Nephropathy (kidneys)

What Is Chronic Kidney Disease?

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) means your kidneys are damaged and can’t filter blood the way they should. The disease is called “chronic” because the damage to your kidneys happens slowly over a long period of time. This damage can cause wastes to build up in your body. CKD can also cause other health problems.

Your kidneys are located in the middle of your back, just below your ribcage. The kidneys’ main job is to filter extra water and wastes out of your blood to make urine. To keep your body working properly, the kidneys balance the salts and minerals—such as calcium, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium—that circulate in the blood. Your kidneys also make hormones that help control blood pressure, make red blood cells, and keep your bones strong.

Kidney disease often can get worse over time and may lead to kidney failure. If your kidneys fail, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant to maintain your health. The sooner you know you have kidney disease, the sooner you can make changes to protect your kidneys.

Causes of Chronic Kidney Disease

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of chronic kidney disease (CKD). Your health care provider will look at your health history and may do tests to find out why you have kidney disease. The cause of your kidney disease may affect the type of treatment you receive.

Diabetes

Too much glucose, also called sugar, in your blood damages your kidneys’ filters. Over time, your kidneys can become so damaged that they no longer do a good job filtering wastes and extra fluid from your blood. Often, the first sign of kidney disease from diabetes is protein in your urine. When the filters are damaged, a protein called albumin, which you need to stay healthy, passes out of your blood and into your urine. A healthy kidney doesn’t let albumin pass from the blood into the urine.
Diabetic kidney disease is the medical term for kidney disease caused by diabetes.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure can damage blood vessels in the kidneys so they don’t work as well. If the blood vessels in your kidneys are damaged, your kidneys may not work as well to remove wastes and extra fluid from your body. Extra fluid in the blood vessels may then raise blood pressure even more, creating a dangerous cycle.