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Chronic Kidney Disease Chronic Kidney Disease
  • What is chronic kidney disease?
  • What are the causes of chronic kidney disease?
  • What are the symptoms of chronic kidney disease?
  • How is chronic kidney disease treated?
  • What are the complications and related diseases from chronic kidney disease?
Chronic Kidney Disease

What is chronic kidney disease?

Chronic kidney disease, or chronic kidney failure, is characterised by the gradual loss of kidney function over time.

Our kidneys play the important role of filtering waste and excess fluids from our blood, which is excreted through our urine. In the advanced stages of chronic kidney disease, our kidneys are unable to fulfil this role, which will lead to dangerous levels of excess fluids, electrolytes and waste products building up in our body.

In the early stages of chronic kidney disease, there may be few obvious signs or symptoms. Chronic kidney disease may not be noticed until kidney function is significantly impaired and symptoms such as blood in the urine or water retention (oedema) show up.

Treatment for chronic kidney disease involves controlling the underlying causes of kidney damage to slow down the progression of the disease. Chronic kidney disease can progress to end-stage kidney failure, which is fatal without artificial filtering (dialysis) or a kidney transplant.

Chronic Kidney Disease

What are the causes of chronic kidney disease?

Chronic kidney disease occurs when a disease or condition damages or causes a loss in kidney function. This can happen over several months, or even years.

The common diseases and conditions that can cause chronic kidney disease include:

  • Repeated urinary infections.
  • Vesicoureteral reflux, a condition that causes urine to back up into our kidneys.
  • Prolonged obstruction of the urinary tract caused by conditions such as cancer, kidney stones or an enlarged prostate.
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
Chronic Kidney Disease

What are the symptoms of chronic kidney disease?

As the disease progresses, certain signs and symptoms may develop. These include:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Persistent itching
  • Swelling of the feet and ankles
  • Cramps and muscle twitches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Urinating much more, or much less than normal
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea

The signs and symptoms of kidney disease can be hard to tell apart as they are like the symptoms of other illnesses. The resilience of our kidneys will see them work harder despite losing function. As a result, the symptoms may only appear when the disease becomes severe.

Chronic Kidney Disease

How is chronic kidney disease treated?

Treatment for kidney diseases will depend on the underlying cause of the disease.

Presently, there are treatment options that help manage the different signs and symptoms, slow down the rate of progression and minimize complications. Should the kidneys become severely damaged, one may need to be treated for end stage kidney disease. At this stage, one should consider kidney transplantation as a treatment option.

To treat the complications arising from chronic kidney disease, our doctors may prescribe the following treatments:

  • High blood pressure medication
  • Medication to lower cholesterol levels
  • Medication to treat anaemia.
  • Medication to relieve swelling.
  • Medication to protect your bones.
  • A low protein diet to minimize waste products in the blood.

Regular follow-up testing may also be recommended to monitor the progress of the disease.

Chronic Kidney Disease

What are the complications and related diseases from chronic kidney disease?

Unfortunately, chronic kidney disease impacts almost every part of the body. Some these include:

  • A sudden increase in blood potassium levels (hyperkalaemia). This can impair heart function and is potentially life-threatening.
  • Fluid retention can lead to swelling in our arms and legs, fluid in our lungs (pulmonary oedema) and high blood pressure.
  • Weak bones and an elevated risk of bone fractures.
  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • Reduced sex drive, reduced fertility and/or erectile dysfunction.
  • Anaemia.
  • Pericarditis, an inflammation of the saclike membrane surrounding the heart (pericardium).
  • Damage to the central nervous system, potentially causing difficulty concentrating, personality changes or seizures.
  • Lower immune response.
  • Irreversible damage to the kidneys (end-stage kidney disease), eventually requiring either dialysis or a kidney transplant.
  • Pregnancy complications that carry risks for the mother and the developing foetus.