What is Chronic Kidney Disease?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a medical condition characterized by a steady decline in kidney function. It can be caused by a number of things, and depending on the cause, the progress may be rapid, or very slow. Chronic kidney disease can be treated in a variety of ways, depending on the cause of the patient, and the prognosis is also quite varied.

Urine samples aid doctors in diagnosing kidney disease.
Urine samples aid doctors in diagnosing kidney disease.

Older people, people of color, and men are at increased risk of developing chronic kidney disease. The condition also arises more in people with a family history of kidney problems, and in people with high blood pressure or diabetes. The use of certain medications and some medical conditions can also cause chronic kidney disease. Many people at risk for the condition are routinely screened, allowing medical staff to catch it early.

Poorly functioning kidneys allow blood and protein to enter the urine.
Poorly functioning kidneys allow blood and protein to enter the urine.

Two methods can be used to test for chronic kidney disease. The first is a blood test for creatinine. If the creatinine level is high, it indicates that the kidneys are having difficulty. Urine samples can also be used to check for signs of protein and blood, which also indicate kidney problems. If a case of chronic kidney disease is suspected, a biopsy of the kidney may be taken in an attempt to uncover the cause, and a doctor will also take the patient's medical history to look for risk factors and potential causes.

Dialysis is often used to treat end stage chronic kidney disease.
Dialysis is often used to treat end stage chronic kidney disease.

Some patients experience no symptoms. Others have an increased blood pressure, caused by a buildup of fluids in the body, along with edema. Heart problems, muscle cramping, and poor appetite may develop as well. Many people also feel thirsty commonly and urinate a lot, indicating that their kidneys are trying to flush themselves out and failing. By the time symptoms emerge, the problem may be very advanced.

When someone is diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, it is classed as stage one through five. Stage one is the mildest, and five is the most serious. In the early stages, chronic kidney disease may be treatable through diet and lifestyle changes, and sometimes with the use of medication. In later stages, dialysis or kidney transplant may be required for treatment, as the kidneys are simply too damaged to function on their own.

People can reduce the risk of chronic kidney disease by eating well, keeping an eye on their blood pressure, and being careful about which medications they take, and for how long. People at increased risk should receive regular screenings so that if chronic kidney disease does appear, it can be caught early and managed.

The kidneys perform a crucial role of keeping the blood clean and chemically balanced.
The kidneys perform a crucial role of keeping the blood clean and chemically balanced.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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