Kidney Disease and other Problems
Your kidneys filter extra water and wastes out of your blood and make urine. Your kidneys also help control blood pressure so that your body can stay healthy. Kidney disease means that the kidneys are damaged and can't filter blood like they should. This damage can cause wastes to build up in the body. It can also cause other problems that can harm your health.
For most people, kidney damage occurs slowly over many years, often due to diabetes or high blood pressure. This is called chronic kidney disease. When someone has a sudden change in kidney function -- because of illness, or injury, or have taken certain medications -- this is called acute kidney injury. This can occur in a person with normal kidneys or in someone who already has kidney problems.
Kidney disease is a growing problem. More than 20 million Americans may have kidney disease and many more are at risk. Anyone can develop kidney disease, regardless of age or race.
The main risk factors for developing kidney disease are:
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) disease
- A family history of kidney failure.
Other common kidney problems include kidney stones and kidney failure.
What are the symptoms of kidney disease?
Early kidney disease has no signs or symptoms. You may not feel any different until your kidney disease is very advanced. Blood and urine tests are the only way to know if you have kidney disease.
How do you test for kidney disease?
Early kidney disease usually does not have signs (a change in your body) or symptoms (a change in how you feel). Testing is the only way to know how your kidneys are doing. It is important for you to get checked for kidney disease if you have the key risk factors: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or a family history of kidney failure.
Two tests are needed to check for kidney disease.
- A blood test checks your GFR, which tells how well your kidneys are filtering. GFR stands for glomerular (glow-MAIR-you-lure) filtration rate.
- A urine test checks for albumin in your urine. Albumin is a protein that can pass into the urine when the kidneys are damaged.
It is also important to have your blood pressure checked. High blood pressure can be a sign of kidney disease. Keep your blood pressure at or below your target to help protect your kidneys. The sooner you know you have kidney disease, the sooner you can get treatment to help delay or prevent kidney failure. If you have diabetes, get checked every year. If you have other risk factors, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or a family history of kidney failure, talk to your provider about how often you should be tested.
Can kidney disease be prevented?
If you are at risk for kidney disease, the most important steps you can take to keep your kidneys healthy are:
- Get your blood and urine checked for kidney disease.
- Manage your diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
You can help maintain healthy kidneys by following this advice:
- Keep your blood pressure at the target set by your health care provider. This can delay or prevent kidney failure.
- If you have diabetes, control your blood glucose level.
- Keep your cholesterol levels in the target range.
- Take medicines the way your provider tells you to.
- Cut back on salt. Aim for less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day.
- Choose foods that are healthy for your heart: fresh fruits, fresh or frozen vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods.
- Limit your alcohol intake.
- Be more physically active.
- Lose weight if you are overweight.
- If you smoke, take steps to quit. Cigarette smoking can make kidney damage worse.