Chronic kidney disease, sometimes called chronic kidney disease, describes the progressive loss of kidney function over time. When functioning properly, the kidneys filter waste and excess fluid from the blood.

About 90% of people with chronic kidney disease don’t know they have it because early-stage kidney disease has minimal symptoms. Usually stage 1 has no symptoms and stage 2 can cause non-specific symptoms that can be overlooked, such as fatigue, loss of appetite, or problems sleeping. By the time most people are diagnosed, the disease has passed to an advanced stage.

As chronic kidney disease progresses to an advanced stage, high levels of electrolytes, wastes, and fluids build up and lead to dangerous complications, including:

  • Increased risk of heart and vascular disease

Diabetes and high blood pressure cause two-thirds of cases of chronic kidney disease, but anyone can have the disease regardless of other health problems.

Some populations are more likely than others to have chronic kidney disease, including:

  • Those with a family history of kidney failure

  • Those who are 60 years of age or older

  • Those belonging to groups with higher rates of diabetes and high blood pressure, including blacks and American Hispanics

Early identification and diagnosis is essential for effective management of kidney disease. Blood, urine, and imaging tests are available to diagnose kidney disease, and doctors may also recommend a kidney biopsy to determine the cause.

There is no cure for chronic kidney disease, so early identification is the best way to avoid serious health complications. Depending on the stage, several treatment options are available to limit symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.

Thirty-seven million Americans have chronic kidney disease – probably a low number, given how often people don’t recognize their disease at an early stage. Talk to your doctor about your risk and available testing options for chronic kidney disease.

Cheryl Jackson is the Principal Physician at Mercy Senior Health-West Philadelphia.



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