Signs of Chronic Kidney Disease and Treatment

March is National Kidney Month, which is a good time to focus on chronic kidney disease.  This condition occurs when a person gradually loses kidney function over time, often months or years. Chronic kidney disease is divided into five stages of increasing severity (see the table below), with the last stage being kidney failure (also called end stage renal disease (The term “renal” means kidney). Therefore, another name for kidney failure is “renal failure.”

With loss of kidney function, water, waste, and toxic substances accumulate in the body that are normally excreted by the kidney. Loss of kidney function also causes other problems such as anemia, high blood pressure, acidosis (increased amount of acid in the body fluids), disorders of cholesterol and fatty acids, and bone disease.

Relationship to Race/Ethnicity

About 1 out of every 3 (or 33 percent) of all persons with chronic kidney disease has diabetes, (sometimes called “sugar”), which is the leading cause of this condition. Chronic kidney disease is more common in African-Americans than in any other group in the United States. Hypertension or high blood pressure, which is the second leading cause of chronic kidney disease, is also more common in African-Americans than in any other group. Diabetes and hypertension together cause about 2 out of every 3 cases (or 66 percent) of chronic kidney disease.
The Five Stages of Chronic Kidney Disease 
 Stage  Description  GFR*
 1  Slight kidney damage with normal or increased filtration of waste    More than 90  More than 90
 2  Mild decrease in kidney function 60-89
 3  Moderate decrease in kidney function  30-59
4 Severe decrease in kidney function 15-29
5 Kidney failure    Less than 15 (or dialysis needed)

 *GFR is glomerular filtration rate, which measures kidney function.

Serum Creatinine is the most commonly used indicator of kidney function.  A high serum creatinine level means the kidneys are not working properly.  Normal creatinine ranges are as follows:

  • Men = 0.6 – 1.2 mg/dl
  • Women and Teens = 0.5 – 1.1 mg/dl
  • Children = 0.3 – 0.7 mg/dl

The Creatinine Clearance Test is another way to assess kidney function.  It compares the creatinine level in the urine with the creatinine level in the blood.  Normal ranges are as follows:

  • Male – 97 to 137 ml/min
  • Female – 88 to 128 ml/min

Main Causes of Chronic Kidney Disease/Chronic Kidney Failure

As mentioned before, the two most common causes of chronic kidney disease, in order, are:
Diabetes, which is the leading cause of kidney disease in the U.S., and
Other causes of Chronic Kidney Disease include:
Therefore, persons with either of the above conditions, or symptoms of them, should have their kidney function monitored on a regular basis.
Treatment of Chronic Kidney Disease/Chronic Kidney Failure
Stage 5 chronic kidney disease, which is also referred to as chronic kidney failure, end-stage kidney disease, or end-stage renal disease, occurs when the kidney basically loses all of its function. As a result, there is a dangerous accumulation of water, waste, and toxic substances, and most individuals with Stage 5 chronic kidney disease need treatment with dialysis (artificial kidney treatment, which can be hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis) or transplantation in order to continue living.

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