You have two kidneys, each about the size of your fist. Their main job is to filter your blood. They remove wastes and extra water, which become urine. They also keep the body’s chemicals balanced, help control blood pressure, and make hormones.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) means that your kidneys are damaged and can’t filter blood as they should. This damage can cause wastes to build up in your body. It can also cause other problems that can harm your health. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of CKD.
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is common among adults in the United States. More than 30 million American adults may have CKD.
Who’s at risk
You are at risk for kidney disease if you have:
Diabetes. Diabetes is the leading cause of CKD. High blood glucose, also called blood sugar, from diabetes can damage the blood vessels in your kidneys. Almost 1 in 3 people with diabetes has CKD.
High blood pressure. High blood pressure is the second leading cause of CKD. Like high blood glucose, high blood pressure also can damage the blood vessels in your kidneys. Almost 1 in 5 adults with high blood pressure has CKD.
Heart disease. Research shows a link between kidney disease and heart disease. People with heart disease are at higher risk for kidney disease, and people with kidney disease are at higher risk for heart disease.
Family history of kidney failure. If your mother, father, sister, or brother has kidney failure, you are at risk for CKD. Kidney disease tends to run in families. If you have kidney disease, encourage family members to get tested. Use tips from the family health reunion guide and speak with your family during special gatherings.
The kidney damage occurs slowly over many years. Many people don’t have any symptoms until their kidney disease is very advanced. Blood and urine tests are the only way to know if you have kidney disease.
Does CKD cause other health problems?
Kidney disease can lead to other health problems, such as heart disease. If you have kidney disease, it increases your chances of having a stroke or heart attack.
High blood pressure can be both a cause and a result of kidney disease. High blood pressure damages your kidneys, and damaged kidneys don’t work as well to help control your blood pressure.
If you have CKD, you also have a higher chance of having a sudden change in kidney function caused by illness, injury, or certain medicines. This is called acute kidney injury (AKI).
How can CKD affect my day-to-day life?
Many people are afraid to learn that they have kidney disease because they think that all kidney disease leads to dialysis. However, most people with kidney disease will not need dialysis. If you have kidney disease, you can continue to live a productive life, work, spend time with friends and family, stay physically active, and do other things you enjoy. You may need to change what you eat and add healthy habits to your daily routine to help you protect your kidneys.
Kidney disease is often “progressive”, which means it gets worse over time. The damage to your kidneys causes scars and is permanent.
You can take steps to protect your kidneys, such as managing your blood pressure and your blood glucose, if you have diabetes.