Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease, or CKD, is a condition in which kidney function is gradually lost. Also called chronic kidney failure, CKD impairs the ability of the kidney to filter waste products and excess fluid from the bloodstream. People with CKD often have irreversible kidney damage.

CKD often progresses slowly, and symptoms aren’t noticeable until kidney damage is more severe. As it progresses, it doesn’t just affect the kidneys. It can cause complications in multiple body systems. Serious complications include cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, anemia, central nervous system damage, weakened immune system, and pulmonary edema.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Chronic Kidney Disease Initiative, an estimated 30 million adults in the United States have CKD. Most of these cases are undiagnosed.


Often people with chronic kidney disease do not experience any noticeable symptoms, especially in the early stages. As the disease develops and the kidneys become more damaged, you may experience:

  • High blood pressure that’s difficult to control
  • Changes to the frequency of urination and the amount of urine
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen feet and ankles
  • Mental fog
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Muscle cramps
  • Itchy skin
  • Chest pain caused by fluid build-up in the lining of the heart
  • Shortness of breath caused by fluid build-up in the lungs

The symptoms of CKD can often be attributed to other conditions. Therefore, a specific blood and urine test must be used to confirm a diagnosis of CKD. Other diagnostic tests such as a kidney biopsy and imaging studies may also be required.

Causes & Risk Factors 

Because CKD is a gradual loss of kidney function and indicates kidney damage, it can be caused by several conditions, including:

  • Diabetes – type 1 or type 2
  • High blood pressure
  • Recurrent kidney infection
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Kidney stones
  • Kidney cancer that obstructs the urinary tract
  • Inflammation of the tubes and structures surrounding the kidneys (called interstitial nephritis)
  • Glomerulonephritis – inflammation of the filtering units in the kidneys
  • Vesicoureteral reflux – a condition that causes urine to back up into the kidneys

Certain things may make you more likely to develop CKD. This includes lifestyle factors and pre-existing medical conditions. You might be at higher risk of developing CKD if you have:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Heart Disease
  • Family history of CKD

Treatment & Prevention

Treatments for chronic kidney disease can vary depending on the cause of the disease. The goal of treatment is to slow the progression of kidney damage. The doctor will first treat the underlying cause and then focus on treating complications and improve the patient’s quality of life. Possible treatments include:

  • Blood pressure medications
  • Cholesterol medications
  • Calcium and vitamin D to protect bones
  • A low protein diet
  • Medications to relieve swelling
  • Anemia medications containing the hormone erythropoietin and added iron

If CKD progresses to the end stage, treatment options include hemodialysis and kidney transplant.

There are steps you can take right now to lower your risk of chronic kidney disease:

  • Get tested regularly if you are at risk of developing CKD.
  • Actively manage and monitor diabetes. Stay in your target blood sugar range.
  • Keep your blood pressure below 140/90 Hg, or in the target range established by your doctor.
  • Follow any recommended dietary guidelines given by a doctor or dietician.
  • Stay active and engage in regular exercise to control blood sugar and blood pressure.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight or obese.
  • Stop smoking if you are currently and smoker.
  • Make a nephrologist a part of your healthcare team.
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions on taking medications.

Make an Appointment

The doctors, nurse practitioners, and staff at Durham Nephrology Associates are dedicated to providing quality care to patients in Durham and Oxford with kidney disease and high blood pressure. If you have concerns about chronic kidney disease or any other kidney issue, we can help. To make an appointment, call (919) 447-3005. Or you can request an appointment here.


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