What is Chronic Kidney Disease?

Did you know that chronic kidney disease (CKD) kills more people than breast or prostate cancer annually? In 2013, more than 47,000 Americans died from kidney disease. Today, more than 30 million American adults have CKD and millions of others are at increased risk for developing kidney disease. With such prevalence of the disease, you need to be aware of the symptoms, risk factors and how it can impact your aging loved one.

Before we explain what chronic kidney disease is, we want to first provide some background information on what the Kidney actually does.

What Does the Kidney Do?

Your kidneys filter extra water and waste out of your blood which makes urine. Your kidneys serve an incredibly important function to remove waste and help keep your body functioning properly by balancing salts and minerals circulating in the blood. In addition, your kidneys make hormones that assist in controlling blood pressure and make red blood cells. The regulation of such activity in your body is what is impacted if your kidneys are damaged.

What is Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)?

Chronic kidney disease means your kidneys are damaged and can’t filter blood the way they should. The disease is called “chronic” because the damage to your kidneys happens slowly over a long period of time until eventually, your kidneys fail.

This damage can cause waste to build up in your body. CKD can also cause other health problems including: swelling in your ankles, vomiting, weakness, poor sleep, and shortness of breath.

Without treatment, the loss of kidney function can get worse, and your kidneys may eventually stop working which is a life-threatening situation.

Symptoms of Chronic Kidney Disease

The following are the common symptoms of CKD:

  • Chest pain
  • Dry skin
  • Itching or numbness
  • Feeling tired
  • Headaches
  • Increased or decreased urination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sleep problems
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

These symptoms if associated with CKD and untreated will eventually develop into more severe complications such as:

Chronic kidney disease may be caused by diabetes, high blood pressure, and other health disorders. When kidney disease progresses, it may eventually lead to kidney failure, which requires dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive.

How is Kidney Disease Detected?

Kidney function is assessed using a combination of a blood test called the estimated glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and a measure of the amount of protein in the urine (proteinuria).

The GFR is the number used to figure out a person’s stage of kidney disease. A math formula using the person’s age, race, gender, and their serum creatinine is used to calculate a GFR.

The amount of GFR (if less than 90 mL per minute) is a sign of kidney disease. As the amount decreases there is an increased risk (accounted for between stage 1 through stage 4 of CKD).

Early detection can lead to treatment and the care that you need. Take care of your kidneys and talk with your physician today!


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