What Is Kidney Disease? | Dialysis Blog

What Is Kidney Disease?

Understanding your kidneys is the first step to taking control of your health when you have chronic kidney disease (CKD).
The kidney’s main functions are to:

Clean and filter your blood

Remove extra fluid and make urine

Balance chemicals and fluids

Produce hormones that help control blood pressure, make red blood cells, and ensure bone health

In addition to their filtration function, the kidneys produce hormones—chemicals that act as the body’s messengers. These hormones help control blood pressure, control red blood cell production, and keep your bones strong.

Two healthy kidneys are more than enough to filter waste from your blood and make urine.

Removing waste from your body

Removing extra fluid from your body

Keeping minerals and chemicals in balance

Making hormones properly

Inside each , about one million tiny units called nephrons rid the body of excess and unwanted substances. Each nephron has two parts, the glomerulus and the tubules.

Inside the glomerulus large amounts of fluid, dissolved substances such as minerals, and waste products are filtered from the blood and form a fluid called filtrate. From the glomerulus, this filtrate flows into the tubules. Inside the tubules, most of the water is re-absorbed into the blood, in addition to the required amounts of minerals and other substances your body needs.

At the same time, excess substances and fluid flow into the tubules and are eliminated as urine.

Common causes of CKD include:

  • Diabetes

  • High blood pressure

For nearly two-thirds of people living with CKD, their kidney disease is caused by either diabetes or high blood pressure.

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Many people may be in the early stages of kidney disease and not have any indication something is wrong with their kidneys. There are certain symptoms; however, that could be a sign you have chronic kidney disease (CKD). When chronic kidney disease is detected in the early stages, there are steps you can take to help slow the progression of kidney disease to help you delay or prevent dialysis. Below are lists of symptoms often related to chronic kidney disease. The CKD symptoms are grouped in categories based on the typical cause.

CKD Symptoms from Build-up of Wastes in the Body

Symptoms of kidney failure that can be caused by a build-up of wastes in the body include:

CKD Symptoms from Build-up of Fluid in the Body

A metallic taste in the mouth or ammonia breath

Loss of appetite

Difficulty concentrating

Nausea and vomiting

Protein aversion (no longer wanting to eat meat)

Itchiness (pruritis)

Symptoms of kidney failure that can be caused by a build-up of fluid in the body include:

Swelling in the face, feet or hands

Shortness of breath (from fluid in the lungs)

CKD Symptoms from Damage to the Kidneys

Symptoms of kidney failure that can be caused by damage to the kidneys include:

Making more or less urine than usual

Urine that is foamy or bubbly (may be seen when protein is in the urine)

Blood in the urine (typically only seen through a microscope)

CKD Symptoms from Anemia

Symptoms of kidney failure that can be caused by anemia (a shortage of red blood cells) include:

Often, early kidney problems don’t have many symptoms — but if you or a loved one is experiencing any of the ones listed here, you will want to be checked by a doctor. Write down any of the symptoms you may have and bring that information with you to your doctor’s appointment.

Discovering your kidneys are okay will ease your mind, but even if you learn you have kidney problems, knowing about it sooner may allow you to take steps to slow the progress of kidney disease.

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