Chronic kidney disease : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Alternate Names : Kidney failure – chronic, Renal failure – chronic, Chronic renal insufficiency, Chronic kidney failure, Chronic renal failure

Definition

Chronic kidney disease is the slow loss of kidney function over time. The main function of the kidneys is to remove wastes and excess water from the body.

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) slowly gets worse over time. In the early stages, there may be no symptoms. The loss of function usually takes months or years to occur. It may be so slow that symptoms do not occur until kidney function is less than one-tenth of normal.

The final stage of chronic kidney disease is called end-stage renal disease (ESRD). The kidneys no longer function and the patient needs dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Chronic kidney disease and ESRD affect more than 2 out of every 1,000 people in the United States.

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the two most common causes and account for most cases.

Many other diseases and conditions can damage the kidneys, including:

  • Problems with the arteries leading to or inside the kidneys
  • Birth defects of the kidneys (such as polycystic kidney disease)
  • Some pain medications and other drugs
  • Certain toxic chemicals
  • Autoimmune disorders (such as systemic lupus erythematosus and scleroderma)
  • Injury or trauma
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Kidney stones and infection
  • Reflux nephropathy (in which the kidneys are damaged by the backward flow of urine into the kidneys)
  • Other kidney diseases

Chronic kidney disease leads to a buildup of fluid and waste products in the body. This condition affects most body systems and functions, including red blood cell production, blood pressure control, and vitamin D and bone health.

Pictures & Images

Kidney anatomy

The kidneys are responsible for removing wastes from the body, regulating electrolyte balance and blood pressure, and stimulating red blood cell production.

Kidney – blood and urine flow

Kidney - blood and urine flow

This is the typical appearance of the blood vessels (vasculature) and urine flow pattern in the kidney. The blood vessels are shown in red and the urine flow pattern in yellow.

White nail syndrome

White nail syndrome

White nail syndrome may also be called leukonychia. Leukonychia can occur with arsenic poisoning, heart disease, renal failure, pneumonia, or hypoalbuminemia.


Review Date : 8/12/2009
Reviewed By : Parul Patel, MD, Private practice specializing in Nephrology and Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation, Affiliated with California Medical Center, Department of Transplantation, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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