What is Chronic Kidney Disease

What is Chronic Kidney Disease?

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a condition in which your kidneys are damaged and can’t filter blood as well as they should. Excess fluid and waste begin to build up in the body. This can make you feel sick. 

CKD develops over time. There are 5 stages of kidney disease—stage 5 is when you need dialysis or a transplant to live. For people in earlier stages (1 – 4), there are things you can do to stop kidney disease from getting worse. 

Chronic kidney disease does not equal kidney failure

Chronic kidney disease is not the same as kidney failure. CKD refers to all five stages of kidney disease, from mild loss of kidney function at stage 1 to complete kidney failure at stage 5. Kidney failure (also called end-stage kidney disease) means that 85 % to 90% of your kidney function is gone. There is no cure for CKD or kidney failure, but with treatment it is possible to live a long life. 

Early detection of CKD and treatment can potentially keep CKD from getting worse and progressing to kidney failure. The earlier detected and treatment started, the better. 

Did you know that about 37 million US adults (or more than 1 in 7) are estimated to have CKD, and most are undiagnosed? 

As many as 9 in 10 adults with CKD don’t know they have this condition. 

Illustration of two kidneys with words "Be aware of the silent killer"

Chronic Kidney Disease: The Silent Killer

How is this possible? CKD is a silent killer because people may not feel sick or even notice any symptoms until their kidneys can no longer remove fluids and waste. 

Yellow background with text that reads "Living a healthy lifestyle can protect your kidneys and reduce your risk of developing CKD and other diseases."

Lifestyle and Chronic Kidney Disease

Living a healthy lifestyle can protect your kidneys and reduce your risk of developing CKD and other diseases. Uncontrolled high blood pressure or uncontrolled diabetes can lead to kidney disease. Risk of kidney failure increases when these conditions are not treated and controlled. 

Lifestyle factors have a big impact on CKD outcome. 

  • Work with your healthcare provider to keep your blood sugar and blood pressure within normal range. 
  • Maintain a healthy weight. 
  • Don’t smoke. 
  • Get regular checkups. 
Photo of smiling couple dancing in their living room

How Does Chronic Kidney Disease Impact Lifestyle?

CKD usually doesn’t affect lifestyle in the early stages. This is because many people don’t have any symptoms. Once the disease is advanced, symptoms can impact lifestyle. Some patients with advanced kidney disease may experience: 

  • Less energy 
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Dietary restrictions on certain types of food and beverages 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Decreased sexual response 
  • Depression or memory lapses