You have been sent this link as the surgery has diagnosed you with Chronic Kidney Disease. This is nothing to worry about and is a common condition but one which we need to monitor regularly.

What is Chronic Kidney Disease?

Chronic kidney disease means that the kidneys are not working as efficiently as when you were younger. Various conditions can cause chronic kidney disease. Severity can vary but most cases are mild or moderate, occur in older people and do not cause symptoms. 

In most people who have chronic kidney disease there is only a mild or moderate drop in kidney function.

What causes Chronic Kidney Disease?

A number of conditions can cause long-term damage to the kidneys and affect their function, leading to chronic kidney disease. The three most common causes in the UK are:

  • Ageing kidneys. There is often an age-related decline in kidney function. About half of people aged over 75 have some degree of CKD. In most of these cases, the CKD does not progress beyond the moderate stage unless other problems of the kidney, such as diabetic kidney disease, develop.
  • DiabetesDiabetic kidney disease is a common complication of diabetes.
  • High blood pressure. Untreated or poorly treated high blood pressure is a major cause of CKD. However, CKD can also cause high blood pressure as the kidney has a role in blood pressure regulation. About nine out of ten people with CKD stages 3-5 have high blood pressure.

These conditions account for three in four cases of chronic kidney disease in adults.

Other less common conditions that can cause chronic kidney disease include:

  • Certain medications, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (if they are used long-term, especially at high doses), lithiumciclosporin and tacrolimus. People taking one of these medicines should have a blood test to check kidney function at least once a year.
  • Diseases of the tiny filters in the kidneys (glomeruli), such as inflammation of the glomeruli (glomerulonephritis).
  • Narrowing of the artery taking blood to the kidney (renal artery stenosis)
  • Polycystic kidney disease. 
  • Blockages to the flow of urine, and repeated kidney infections.
  • Previous injury to the kidney. After an acute kidney injury, blood tests should be done regularly for at least three years to check the kidney function.
  • Having only one functioning kidney. Even though most people with a single kidney do not have any problems, the kidney function should be monitored once a year.

This list is not complete and there are many other causes.

What are the symptoms of Chronic Kidney Disease?

There are usually no symptoms with mild-to-moderate chronic kidney disease – that is, stages 1 to 3. Chronic kidney disease is usually diagnosed by a blood test before any symptoms develop.

Symptoms tend to develop when chronic kidney disease becomes severe (stage 4) or worse. The symptoms at first tend to be vague and nonspecific, such as feeling tired, having less energy than usual or just not feeling well. With more severe chronic kidney disease, symptoms that may develop include:

  • Difficulty thinking clearly.
  • A poor appetite.
  • Weight loss.
  • Dry, itchy skin.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Fluid retention which causes swollen feet and ankles.
  • Puffiness around the eyes.
  • A need to pass urine more often than usual.
  • Being pale due to anaemia.
  • Feeling sick.

If the kidney function declines to stage 4 or 5 then various other problems may develop – for example, anaemia or an imbalance of calcium, phosphate and other chemicals in the bloodstream. These can cause various symptoms, such as tiredness due to anaemia, and bone thinning (osteoporosis) or fractures due to calcium and phosphate imbalance.

How common is chronic kidney disease?

About 1 in 10 people have some degree of chronic kidney disease. It can develop at any age and various conditions can lead to CKD. It becomes more common with increasing age and is more common in women.

Although about half of people aged 75 or more have some degree of chronic kidney disease; most of these people do not actually have diseases of their kidneys but have normal ageing of their kidneys.

Most cases of CKD are mild or moderate.

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