CKD – chronic kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) can have different causes, for example diabetes or hypertension. In the early stages, patients usually do not experience any symptoms. Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis, GFR, and stages of the disease.

What is chronic kidney disease (CKD)?

Worldwide, 8 to 16 percent of the population is suffering from CKD1. CKD is characterised by a progressive loss of kidney function over time. The end stage (also called chronic renal failure, end-stage kidney failure, kidney failure or established renal kidney failure), may develop over many years or within only a few months. At this stage, you will require either dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Causes of chronic kidney disease (CKD)

Kidney disease is usually caused by other pre-existing health problems, which put strain on the kidneys. Commonly, it is a combination of different problems. The most common causes of CKD include diabetes, chronic hypertension (chronic high blood pressure) and glomerulonephritis (kidney infection).

CKD is more common amongst the elderly (> 50 years with variations worldwide). Although older people are more likely to suffer from chronic kidney disease, it can be developed at any age.

You may have an increased risk if you:

  • also suffer from diabetes
  • have high blood pressure
  • have a family member with chronic kidney disease

Diagnosis of CKD

CKD is normally detected through routine blood and urine tests by a doctor.
Three simple tests are recommended to test for CKD:

  • blood pressure measurement
  • checking for protein or albumin in the urine (marker for kidney damage)
  • glomerular filtration rate (GFR)

Glomerular filtration rate (GFR)

Your glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is a measure of your kidney function. Your GFR can be estimated from a routine measurement of creatinine in your blood. The GFR describes how many millilitres of blood the tiny filters (glomeruli) in your kidneys can filter within one minute.

If the glomeruli are not filtering enough blood to keep the body in a healthy state, the kidneys have an impaired or reduced function. In other words, if your GFR is too low, your kidneys may not be able to remove enough waste and redundant water from your blood.

Stages of chronic kidney disease (CKD)

The chronic impairment of the kidneys has been defined as stages of CKD based on the GFR value2. Patients with CKD stages 1-3 are generally asymptomatic.

Endocrine/metabolic derangements or disturbances in the water or electrolyte balance become visible only in later stages (GFR <30 mL/min/1.73 m²).

Stages, main characteristics including glomerular filtration rate (GFR), and prevalence of stages among chronic kidney patients.

Symptoms of CKD

Many people may not have any severe symptoms until CKD is advanced. Symptoms are often vague such as

  • Feeling tired and having less energy than usual
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Having a poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen feet and ankles
  • Muscle cramps
  • Need to urinate more often (especially during night)
  • Pale or dry, itchy skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Blood in your urine

To increase therapy effectiveness, it is crucial to diagnose CKD as soon as possible, as well as to monitor the progression over time. A reliable diagnosis can only be done by an expert (nephrologist). If you experience any of the symptoms above or are part of the high-risk groups you should reach out to your doctor.

1 Jha V, Garcia-Garcia G, Iseki K et al. Chronic kidney disease: global dimension and perspectives. Lancet 2013; 382: 260-72.

2 Hill NR, Fataboa ST, Oke JL et al. Global Prevalence of Chronic Kidney Disease – A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS One.2016, 11(7)

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