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What is Kidney Disease?

Kidney disease is a condition that occurs when your kidneys don’t work as well as they should to filter waste, toxins, and excess fluids from your body. Kidney disease is a condition that is ongoing and will require long-term medical care to look after your health. Kidney disease progresses in 5 stages and may eventually lead to kidney failure.

The goal of treating kidney disease is to best manage your health at every stage, which can help slow progression and keep your kidneys functioning as long as possible. At the point of kidney failure, there are different treatment options, which can help people live well.

8 Facts About Kidney Disease

About 1 in 10 people have some degree of kidney disease.

About 1 in 10 people have some degree of kidney disease.

A person can lose up to 90% of their kidney function before experiencing any symptoms.

Kidney disease progresses in 5 stages and may eventually lead to kidney failure.

Kidney disease can affect people of all ethnicities, but some, including people of South Asian origin (those from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or Pakistan), have a higher risk.

High blood pressure (hypertension) and diabetes are the most common causes of kidney disease.

Early detection is key. Simple blood and urine tests can help to detect kidney disease.

There is no cure for kidney disease, but its progression can be slowed by following a kidney friendly diet, and with medications.

Kidney disease can occur at any age, but becomes more common with increasing age.

What are the symptoms of kidney disease?

Kidney disease is hard to detect early because many people do not experience symptoms until the later stages. Symptoms may include changes in urination, fatigue, itching, back pain, or swelling of your hands or feet.

Understanding kidney disease symptoms

While watching for late-stage symptoms won’t help with early detection, it’s still important to be aware of the signs. Remember, you shouldn’t wait for symptoms before you take action.

Changes in urination

Healthy kidneys help filter blood to create urine. When the kidneys don’t function well, urination issues may occur such as needing to urinate more often or seeing blood in your urine. You may also experience urine that’s foamy or bubbly—which could be an early sign that protein is getting into your urine due to damaged kidneys.

Swelling in your hands, legs, or feet

When your kidneys aren’t removing excess fluid and sodium from your body, swelling (also known as edema) may occur in your feet or other lower extremities.


Reduced kidney function can lead to a build-up of toxins in the blood that causes you to have a lack of energy or feel overwhelmingly tired. Kidney disease may also cause anemia, which can make you feel tired or weak due to having too few red blood cells.

Pain in the small of your back

You may experience localized pain near your kidneys that doesn’t change, or that becomes worse when you move or stretch. The kidneys are located on either side of your spine in your lower back, and kidney problems can cause pain in this area. Back pain may also be due to an infection or blockage of the kidneys, which can lead to kidney damage.


Dry and itchy skin may be a sign that you have an imbalance of minerals and nutrients in your blood due to kidney disease. Itching is often caused by high blood levels of phosphorus.

Shortness of breath

Extra fluid can build up in your lungs when your kidneys aren’t removing enough fluid, which may cause you to be short of breath. Kidney disease induced anemia, which is a shortage of oxygen carrying red blood cells, may also cause breathlessness.

Other Questions  About Kidney Disease

Are you at risk for kidney disease?

There are certain factors that put you at a higher risk for kidney disease, including your family history, certain health conditions, ethnicity, or overuse of medications.

What causes kidney disease?

There are many factors that can contribute to kidney disease – most commonly, diabetes and high blood pressure (hypertension). Even people who’ve taken excellent care of their health can be at risk for kidney disease.

How is kidney disease diagnosed

Early diagnosis is key to slowing the progression of kidney disease and preserving your kidney function. Your doctor can determine if you have kidney disease by calculating your kidney function using the results of a blood test and other health information about you. Talk to your doctor and make testing a priority!


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