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Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

What is Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)?

Kidneys perform crucial functions affecting every part of our organism. Their primary role is the excretion of metabolic end-products, such as urea and uric acid, toxins, and excess fluid, in order to maintain a stable balance of body chemicals and fluids. These bean-shaped organs function normally by filtering about 30% of plasma flow, generating approximately 150 liters of ultrafiltrate, which constitutes almost three times the total body water of a 70 kg weighing person. That’s why kidneys are the so-called filters of the human body.

When kidneys fail to perform their normal activity, patients run the risk of chronic kidney disease which is a major health concern, especially for patients with diabetes and hypertension. Kidney disease is defined as the presence of kidney damage for a period greater than 3 months with a reduced glomerular filtration rate (GFR < 60 mL/min/ for body surface area of 1,73 m2).

Clinical studies show that 10% of the general population have or are at an increased risk of CKD. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has estimated in 2019 that:

  • 15% of US adults (37 million people) have chronic kidney disease
  • 9 in 10 adults who are affected do not know they have the condition
  • 1 in 2 people with very low kidney function who are not on dialysis don’t know their kidneys are failing

In order to help develop an intervention plan, the National Kidney Foundation KDOQI has created guidelines, classifying CKD in stages and providing evidence-based information for evaluation and management of each stage.

What are the symptoms of CKD?

It is important to note that most people don’t experience any severe symptoms until their kidney disease has progressed. Nonetheless, you may notice

  • lower energy levels and an overall feeling of being more tired
  • sleeping difficulties
  • loss of appetite
  • trouble concentrating
  • muscle cramps during the night
  • urge to urinate more often, especially during the night
  • puffiness in your eye area, especially after waking up
  • swelling of your feet and ankles
  • dry, itchy skin

Do you belong to the high-risk group?

Before you dive deeper into the analysis of CKD stages, it is crucial to recognize if you are more susceptible to the disease. The main risk factors for CKD include

  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • family history of CKD
  • older age

Other conditions that can damage kidneys directly are

  • urinary stones,
  • urinary tract infections,
  • lower urinary tract obstruction etc.

Furthermore, uncontrolled blood pressure, poor glycemic control in diabetes, smoking and obesity increase the progression of every CKD stage and, if not managed, eventually lead to kidney failure.

The existence of the disease is determined based on the presence of kidney damage and the level of kidney function or glomerular filtration rate (GFR). If you want to learn how the GFR is estimated visit our GFR calculator page.