Kidney disease

Medical quality assurance by Dr. Albrecht Nonnenmacher, MD at October 30, 2016
StartDiseasesKidney disease

The kidneys clean blood and keep the balance of minerals and salt in the body under control. They also have a part in controlling blood pressure. When the kidneys are not functioning properly, it can lead to very serious complications. Kidney diseases describe conditions in which the kidneys have lost function.


Definition & Facts

When the kidneys are damaged, it can cause fluids and waste products to build up in the body. This can lead to many serious problems such as weakness, shortness of breath, swelling in the ankles, vomiting, and poor sleep habits.

If the problem is not treated, one's kidneys can stop working completely. This can result in a very serious and potentially fatal condition.

Symptoms & Complaints

The best way to treat kidney disease is to have it diagnosed as early as possible. If a person is suffering from kidney disease, they may exhibit the following symptoms:


There are several conditions that can cause a person to develop kidney disease or fall under the umbrella of kidney disease. These include: 

While there are several causes of kidney disease, there are also several risk factors. The following factors can increase the risk of developing chronic kidney disease:

Diagnosis & Tests

If a doctor suspects that a patient has kidney disease, the first step the doctor would take is to discuss the patient's family history and personal medical history. The doctor would want to know if the patient has high blood pressure, if they are taking any medications that could affect their kidney function, and if there have been any changes in urination. A physical examination would be performed as well as the following tests:

Treatment & Therapy

The doctor will work to treat what caused the kidney disease in the first place and to stop or slow its progression. Because kidney disease can be both a symptom and cause of high blood pressure, antihypertensive drugs may be prescribed. Because many people who have kidney disease experience a spike in their cholesterol levels, cholesterol medications are often prescribed. 

A low protein diet may be recommended. The more protein that a person consumes, the harder the kidneys need to work to filter the waste from the blood. The less protein a person eats, the less the kidneys need to work.

More advanced treatments are required to address more severe cases of kidney disease. Dialysis is necessary when the kidneys can no longer remove the waste and extra fluid from the body. Dialysis performs this function artificially and involves a thin tube being inserted into the abdomen, and a solution that is then used to absorb waste and excess fluids. After a while, the solution would be drained from the body, taking the excess waste with it.

Kidney transplantation could be necessary as a last resort. This is where the diseased kidney is replaced with a healthy one from either a live or deceased donor. After the transplant, the patient would need to take medication for the rest of his or her life to keep the body from rejecting the donor kidney. 

Prevention & Prophylaxis

The best way to prevent severe kidney disease is to detect it early before permanent damage has been done. If a person has diabetes, it is important to closely monitor and diligently treat. Regular urine tests and blood tests are important. The same is true if a patient has high blood pressure.

Keeping the diseases that can lead to kidney disease under control is very important in preventing it. Habits like a healthy diet and regular exercise can help stave off underlying conditions and mitigate symptoms.