Also called Chronic Kidney Failure, Chronic Kidney Disease is a condition that develops when kidney function has been impaired for a long period of time. Your kidneys are responsible for filtering wastes out of your blood, and when they fail to perform that function on a regular basis, waste products can build up and cause serious illness. Chronic Kidney Disease tends to develop over a long period of time – sometimes years – and may cause few or no noticeable symptoms in its earliest stages.
Chronic Kidney Disease has been linked with several risk factors, including: diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, kidney inflammation, polycystic kidney disease, recurrent kidney infections, heart disease, family history of kidney problems, older age, smoking, and prolonged obstruction of the urinary tract as a result of tumors, kidney stones or other issues.
In its early stages, Chronic Kidney Disease often causes no symptoms, but as it progresses it can cause signs and symptoms of nausea and vomiting; fatigue; problems sleeping; reduced urine output; “brain fog” or problems concentrating; loss of appetite; swelling of the feet and ankles; muscle twinges or cramps; and widespread itching. In addition, as fluids and toxins build up, shortness of breath and chest pain may occur, and blood pressure may begin to rise. Because the kidneys can initially compensate for the loss of function, many people do not know they have chronic kidney disease until permanent damage has occurred. Having regular screenings with blood and urine tests is important for “catching” the disease in its early stages. When kidney disease is suspected, a biopsy may be performed to obtain a small tissue sample for further evaluation.
Sometimes, Chronic Kidney Disease can be cured with lifestyle changes, medication, and short-term dialysis. But in many cases, treatment is focused on managing symptoms to slow the progression of the disease and reduce the risk of complications. Ongoing dialysis and kidney transplant may be required in patients who continue to progress.
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