CKD at a glance
Develop a better understanding of kidney function and the important role your kidneys play in maintaining your health. You can also review what the kidneys do, discover the different types of kidney disease, and learn more about the symptoms and causes of CKD.
What do kidneys do?
The kidneys play an important role in your health. Human beings are born with 2 kidneys, one on each side of the backbone just below the rib cage. Shaped like kidney beans, each kidney is about the size of a small fist and weighs about 1/4 pound or 114 grams.
Normal healthy kidneys…
- Clean your blood and remove extra fluid to form urine
- Keep minerals (sodium, calcium, potassium, and phosphorous) in balance
- Help to control blood pressure
- Help to make red blood cells
- Activate vitamin D to keep bones healthy
What happens when kidneys slow down or stop working?
When your kidneys aren't working properly, you may be developing kidney failure. Most kidney diseases affect the nephrons, which are the tiny filters inside the kidneys that clean the blood. When this happens, harmful wastes and fluids can build up in your body.
Types of kidney disease
Chronic kidney failure
is the gradual loss of kidney function that results from a long-term disease. This is the more common type of kidney failure. Although it cannot be reversed, it can be treated.
Acute kidney failure
is a sudden loss of kidney function resulting from an injury, disease, contrast dye or blood poisoning. Acute kidney failure can usually be reversed within a few weeks if treated quickly.
End-stage renal disease (ESRD)
is a condition where the kidneys do not work, or where only very little kidney function is left.
What causes the kidneys to stop working?
A number of diseases or conditions can cause kidney failure, including diabetes, high blood pressure, lupus, polycystic kidney disease, glomerulonephritis, injury or trauma.
Symptoms you can feel when your kidneys aren't working properly
Symptoms of kidney failure can vary from person to person. Kidney disease is sometimes called a "silent" disease because some people may not feel sick or may not notice their symptoms until their kidneys are no longer removing waste and fluids (urine).
As the disease gets worse and kidney function slows down, most people experience symptoms of uremia. Uremia means too much urea in the blood.
You may also experience loss of appetite, a bad taste in your mouth, vomiting, nausea, and weight loss. Difficulty sleeping, itching, muscle cramps, and darkening of the skin can also occur.
Symptoms of uremia include:
- Feeling tired and/or weak
- Swelling of the hands and feet
- Shortness of breath