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What causes chronic kidney disease?

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a long, usually slow, process where the kidneys gradually lose function. In the beginning, you may not have noticed that you are suffering from chronic kidney disease. The early signs can be subtle, so you may not notice you had symptoms.

The diagnosis of kidney failure is usually made through blood tests measuring BUN, creatinine and glomerular filtration rate (GFR). The blood test estimates how much blood passes through the glomeruli each minute. Glomeruli are the tiny filters in the kidneys that remove waste from blood.

Chronic kidney disease can be classified in 5 stages. The disease can take years to go from below normal kidney function (CKD stage 1) to Chronic Kidney Failure (CKD stage 5). The chronic form is permanent kidney damage caused, for example, by diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), various kidney tissue infections (glomerulonephritis) and excessive use of some medications that may reduce long-term kidney function.

Since it may be possible to slow down the progression of the disease in early stages, it is vital to get an early diagnosis and to work closely with your doctor to find the right treatment.

Signs and symptoms

The warning signs, and symptoms, of chronic kidney disease are not always obvious. A lot of patients may suffer from chronic kidney disease, without knowing it.

What are possible warning signs?

  • Less urine production
  • Swelling: in hands, face and legs
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Appetite loss, nausea, vomiting
  • High blood pressure
  • Feeling cold and tired

The sooner you know the signs, the better the doctor can intervene and find a treatment. The right aid at the right time can influence the progress of kidney disease.

What lifestyle changes may help?

In addition to various treatment methods, a change in lifestyle may reduce the progression of chronic kidney disease.

  • Control high blood pressure, blood sugar
  • Eat a healthy diet (or lower-protein, or lower salt diet)
  • Lose weight
  • Start 3 x 30 min aerobic workouts
  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid certain pain medications

But always follow your doctors advice, and follow medical advice, before undertaking any major changes.