Chronic kidney disease
What is chronic kidney disease?
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a long-term condition where a person's kidneys don't work properly.
Kidney disease is more common as people get older with around one in five men and one in four women aged 65 and 74 having some degree of chronic kidney disease.
Ethnicity affects a person's risk of kidney disease. The risk of developing kidney disease is also greater in people of south Asian origin and black people.
What are the symptoms of kidney disease?
Early detection is the first step in treating chronic kidney disease. The early symptoms of kidney disease may include:
Seek medical advice if:
You experience any of these symptoms, which could be a warning sign of kidney disease.
Unfortunately, some people have no symptoms of chronic kidney disease until some of their kidney function is lost - which is why prevention is vital.
How do I know if I have kidney disease?
Blood and urine tests can help uncover signs of early kidney disease and monitor kidney disease. Common tests include:
- Blood pressure monitoring. Detection and early treatment of high blood pressure is key to slowing or preventing kidney damage. Your doctor will advise a plan, which may include diet changes and medication, to keep your blood pressure as close to normal as possible. Normal blood pressure is generally considered to be less than 120/80.
- Protein in the urine. Excess protein in the urine may be a sign of damage in the kidneys' filters (the glomeruli).
- GFR (glomerular filtration rate). This is a measure of how well your kidneys are filtering your blood. An estimate of your "filtering rate" is determined by a blood test called a blood creatinine test, which measures the amount of a waste product - creatinine - in your blood. This test, along with your age, body size, and gender, gives your doctor an estimate of your GFR, called eGFR. Your eGFR, or "filtering rate," helps confirm normal or reduced kidney function.
Your doctor may also refer you to a kidney specialist, called a nephrologist, for more specialised testing. A kidney biopsy may be advised, which removes a small amount of kidney tissue for microscopic examination to pinpoint the cause of kidney damage and plan treatment.
What are the treatments for kidney disease?
Medication, especially those that control diabetes and high blood pressure, can sometimes help slow the progress of chronic kidney disease. A sudden loss of kidney function may improve if the underlying cause - such as a pregnancy complication - is resolved.
But with long-term kidney disease, if the kidneys deteriorate and can no longer function at all, there are only two treatment options: dialysis, which uses an artificial device to clean the blood of waste products, or a kidney transplant. With some underlying medical conditions, acute kidney failure complicates treatment, as well as being life-threatening in itself.