Chronic Kidney Disease: What You Need to Know

chronic kidney diseaseChronic kidney disease (CKD) describes the long-term damage occurring to the kidneys over time that makes the kidneys unable to filter blood and work efficiently when removing waste for urine. When this occurs, kidneys are unable to maintain their normal functions and are unable to effectively maintain electrolyte balance in the body, including sodium and calcium levels.

While it may seem like this could only affect certain people, more than 30 million individuals in the United States currently suffer from CKD. There are some interventions that can and should be implemented, but long-term issues may lead to the necessary use of dialysis in order to remove harmful products from the blood.


In the early stages of CKD, few if any symptoms may be noted as the balance within the body is not disrupted enough to make a true impact. As symptoms progress, which they often do, symptoms associated with electrolyte imbalance and waste build-up are often experienced.

These symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sleep problems
  • Loss of appetite
  • General feeling of being “unwell”
  • Muscle twitches and cramps
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling
  • High blood pressure

It may take time for these symptoms to become persistent enough to be noticeable. If there is any question about kidney health or any other health conditions associated with urine output and waste removal, blood and urine tests should be performed by a physician. This will help them identify the amount of protein breakdown and level of function occurring.


Chronic kidney disease is caused by any number of factors that initiate breakdown at the filtration level of the kidneys. This may range from pre-existing conditions or inherited traits to lifestyle factors.

The key to CKD onset is the gradual and repetitive stress on the kidneys as they attempt to filtrate the blood. This may happen through both physical and chemical interactions that are unable to be stopped acutely.

Risk Factors

Diabetes is the leading risk factor associated with the development of chronic kidney disease. High glucose levels in the blood cause blockage and damage at the filtration system of the kidneys, promoting a gradual breakdown over time. Often, this may cause protein to start being released through the kidney’s filtration system, perhaps causing the foaming of urine.

High blood pressure is the second leading cause of CKD. When the volume of blood passing through for filtration is in excess, it is often challenging for the kidneys to keep up and breakdown can occur as a result. It is similar to an excess amount of water attempting to flow through a hole in a damn, causing cracks to the remainder of the foundation.

Additionally, substance use and abuse, especially in relation to recreational drugs and alcohol, may cause chemicals to enter the bloodstream that is challenging for the kidneys to break down and filter out. Conditions such as renal artery disease, lupus, hemolytic uremic syndrome, and more may also cause an increase in risk.


Unfortunately, CKD is reflective of damage that has often occurred due to a number of confounding variables and can usually only be treated by preventing further damage. In most cases, this will result in lifestyle changes that assist with managing diabetes and controlling diabetes, such as regular exercise and a healthy diet.

For those with uncontrolled diabetes and high blood pressure, or other conditions, medication as prescribed by a physician is a necessary component of the care plan. Preventing complete disruption of kidney function is paramount to enjoying a happy, normal lifestyle that allows you to do the things that mean most to you without worry. Intervening as soon as possible is the best way to ensure life-altering steps do not need to be made.

When to Seek Help

Kidney disease often has no symptoms, which means it often goes undetected until the disease is very advanced. It’s important to be aware of the common symptoms and risk factors that may increase your chance of developing CKD.

If you or someone you love has already been diagnosed with kidney disease, call (919) 477-3005 to schedule an appointment with Durham Nephrology. Our team of providers has over 30 years of experience in the management and treatment of kidney disease for patients in and around Durham and Oxford, North Carolina.


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