(Chronic) Kidney Disease: Causes, Stages, Symptoms & Treatment

Kidney disease is a common health condition that affects millions of people in the United States. It’s a severe medical issue that can have life-threatening complications. However, many people with (chronic) kidney disease – also often referred to as CKD – don’t even know they have it until it’s in the later stages. Because of this, it’s vital to be aware of the risk factors and to talk to your healthcare provider if you’re concerned about your kidney health. By understanding more about kidney problems, you can take steps to protect your kidneys and improve your overall health. Therefore, it’s important to educate yourself on the causes, symptoms, and treatment options, so you can take action to prevent or manage this condition.

What Is Kidney Disease?

Most of us are born with two healthy (i.e., functioning) kidneys on either side of the spine, just slightly above the waist. Your kidneys are crucial organs that help remove waste and extra fluid from your body. It is a health condition when your kidneys don’t work as they should. When they aren’t working properly, waste and fluid can build up in your body and cause problems. There are two main types: acute kidney disease and chronic kidney disease. Acute kidney disease occurs suddenly and can lead to a sudden loss of kidney function. CKD – also called chronic kidney failure – on the other hand, develops over time and can cause gradual damage to your kidneys. Doctors will call it chronic kidney disease if your kidneys don’t work well for three months or longer.

Causes of (Chronic) Kidney Disease

As previously mentioned, acute kidney disease is caused by a sudden and often temporary problem that affects the kidneys. This can be caused by several factors, including a severe infection or injury, a decrease in blood flow to the kidneys, fluid build-up, or exposure to certain medications or toxins. For example, cases in which these causes can occur include having an enlarged prostate or kidney stones or experiencing a traumatic injury with profound blood loss. CKD is caused by several factors that can damage the kidneys over time. The two most common causes are hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes. Other causes include:

  • Recurrent kidney infection
  • Lupus
  • Nephrotic syndrome
  • Vesicourethral reflux
  • Membranous, or diabetes-related nephropathy
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Glomerulonephritis

Continue reading on the next page and read, among others, about how you can recognize your kidneys aren’t working as they should be and what you should do next.

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