Chronic kidney disease (CKD), otherwise known as chronic renal failure, occurs when the kidneys become damaged and lose the ability to properly filter out waste from the blood stream. Conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, glomerulonephritis, and polycystic kidney disease have all been linked to the development of CKD.
Symptoms of CKD may include fatigue, poor appetite, anemia (low blood count), nausea, swollen feet, irritated skin, increased need to urinate, shortness of breath, high blood pressure, trouble concentrating, and weakening bones. Early stages often do not show symptoms; therefore, regular checkups are critical for elderly and high risk individuals. A diagnosis can be determined through a blood test, urine test, imaging test, or the removal of sample tissue (biopsy).
While CKD can develop in anyone of any age, adults 65 years or older, and those who are African American, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, and American Indian are most at risk. Other risk factors include smoking, obesity, heart disease, high cholesterol, and having a family history of kidney failure.
There are five stages of CKD, each stage representing a gradual loss of function. End stage kidney failure, the fifth stage, is irreversible and fatal, so prevention and immediate intervention is critical. Depending on the cause, CKD can be treated if the source of the complication can be fixed. If this is not the case, treatment options focus on lessening the symptoms and slowing the progression of the disease. If the condition progresses to the point where the kidneys cannot function on their own, treatments may resort to artificial filtering (dialysis) or a kidney transplant. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with CKD, talk with your doctor about treatment options. Support groups are also good sources of support and information.