Chronic Kidney Disease Information
Chronic kidney disease—called kidney disease here for short—is a condition in which the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys are damaged, making the kidneys unable to do their job. Usually, this occurs over a long period of time. Waste then builds up in the blood, which can harm the body.
Most people have two kidneys. They are bean-shaped, and about the size of your clenched fist. They are located in the middle of your back, on the left and right sides of your spine, just below your rib cage. Their main job is to filter extra water and wastes out of your blood and make urine. They also help control blood pressure and make hormones that your body needs to stay healthy.
Kidney disease is most often caused by diabetes or high blood pressure.
Uncontrolled diabetes and high blood pressure damage the blood vessels in the kidneys, so the kidneys are not able to filter the blood as well as they used to. Usually this damage happens slowly, over time. As more and more blood vessels are damaged in the kidneys, they eventually stop working causing chronic kidney disease.
Other risk factors for kidney disease are cardiovascular (heart) disease and a family history of kidney failure. If you have any of these risk factors, you should get tested for kidney disease. Learn more about the risk factors for kidney disease.
Early kidney disease has no symptoms.
Many people do not know that they have kidney disease. In fact, you might feel just fine until your kidneys have almost stopped working. Kidney disease symptoms almost always indicates kidney damage. Don’t wait for symptoms. Blood and urine tests are the only way to know if you have kidney disease or kidney damage. A blood test measures your GFR (glomerular filtration rate) and a urine test checks for protein. Learn more about tests for kidney disease.
Kidney disease can be treated if detected early.
The right treatment can help prevent further kidney damage and slow down the progression of kidney disease. The earlier kidney disease is detected, the sooner you can take medications, called ACE inhibitors or ARBs, and other steps that can keep your kidneys healthy longer. Learn more about how to keep your kidneys healthy.
Kidney disease is progressive.
Kidney disease does not go away. Instead, it usually gets worse over time. Kidney disease can turn into kidney failure, at which point dialysis or a kidney transplant is needed. Kidney disease can also lead to heart disease. Learn more about what happens if your kidneys fail and available treatment options for people whose kidneys totally fail.
Take the first step
If you are at risk, get your blood and urine checked for kidney disease. Learn about talking to your doctor about kidney disease.
View Fact Sheet on Kidney Disease in our Kidney Disease Information Page.
Source: Courtesy of the National Kidney Disease Education Program (NKDEP), National Institutes of Health (NIH)