The two most common causes of chronic kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure, in that order. Diabetes can affect any organ in the body and is known to affect the kidneys if not controlled, while high blood pressure is synonymous with hypertension and results in less blood flow to the kidneys. Additional factors that may increase the risk of chronic kidney disease include cardiovascular disease, smoking, obesity, abnormal kidney structure, a family history of kidney disease, older age, and certain ethnic groups.
The link between diabetes and chronic kidney disease is found in the relationship between glucose and the kidneys. Too much glucose, or sugar, in the blood damages the kidneys’ filters, making them unable to filter waste and extra fluid properly. One of the first signs of kidney disease from diabetes is the presence of the protein albumin in the urine, since a healthy kidney would not let albumin pass from the blood into the urine. The medical term for kidney disease caused by diabetes is diabetic kidney disease, also called kidney disease of diabetes and diabetic nephropathy.
In patients with diabetes, the risk of developing diabetic kidney disease is greater the longer the individual has had diabetes. In addition, those with blood glucose that is too high or blood pressure that is too high are at an increased risk. Moreover, patients with diabetes are more likely to develop kidney disease if they smoke, are not active, don’t follow their diabetes eating plan, consume foods high in salt, are overweight, have heart disease, or have a family history of kidney failure.
Many people with diabetes will also develop high blood pressure. The link between high blood pressure and chronic kidney disease is found in the relationship between blood vessels and the kidneys. High blood pressure can damage blood vessels in the kidneys, impacting the ability of the kidneys to remove waste and extra fluid from the body. This then leads to extra fluid in the blood vessels, which may raise blood pressure even more, creating a dangerous cycle. While most people with high blood pressure will not experience any symptoms, headaches have been reported in some rare cases.
A number of diseases and conditions can cause chronic kidney disease, such as glomerulonephritis, interstitial nephritis, vesicoureteral reflux, and pyelonephritis. Glomerulonephritis refers to a group of diseases in which the body attacks the kidneys, leading to inflammation of the kidneys’ filtering units. Interstitial nephritis is an inflammation of the kidneys’ tubules and surrounding structures, which can cause problems with how the kidneys function. Vesicoureteral reflux is a condition that causes urine to back up into the kidneys. In other words, urine flows backwards from the bladder into one or both ureters. Pyelonephritis is an inflammation of the kidney that is most often due to a bacterial infection.
Other causes of chronic kidney disease include inherited diseases, urinary tract obstructions, medications, and repeated kidney infections. Polycystic kidney disease, or PKD, is an example of an inherited disease in which clusters of cysts develop within the kidneys. Urinary tract obstructions are most commonly associated with men having prostate problems, but women can also experience obstructions or blockages in the form of uterine fibroids. As for medications, taking a lot of pain killers, even over-the-counter products, can increase the risk of chronic kidney disease. Lastly, repeated kidney infections can cause scarring over time.