Chronic kidney disease affects several parts of the body and can therefore lead to a number of complications. Some of the most common ones include anemia, bone disease, hyperphosphatemia, heart disease, hyperkalemia, hypercalcemia, and fluid buildup. Additionally, there are a number of cardiovascular complications, endocrine and metabolic complications, as well as the occurrence of gout. In terms of day-to-day life, most people with chronic kidney disease can continue to live a relatively healthy and productive life, although a balanced diet and regular exercise is advisable.
Anemia develops when the body does not have enough red blood cells, which may be the result of the kidneys not working properly. This condition often goes hand in hand with end-stage renal disease, also known as kidney failure. Bone disease and hyperphosphatemia, or high phosphorus, occurs when the kidneys are not producing enough calcium and vitamin D to keep the bones healthy. Heart disease is due to the kidneys’ inability to support the heart as they should, which is actually the most common cause of death among people on dialysis.
Hyperkalemia, or high potassium, occurs when the kidneys are not able to filter enough potassium from the blood. Since potassium is a mineral that is found in many foods, sufferers of chronic kidney disease may need to limit their intake of potassium-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and legumes. Fluid buildup refers to the extra fluid that builds up in the body when the kidneys are not able to remove enough fluid, which can then lead to problems with the heart and the lungs. Symptoms of fluid buildup include a fast heartbeat as well as swelling in the feet and ankles.
Common cardiovascular complications include atherosclerosis, hypertension, and cardiomyopathy. Atherosclerosis refers to the buildup of plaque inside the arteries, which affects the ability of the blood vessels to carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart and other parts of the body. Hypertension is one of the most damaging complications of chronic kidney disease, since it contributes to the acceleration of progressive decline in kidney function. Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle and can lead to heart failure, since the heart struggles to pump blood to the rest of the body.
Endocrine and metabolic complications range from menstrual disorders and sexual dysfunction to infertility and pregnancy disorders to metabolic bone diseases and electrolyte disorders. Menstrual disorders include things such as amenorrhea and premenstrual syndrome. Sexual dysfunction refers to any problem that prevents an individual or couple from engaging in enjoyable sexual activity. Pregnancy complications carry risks for both the mother and her developing fetus. Metabolic bone diseases are disorders that affect bone strength, due to abnormalities of minerals, vitamin D, bone mass, or bone structure.
Gout is closely linked to kidney disease, both as a possible complication and as a potential risk factor. This is because gout is caused by having excess uric acid in the blood, and uric acid is filtered through the kidneys. Gout is a type of arthritis and a chronic disease, one which leads to swelling and pain in the joints. While the relationship can go both ways, gout is most commonly a complication of kidney disease, rather than a causal factor. All in all, the complications of CKD are many and varied.