Chronic Kidney Disease
What is chronic kidney disease?
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is when the kidneys cannot filter waste and toxins as well as they should. The disease is called “chronic” because the damage to the kidneys happens slowly over time. In most cases, CKD does not cause any symptoms. It can, however, cause other health problems. If CKD is detected early and managed appropriately the rate of decline in kidney function may be reduced and further progression of the disease may even be stopped.
How do kidneys work?
Kidneys are bean-shaped organs the size of your mobile phone. Their main function is to filter excess water, waste and toxins out of your blood to make urine. The kidneys also balance the amounts of salts and minerals, such as calcium, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium in your body. In addition, they produce hormones that regulate blood pressure, make red blood cells, and promote strong, healthy bones.
How common is CKD?
You are not alone! Approximately 1 in 10 Australians have signs of CKD, such as reduced kidney function and/or protein in the urine. Most people don’t even know that they have CKD.
Are you at risk of CKD?
Your risk for developing CKD is increased if you:
- have diabetes
- have high blood pressure
- have established heart problems or if you had a stroke
- have family history of kidney failure
- are obese (Body Mass Index > 30)
- are a smoker
- are 60 years old and older
- have a history of acute kidney injury
- are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin
Causes of CKD may also include a glomerulonephritis (an attack on the kidney tissue by your own immune system), inherited polycystic kidney disease, reflux nephropathy (damage due to backward flow of urine into the kidneys) or abnormalities of the urinary tract that were present from birth.
What are the symptoms of CKD?
You may not notice any symptoms. Up to 90% of kidney function can be lost before symptoms develop. For many people, the only way to know if they have kidney disease is through a blood and urine test.
In very advanced kidney disease these symptoms may develop:
- Increased or decreased urination
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea, vomiting
- Shortness of breath and/or swelling in the legs
- Sleep problems
- Difficulties concentrating
- Weight loss
Does CKD cause other health problems?
Kidney disease even in the early stages can lead to other health problems. If you have CKD, your chances of having a stroke or heart attack are significantly increased.
High blood pressure can be both a cause and consequence of CKD. High blood pressure causes damage to the numerous small blood vessels in your kidney. On the other hand, the damaged kidneys will fail regulating your blood pressure adequately.
Kidney disease can also lead to anaemia, gout, infections from a weakened immune system and bone problems.
End-stage kidney disease
Chronic kidney disease can get worse over time. If kidneys have lost more than 85% of their ability to function specific treatments are needed to maintain your health. Kidney failure treated with dialysis or transplant is called end-stage kidney disease.
What will your kidney specialist do?
- Investigate the cause of your kidney disease
- Discuss factors you can do to keep healthy
- Optimise risk factors of kidney disease progression
- Decide on-specific treatment plans
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