKD is decreased.
Other causes of kidney disease:
- Inherited diseases (polycystic kidney disease, Alport’s Syndrome)
- Overconsumption of some medications and toxins
- Kidney Inflammation (Glomerulonephritis)
- Congenital diseases
Symptoms of CKD
- Need to urinate more or less often
- Feel tired, drowsy or have trouble concentrating
- Loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting
- Swelling in hands or feet
- Feel itchy or numb
- Have darkened skin
- Experience muscle cramps
If you experience any of these symptoms contact your physician.
Early detection and treatment of CKD are the keys to keeping kidney disease from progressing to kidney failure.
Several tests are used in the diagnosis of CKD, including blood pressure measurement, kidney biopsy and a variety of blood and urine tests such as:
- Microalbuminuria and proteinuria
- Glomerular filtration rate
- Blood urea nitrogen and creatinine
It is especially important that people who have an increased risk for chronic kidney disease have these tests. You may have an increased risk for kidney disease if you:
- are older
- have diabetes
- have high blood pressure
- have a family member who has chronic kidney disease
- are African American, Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Islander or American Indian.
If you are in one of these groups or think you may have an increased risk for kidney disease, ask your doctor about getting tested.
The stages of CKD are mainly based on measured or estimated GFR (Glomerular Filtration Rate). There are five stages, but kidney function is normal in Stage 1, and minimally reduced in Stage 2.
Monitoring your GFR over time shows whether your kidney disease is progressing, and if so, how quickly.
- Normal GFR is 90 ml/min or more
- Normal creatinine levels are usually between 0.8 and 1.6
- A GFR of 45 means that kidneys are working at 45% of normal, or about half the normal rate
The fifth and last stage of CKD is known as the "end-stage." End-stage renal disease (ESRD) is the complete - or almost complete - failure of the kidneys to function. It is important to know that with preparation and proper treatment, you can live a normal life. Kidney transplantation and dialysis are the only treatments for ESRD. Your physical condition and other factors determine which treatment is best for you.
Who gets ESRD?
Anyone can have ESRD but some are more likely to have ESRD than others. You are more at risk for ESRD if you have:
- Injury or trauma to the kidneys
- Major blood loss
How can I prevent ESRD?
The best way to prevent ESRD is to prevent CKD. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the two leading causes of CKD.
You can help protect your kidneys by:
- Have regular check-ups with your doctor
- Get your blood sugar and blood pressure checked often
- Eat a low-fat, low-salt diet
- Exercise most days of the week
- Avoid tobacco
- Drink alcohol only in moderation
Also, follow your doctor's recommendations for taking prescriptions. Talk to your doctor before you start any new medicine or supplement.
Kidney disease affects you not only physically but also emotionally, socially, and spiritually. When you learned you would need dialysis, you may have found it hard to believe. Even if you experienced unpleasant side effects, general fatigue, or lack of energy before you started dialysis, it is hard to accept the fact that you may need this treatment for the rest of your life. Many people experience sadness, anger and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness at this time.
This is a natural grieving process for the freedom and independence that you may find profoundly altered. Diet and fluid restrictions may seem almost impossible at first. Many things that used to be simple become difficult. It may be hard to keep a positive attitude.
You may be irritable, confused, experience sleep disturbances, or changes in your appetite. At first, you may find it hard to understand the overwhelming amount of information you receive. During this time, remember that your life has changed and it may take a while to adjust. To wish and hope the changes away is impossible. Even after this information begins to fall into place, you may find that it is a while before you feel at ease with your new life.
Some days you will be ready to tackle the world and other days you will think about giving up. The choice of a positive or negative attitude belongs to you. Remember that you and your family have your own individual ways to deal with stress, personality strengths, and weaknesses. If you can choose to take control of those things, which will enhance your life, you are likely to find yourself strengthened by this experience.