Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a term used to describe the slow loss of kidney function in a person. Normal kidneys are able to filter wastes and extra fluids from the blood, which then get excreted in the urine. But due to chronic kidney disease this normal functionality is impaired, and when the disease progresses further, it can lead to the building up of dangerous levels of fluid, electrolytes and wastes in the body. When the level of kidney function falls below a certain level, it is called kidney failure.
Chronic Kidney Disease: Quick Facts
- Diabetes and high blood pressure are the two leading causes of kidney disease.
- Kidney disease is likely to cause kidney failure in men more than in women.
- African Americans, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, and American Indians are at increased risk.
- Kidney disease can develop at any age, but affects the elderly more. Around 50% of people aged 75 and above are estimated to have CKD.
- In the developing countries, around 1 million people die annually due to untreated kidney disease.
- Generally, kidney transplant success rates are very good, with around 85-90% success rate for deceased donor transplant and 90-95% rate for live donor transplant.
- Almost 8-10% of the adult population suffers from some type of kidney damage.
- There are five stages of kidney disease, stage 5 being the End-Stage-Renal-Disease (ESRD), also known as kidney failure.
Causes of Kidney Disease
There are a number of conditions and diseases that can lead to CKD, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, polycystic kidney disease, interstitial nephritis, family history, etc. Out of these, diabetes and high blood pressure are two main causes contributing to around 2/3rd of all CKD cases. Kidney disease can make a person develop various health complications including weak bones, anemia, nerve damage, and heart diseases and stroke. Most often these problems manifest very gradually and therefore, aren’t easily noticed. As a result, chronic kidney disease can get significantly worse before it can be diagnosed and treated. In many situations, this can lead to kidney failure in the patient which can prove to be fatal without dialysis or kidney transplant.
Some of the other, less prevalent causes of CKD are glomerulonephritis (inflammations) or pyelonephritis (infections). CKD can also be caused due to inherited conditions (such as polycystic disease), enlarged prostate, kidney stones, malformations in a baby when in the mother’s womb, tumors, frequent urinary infections, lupus and other diseases that affect body’s immune system.
Certain drugs like analgesics (pain-killers), if taken over a prolonged period of time, can also lead to kidney disease.
Symptoms of Chronic Kidney Disease
Chronic kidney disease usually doesn’t present any symptoms until it has advanced to a much later stage. In the advanced stages, kidney disease can cause:
- Fatigue, weakness, lethargy
- Pain during urination
- Foamy/Pink/Dark urine (blood in urine)
- Need to urinate more often
- Fluid retention leading to swelling of ankles, face, hands, abdomen, ankles, feet, eyes
- Increase in thirst
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Muscle cramps
- Dry, itchy skin
Diagnosis and Treatment
Chronic kidney disease can be diagnosed by means of certain tests and procedures such as:
Blood tests: These can include a blood creatinine test to determine the Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR), a blood urea nitrogen (BUN) test, a fasting blood glucose test and some other tests that check for the amount of waste products and electrolytes in the blood.
Click here to learn more about GFR and its correlation to Chronic Kidney Diease.
Urine tests: These are used to measure the amount of protein in urine (ideally none), by means of Urinalysis (UA) and a urine test for microalbumin.
Imaging tests: A renal ultrasound and/or angiogram may also be conducted by the doctor to check any obstructions to the kidney or reasons for restricted blood flow.
Kidney biopsy: This procedure may also be used by the doctor to find out the reason for kidney disease, particularly after a kidney transplant if there is the possibility of organ rejection. The biopsy process involves removing a sample of kidney tissue by inserting a thin, long needle through your skin and into the kidney.
Early screening of kidney disease is recommended to those who are suffering from high blood pressure or diabetes. Unless the disease has reached the advanced stages, it can be managed by means of medications and leading a healthy lifestyle.
In patients suffering from either diabetes or high blood pressure, it is crucial to control the sugar levels and blood pressure respectively, in order to prevent further damage to the kidneys. By properly assessing the extent of damage to the kidneys as well as the contributory factors, the doctor will create a comprehensive treatment plan.
With inputs from: