Understanding Chronic Kidney Disease

Your kidneys main job is to filter waste, toxins and excess fluids from your blood, which are then removed from the body through your urine. Chronic Kidney Disease, also known as CKD involves a gradual loss of that functionality over time. Did you know that nine out of ten people do not realize they have kidney disease until the condition is advanced. In the early stages of CKD, there is a possibility that you may only have a few signs or symptoms, which may include, swelling of the hands, face, and legs, fatigue, shortness of breath, headache, high blood pressure and changes to your urine.

Individuals who are at risk for developing CKD, includes those with diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of kidney disease. You may reduce some of the progression of CKD with lifestyle changes such as controlling your high blood pressure and blood sugar; losing weight through exercising; eating a healthy low protein and low salt diet, and quitting smoking. Available CKD treatment options include dialysis (in-center & home), a kidney transplant, and palliative care.

Different Stages Of Chronic Kidney Disease

There are five distinct stages of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD):

  • Stage 1 - Includes patients who have normal kidney function but still have a propensity to develop the disease.
    A person with Stage 1 CKD has kidney damage with a glomerular filtration rate (GFR) at a normal or high level greater than 90 ml/min. Typically, there are no symptoms to indicate damage to the kidneys. In most cases, the kidneys are functioning at full capacity.
  • Stage 2 - Mild CKD: Includes patients who are experiencing slightly reduced kidney function. A person with Stage 2 CKD has mild kidney damage with a glomerular filtration rate (GFR) of 60-89 ml/min. Again, like with Stage 1, there are usually no symptoms to indicate the kidneys are damaged. Most people will not know they have Stage 2 CKD.
  • Stage 3A - Moderate CKD: Includes patients with reduced kidney function whose underlying diseases may be progressing or are not managed well. A person with Stage 3 CKD has moderate kidney damage with a decrease in the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) of 45-59 mL/min. As the kidneys gradually start to decline, waste products may build up in the blood causing a condition known as uremia. During Stage 3A, a person may start to develop complications of kidney disease such as high blood pressure, as well as anemia or early bone disease.
  • Stage 3B - Moderate CKD: A person with Stage 3 CKD has moderate kidney damage with a decrease in the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) of 30-44 mL/min. Again, like with Stage 3A, built up waste products in the blood may cause similar health issues, including high blood pressure, and bone disease.
  • Stage 4 - Severe CKD: Includes patients who are developing a concerning health issues and will need dialysis or a kidney replacement or palliative care. A person with Stage 4 CKD has advanced kidney damage with a severe decrease in the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) of 15-30 ml/min. Like Stage 3A and 3B, waste products will build up in the blood causing a myriad of conditions. In Stage 4, a person is also likely to develop heart disease, and other cardiovascular diseases.
  • Stage 5 - End Stage Renal Disease or ESRD: Includes patients who are close to kidney failure and are likely going to need renal replacement therapy to supplement their kidney function and prolong life. A person with Stage 5 CKD has a glomerular filtration rate (GFR) of 15 ml/min or less. At this advanced stage, the kidneys have lost nearly all their ability to do their job effectively.

Chronic Kidney Disease Facts

Get the facts on CKD in the U.S. (Source CDC)

  • More than 1 in 7 US adults - 37 million people (15% of the population) are estimated to have CKD.
  • As many as 9 in 10 adults with CKD do not know they have the disease.
  • About 2 in 5 adults with severe CKD do not know they have the disease.
  • Nearly half of African American men in the U.S. have at least one risk factor for developing kidney failure. These factors include diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
  • African American men are three times more likely to develop end-stage renal disease (kidney failure) as their white counterparts.
  • The Nation’s Capital has the highest prevalence of kidney disease in the U.S.
  • In underserved communities of Washington D.C., kidney disease increases significantly due to having the highest rates of obesity, diabetes and pre-diabetes.

Chronic Kidney Disease By Age, Sex & Race/Ethnicity

Here are the most up-to-date CKD estimates. (Source CDC)

  • CKD is more common in people aged 65 years or older (38%) than in people aged 45–64 years (12%) or 18–44 years (6%).
  • CKD is slightly more common in women (14%) than men (12%).
  • CKD is more common in non-Hispanic Black adults (16%) than in non-Hispanic White adults (13%) or non-Hispanic Asian adults (13%).
  • About 14% of Hispanic adults have CKD.

Percentage of Adults In The U.S. With Chronic Kidney Disease

Here is a snapshot of U.S. adults aged 18 years or older diagnosed with CKD. (Source CDC)

  • Age 18 - 44 (6.0%)
  • Age 45 - 64 (12.4%)
  • Age 65+ (38.1%)
  • Men (12.4%)
  • Women (14.3%)
  • Non Hispanic Whites (12.7%)
  • Non Hispanic Blacks (16.3%)
  • Hispanics (12.9%)
  • Asians (13.6%)

Are You At Risk For Chronic Kidney Disease?

Nine out of 10 people don't realize they have CKD. In the early stages of the disease, the warning signs are not always obvious. Here are some possible symptoms to look out for:

  • Less urine in the bladder
  • Swelling of the hands, face, and legs
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Itchy skin
  • Loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting
  • High blood pressure
  • Fatigue

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

1. What Is Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)?

Chronic Kidney Disease, also known as CKD is a disease that occurs when the kidneys progressively stop functioning over time. The kidneys' main job is to filter waste products, toxins, and excess fluids from your blood. Individuals at risk for developing kidney disease are those with diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of kidney disease. Click here for the different stages of kidney disease.

2. What Are The Symptoms of Chronic Kidney Disease?

Nine out of 10 people don't realize they have Chronic Kidney Disease. CKD symptoms can include: high blood pressure, dry skin, fatigue, general ill feeling, swellings, headache, itchy skin, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss and nausea. As CKD progresses, new symptoms such as bad breath, changes in urination, muscle spasm, and bone pain. You may be at risk and don't even know it.

3. What Causes Chronic Kidney Disease?

Chronic Kidney Disease is caused by damage to the kidneys over time. This typically results from high blood pressure, toxins, diabetes and infections. Damage to the kidneys may also result from kidney disorders, such as kidney stones, certain medications and birth defects. CKD causes kidneys to become increasingly inefficient at filtering waste and excess water from the body, which will cause the kidneys to get worse over time. Diabetes is the most common cause of CKD in the United States. High blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels and affect the filtering ability of the kidneys.

4. Why Are Our Kidneys So Important?

The kidneys have the critical function of filtering and removing waste from the blood and extra water from the body. The kidneys also are responsible for adjusting levels of minerals and chemicals in your body and producing key hormones that help to control your blood pressure and create red blood cells.

5. Can Kidney Disease Be Cured?

Unfortunately, Chronic Kidney Disease cannot be cured. In fact, it often gets progressively worse over time. However, there are treatments that can help to protect your kidneys and reduce your risk of serious complications. Getting treatment as son as you are diagnosed offers you a better chance of slowing down the progression of CKD.

6. What Is Anemia?

Anemia is when you have too few red blood cells in your bloodstream causing less oxygen to be delivered to your heart, muscles, brain, and other organs in your body. This makes you anemic with less energy and more fatigue. Anemia is also commonly associated with reduced kidney function.

7. What Is Uremia?

Uremia is a serious complication of both acute kidney injury and Chronic Kidney Disease. It occurs when urea and other waste products build up in the body because the kidneys are not able to filter and flush them out. These substances can become toxic to the body if they reach high levels. Prolonged or severe fluid buildup can make the uremic syndrome worse and may cause serious issues such as nausea, weight loss, heart problems, shortness of breath, and abnormal bleeding.

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