What is Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)?

One in nine Americans has chronic kidney disease (CKD). Many do not realize they have it because physical symptoms are not usually present until the kidneys are close to failing. CKD means decreased function of the kidneys and over time, kidney function may decrease causing kidney failure, which requires dialysis or a kidney transplant to maintain life. Early detection can help slow the progression of CKD to kidney failure.

The two main causes of CKD are diabetes and high blood pressure, which account for about two-thirds of CKD cases. Other causes include: glomerulonephritis, a group of diseases that cause inflammation and damage to the kidneys; genetic diseases such as polycystic kidney disease and birth defects; autoimmune diseases such as lupus; and obstructions such as kidney stones or tumors and repeated urinary infections.

Healthy kidneys clean the blood by removing extra fluid, wastes and toxins. They balance important minerals and chemicals in the body such as sodium, potassium, calcium and phosphorus. They also help make hormones that regulate blood pressure, make red blood cells and keep bones strong. With CKD, the kidneys lose their ability to keep the body healthy. As kidney function declines, fluid, wastes and toxins may build up in the blood. Other complications such as high blood pressure, anemia (low blood count) and weak bones may also occur. These complications can occur slowly over a long period of time.