Chronic kidney disease occurs when your kidneys gradually lose their ability to filter wastes and excess fluids from your blood. This can lead to dangerous levels of fluid, electrolytes and wastes building up in your body.

Overview and Symptoms

Often, kidney disease shows no symptoms until its later stages. When chronic kidney disease worsens to the point where the kidneys can no longer function on their own, this is called kidney failure. 

When symptoms begin to occur, they can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • More frequent urination, difficulty urinating or painful urination
  • Decreased mental sharpness
  • Muscle twitches
  • Cramps
  • Swelling in the eyes, hands or feet
  • Persistent itching
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)

There are many causes of chronic kidney disease, including diabetes and high blood pressure. You may be more likely to develop kidney disease if a family member has it.  Or, it can result from an abnormality you were born with.  There appears to be a higher risk of kidney disease among African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders or American Indians.

Tests to detect early kidney disease include:

  • Albumin to Creatinine Ratio (ACR), which looks for an excess protein in your urine that may show that your kidneys are not filtering properly due to disease.
  • Glomerular filtration rate (GFR), which studies several factors to determine how much kidney function you have.

Treatment

Chronic kidney disease can be treated by slowing kidney damage, usually by controlling the underlying cause. At later stages, such as kidney failure, dialysis or a kidney transplant may be required.

Learn More

The Division of Nephrology at BIDMC is dedicated to providing leading-edge diagnoses and treatment in overall kidney care.
 

Nephrology (Kidney)