Chronic kidney disease: Everything you need to know

Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease is often left undetected and untreated in the early stages in India. Read to learn about the significance of early diagnosis, risk factors, staging, and treatment of chronic kidney disease.

What is a chronic kidney disease?

Kidneys are organs that filter the blood and get rid of waste and toxins from our body. Chronic kidney disease is a condition in which the kidneys are damaged and unable to perform this filtration function efficiently.

Is chronic kidney disease a serious condition?

Kidneys filter waste products, excess fluids, and electrolytes in the blood and remove them through the urine. If kidneys are damaged, waste products (toxins), electrolytes, and fluids are not removed and they can build up to a dangerous, life-threatening state.

Why did I get chronic kidney disease?

Chronic kidney disease can occur as a complication of:

  • Diabetes (type II diabetes is the most common cause)
  • High blood pressure (the second most common cause)
  • Glomerulonephritis (inflammation (swelling) of tiny filters in the kidney called glomeruli)
  • Interstitial nephritis (inflammation of the spaces between the tiny tubules in the kidney
  • Cystic diseases of the kidney or other hereditary kidney diseases
  • Long-standing blockage or obstruction of the kidneys by kidney stones, an enlarged prostate or any cancerous growth
  • Recurrent infections of the kidney

What is end-stage renal failure?

End-stage renal failure or end-stage renal disease is the last stage of advanced chronic kidney disease. The kidneys are severely damaged to the point that they can no longer function on their own and hence the patient requires dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive.

What are the lifestyle changes I need to make if I have chronic kidney disease?

  • Control your blood pressure and blood sugar levels
  • Eat a well-balanced and nutritious diet. Your doctor may recommend you to minimise salt, protein and fat intake, and regulate your water consumption
  • Maintain a healthy weight as obesity may worsen your condition
  • Avoid smoking
Chronic kidney disease

How is chronic kidney disease diagnosed?

  • History and physical examination (to identify the signs and symptoms of kidney disease)
  • Blood tests (to evaluate the level of creatinine in the blood)
  • Urine tests (which evaluate albumin, creatinine, and blood urea nitrogen levels)
  • Sometimes your doctor may recommend an ultrasound, CT, or MRI to find out any kind of structural abnormality, or blockage in your kidneys

What is creatinine? Why is it significant?

Creatinine is a waste product produced in the muscles during muscle contraction. A healthy kidney filters creatinine out of the blood and eliminates it through urine. The amount of creatinine in your blood helps your doctor ascertain how well your kidney is functioning.

What are the stages of kidney disease?

Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is a measure of the capacity of the kidney to filter and remove waste products. It is calculated using your blood creatinine levels. Chronic kidney disease is staged based on the GFR.
Stage Estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate (mL/min) What does it mean?
Stage I >90
  • Mild damage
  • You may not have symptoms
  • You may have some signs such as protein in your urine
Stage II >60-89
  • Mild damage but may not have symptoms
  • There may be protein in your urine
Stage IIIa >45-59
  • Mild to moderate kidney damage
  • May or may not have symptoms
Stage IIIb >30-44
  • Mild to moderate kidney damage
  • Mild symptoms may be present
Stage IV >15-29
  • Moderate to severe damage to the kidneys
  • Symptoms of kidney damage are evident
Stage V <15
  • End-stage renal disease
  • Most severe kidney damage
  • You would require dialysis or kidney at this stage to survive

What are the symptoms of chronic kidney disease?

The symptoms of chronic kidney disease include:

  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Swollen ankles and feet
  • Frequent or scanty urination
  • Foaming or frothy urine
  • Blood in the urine
  • Muscle cramps
  • Loss of mental sharpness
  • Dry and itchy skin
  • Headache
  • General feeling of sickness

Can I have chronic kidney disease without symptoms?

In the initial stages, your body can cope with the compromised functioning of the kidneys and hence there may not be any pronounced symptoms. However, even in the early stages routine blood and urine tests can give us hints about declining kidney function.

Can chronic kidney disease be cured?

The damage to the kidneys can not be reversed, meaning that there is no cure for chronic kidney disease. However, lifestyle modifications, controlling your diabetes and high blood pressure, and getting the right treatment for kidney disease can help arrest its progress.

How do I protect my kidneys from getting damaged further?

You can protect your kidneys from further damage through
  • Lifestyle modifications
  • Medications for controlling diabetes and high blood pressure

How is chronic kidney disease treated?

Treatment of chronic kidney disease is based on the severity of the damage.
  • In the early stages, lifestyle modifications and controlling diabetes and high blood pressure help arrest the progress
  • In the later stages, you may require dialysis or a kidney transplant

Would I require dialysis or a kidney transplant in the future?

If your chronic kidney disease is diagnosed at an early stage and does not progress further, you may be able to avoid dialysis or a kidney transplant. However, if you are at an advanced stage, you may require dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive.

Do I have to undergo dialysis for the rest of my life?

Dialysis is done in the advanced stages of chronic kidney disease when kidney function has significantly declined. Since the damage to the kidneys is irreversible, you may have to continue dialysis for the rest of your life, unless you can get a kidney transplant.

Why is it important to let all my doctors know about my kidney disease?

If you have chronic kidney disease, some medicines may not be suitable for you. Always inform all your doctors so that they can prescribe medicines that are safe for your kidneys.
Dr. Sosa

Dr. Sosa


An oral physician turned medical writer who writes profoundly about medicine and diseases. Read her contributions and writings about various healthcare topics.

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