Having chronic kidney disease means your kidneys are damaged and can no longer function effectively. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the top two causes of chronic kidney disease, though they are not the only causes.
Your kidneys act as filters. They remove waste and excess fluid from your body naturally through urine. Your blood enters your kidneys and is cleaned as it passes through. Any toxins or waste collected is then stored in the bladder. Clean blood leaves the kidneys and returns to the bloodstream.
The kidneys have several other important jobs, like regulating your blood pressure and producing hormones that control red blood cell production.
Kidney function is measured by the eGFR or estimated glomerular filtration rate. The lower your eGFR, the more advanced your kidney disease is. Stages 1-4 involve the loss of kidney function, which increases at each stage. At Stage 5, your kidneys function at less than 15% capacity. This is considered kidney failure.
Patients living with Stage 1 or Stage 2 kidney disease may not know it. There are often no symptoms. Patients need to begin eating a healthy diet, monitoring blood pressure, and taking any prescribed medications.
Patients begin to experience fatigue, swelling, urination changes, and kidney pain. Patients may be prescribed medication or a diet plan.
Symptoms of Stage 4 may include vomiting, numbness, loss of appetite, and difficulty concentrating. Patients need dialysis or a transplant to manage the progressive loss of kidney function.
At Stage 5, the kidneys lose almost all ability to function. Patients need dialysis or a transplant to live.
Dialysis and kidney transplants are the two treatments for chronic kidney disease. While you wait for a transplant or if you are not eligible for one, dialysis treatments can do the work your kidneys once did.
Dialysis filters toxins out of your blood. You can receive regular treatments at a dialysis center or try home dialysis. Hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and home hemodialysis are all valid treatments that can improve your quality of life. Talk to a nephrologist to determine the best dialysis treatment for you.
The end goal of kidney disease care is to help you get a transplant if you are eligible. A transplant involves finding a donor, being prepared for the operation, and staying healthy after receiving your new kidney. Like any surgery, a kidney transplant is not available to all patients and each transplant center has its own rules.
If you meet the criteria and stay healthy by doing your dialysis, taking medications, and following your doctor’s medical plan, chronic kidney disease patients can and do receive transplants. We love getting the news that a patient has received a transplant, and we’re proud that we can help patients achieve this milestone.
If you are not eligible for a transplant or you wish to manage your kidney disease without dialysis, we are here for you to help you and your family by providing medical management, which is also known as palliative care. Serious health problems may make just treating symptoms or pain, versus pursuing dialysis, a better option for you.
Looking for more information? Dive into our list of trusted resources to learn more about living with kidney disease.