Chronic kidney disease, otherwise known as chronic renal failure, is an irreversible condition characterized by the gradual loss of kidney function. The primary function of the kidneys is to filter waste and water from the blood, so when these organs are damaged, blood is no longer filtered properly and waste can build up in the body. Approximately 10 percent of the worldwide population is affected by CKD, making this disease a worldwide health crisis. While there is currently no cure for chronic kidney disease, early diagnosis and treatment can help delay its progression.
A lot of people are at risk for chronic kidney disease, namely individuals with diabetes, hypertension, and a family history of kidney failure. In fact, 1 in 3 adults with diabetes are at risk, as well as 1 in 5 adults with hypertension. Furthermore, those who are obese, over the age of 60, have cardiovascular disease, or belong to certain ethnic groups are all at an increased risk. These ethnic groups include African Americans, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, Asians, and American Indians. In terms of gender, women are slightly more likely to experience chronic kidney disease than men.
There are five stages of chronic kidney disease, ranging from kidney damage with normal function to kidney failure requiring dialysis or transplant for survival. Dialysis is a treatment which artificially filters waste and water from the blood, most often in the form of hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis. Transplant, on the other hand, is a surgical procedure done to replace a damaged kidney with a healthy one from a donor. Usually one of these two treatments are used when chronic kidney disease has progressed to end-stage renal disease, or total and permanent kidney failure. Since chronic kidney disease usually has no symptoms until late stages, it is sometimes referred to as a silent disease.
Chronic kidney disease is often discovered through routine testing of blood and urine. The blood test checks how well the kidneys are filtering the blood, which is known as the glomerular filtration rate, while the urine test checks for albumin, a protein that can pass into the urine when the kidneys are damaged. Moreover, the glomerular filtration rate can measure the level of kidney function and assess the stage of kidney disease. As chronic kidney disease progresses, the glomerular filtration rate decreases. That is to say, the glomerular filtration rate indicates how much kidney function an individual has.
Taking too many pain relievers can lead to kidney damage, as can obesity and poor physical health. Cigarette smoking is also known to cause damage to the kidneys, and a number of diseases and conditions predispose some individuals to CKD. In order to reduce the risk of kidney disease or prevent it altogether, individuals should follow instructions on over-the-counter medications, maintain a healthy weight, make good food choices, refrain from smoking, limit alcohol intake, incorporate physical activity into daily life, get enough sleep, explore stress-reducing activities, and manage medical conditions with the help of a doctor.