End-Stage Renal Disease

End-stage renal disease (ESRD) occurs when the kidneys are functioning at less than 10-15 percent of their normal capabilities, and are no longer able to filter waste from the blood.  Patients with ESRD also may be unable to remove fluid adequately from their body.  Without treatment, ESRD is typically a fatal disease.

Causes of End-Stage Renal Disease

End-stage renal disease is usually caused by diabetes or hypertension, but can also be a result of the following:

  • Vascular disease
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Genetic diseases

Symptoms of End-Stage Renal Disease

As patients approach ESRD, they may experience symptoms that include the following:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain or swelling from fluid retention
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Abnormal taste
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures

Treatment of End-Stage Renal Disease

The treatments for end-stage renal disease are dialysis and kidney transplants.


Dialysis is the blood-cleansing procedure most often used as treatment for kidney failure. The chief function of the kidneys is to filter waste products from the blood. When the kidneys fail, dialysis takes over this function.  The two primary types of dialysis are hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.

Kidney Transplant

A transplant involves implanting a healthy kidney from a donor. Transplants can often help restore patients' health, but patients typically require daily immunosuppressive medications to prevent rejection of the donated kidney.

Additional Resources