Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) refers to the gradual loss of kidney function over a long period of time. The kidneys are responsible for eliminating waste and excess water from the body. Loss of kidney function can cause a dangerous buildup of toxins and fluid over time. Chronic kidney disease is most often associated with diabetes and high blood pressure, but it also can be caused by inflammatory or autoimmune diseases or many other conditions.

Symptoms of Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease often has no symptoms, especially in the early stages.  As the disease progresses, patients may experience:

  • Fluid retention and swelling
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite or a metallic taste
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Abnormal discoloration of the skin
  • High blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Weak libido
  • Decreased urine output
  • Sleep disorders

Anyone experiencing these symptoms should immediately contact her or his physician to obtain an accurate diagnosis and receive treatment.

Diagnosis of Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease is diagnosed by a complete review of symptoms and a physical examination by a medical professional. In most cases, blood tests are then performed to measure creatinine and electrolyte levels; Additional tests may include the following:

  • Urinalysis
  • Imaging tests such as a kidney ultrasound or CT scan
  • Kidney biopsy

Treatment for Chronic Kidney Disease

Treatment for chronic kidney disease aims to maintain kidney function and prevent waste from building up in the body. Treatment for the underlying cause or illness may help kidneys to function properly. Because high blood pressure can worsen chronic kidney disease, medications to control blood pressure are often prescribed. Phosphorus binders and vitamin D supplements also may be prescribed, and diet modifications may be recommended.  Medications to treat anemia also may be prescribed.

A patient suffering from chronic kidney disease should be under the continuous care of a physician, and should be evaluated on a regular basis.

Additional Resources