Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a condition in which the kidneys are not working properly. It is caused by damage to tiny structures within the kidneys called nephrons. In the early stages, CKD does not cause problems. As a result, most people don’t know they have a problem.
The kidneys are bean-shaped organs in the lower back just below the rib cage. Each one is about the size of a fist. The two kidneys filter wastes from the blood and make urine. They also catch needed substances and return them to the bloodstream. If the kidneys don’t work well, wastes build up in the blood. The kidneys also keep the balance of water in the body. They release hormones that keep the bones strong, control blood pressure, and help the body make red blood cells. If your kidneys stop working, your bones may become weak, your blood pressure may go up, and your red blood cell count may drop.
CKD is a progressive condition. Doctors use stages to describe how serious it is. The stage is based on the glomerular filtration rate (GFR).
The two most common causes of CKD are diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Diabetes type 1 and type 2 occur when the body doesn’t process the sugar in the blood well. The amount of sugar in the blood increases. High blood glucose damages the kidneys, the heart, blood vessels, and eyes.
- High blood pressure occurs when there is high pressure within the arteries of the body. High blood pressure damages the kidneys.
Other conditions that can cause CKD include:
- Intrinsic kidney disease such as polycystic kidney disease or glomerulonephritis
- Glomerular disease leading to kidney damage
- Kidney tubule disorders
- Diseases of the immune system such as systemic lupus erythematosus
- Kidney stones, tumors, or an enlarged prostate can lead to obstructive kidney diseases
- Recurrent urinary tract infections
- Toxic exposures
- Prolonged use of medicines, such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or phenacetin
- Renal artery stenosis
- Viruses such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or HIV
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Tubular interstitial nephritis
CKD can cause many complications such as:
- High blood pressure
- Coronary artery disease and heart attacks
- High cholesterol levels in the blood
- Weak bones
- Low red blood cell count—anemia
- Weak immune system
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrienne Carmack, MD
- Review Date: 06/2018 -
- Update Date: 06/15/2018 -