Chronic Kidney Disease Frequently Asked Questions

Who should be checked for kidney disease?

If you have any of the following conditions you should ask your physician to assess your risk for kidney disease.

  • Diabetes or family history of diabetes
  • High blood pressure or a family history of high blood pressure
  • Family history of kidney disease
  • Advanced age

Testing for kidney disease is simple. It involves a thorough physical examination and a blood and urine test.

What causes kidney disease?

Kidney disease frequently occurs as a complication of longstanding diabetes or high blood pressure. Together these diseases account for more than half of all cases of chronic kidney disease in the United States. Other causes include inflammation within the kidney or genetic factors.

Is kidney disease a serious condition?

Yes, because it can:

  • Increase the risk of heart disease
  • Cause high blood pressure
  • Cause abnormalities in the level of minerals in the blood
  • Cause fluid to accumulate in the body
  • Cause anemia (abnormally low red blood cell count)

How does a patient know if he or she has kidney disease?

Recent studies show that more than half of all people with kidney disease in its earliest, most treatable stage don't know that they have it. That is why screening is so important. In addition, early identification and treatment can prevent disease-related complications.

It is possible to have kidney disease without any symptoms. However, as the disease gets worse, you may experience:

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Itchy skin
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Swollen ankles

What do the kidneys do?

While most people are aware that the kidneys produce urine, these fist-sized organs actually perform numerous other functions that are essential to good health. The kidneys:

  • Regulate waste products in the blood
  • Regulate body fluids and mineral levels in the blood
  • Remove drugs and toxins
  • Help control blood pressure
  • Help make red blood cells
  • Help keep bones healthy