The term “chronic kidney disease” means lasting damage to the kidneys that can get worse over time. This damage may be caused by a disease or a condition. The two biggest causes of chronic kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure.

Leading causes of chronic kidney disease:

  • Diabetes
    Diabetes is the #1 cause of kidney disease. Diabetes is a disease that causes your body to have trouble making or using insulin. Insulin is a hormone (a chemical your body makes) that helps your body turn the sugar you eat into energy. When your body doesn’t use insulin the right way, too much sugar stays in your blood, which can lead to chronic kidney disease over time.
  • High Blood Pressure
    High blood pressure is the #2 cause of kidney disease. High blood means your heart is working too hard to pump your blood. When blood flows too forcefully through the tiny blood vessels in your kidneys, this can hurt these tiny vessels. Over time, this can lead to chronic kidney disease.

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Other causes of chronic kidney disease

  • Glomerulonephritis
    Glomerulonephritis (glow-mer-you-low-nef-RYE-tis), sometimes called glomerular disease, is a type of kidney disease in which the glomeruli (the tiny filters in your kidneys) are damaged and cannot remove waste and fluid like they should. If the glomerulonephritis is permanent and continues to get worse, this can lead to chronic kidney disease.
  • Polycystic kidney disease (PKD)
    Polycystic (polly-SIS-tick) kidney disease (PKD) is a genetic disease. PKD causes cysts to grow inside the kidneys. These cysts make the kidneys much larger than they should be and can damage the tissue that the kidneys are made of. PKD can cause chronic kidney disease.
  • IgA nephropathy
    IgA is a protein that helps you fight infections. In people with IgA nephropathy, these proteins build up and form clumps inside the kidneys’ tiny filters (glomeruli). These clumps of proteins damage the glomeruli. This damage can cause chronic kidney disease.
  • Lupus nephritis
    Lupus nephritis (nef-RYE-tis) is the medical name for kidney swelling and irritation that is caused by lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases cause your immune system to attack your own healthy cells. When your immune system attacks your kidneys, they get damaged. This damage can leave scars on the kidney. Over time, these scars can cause damage to the kidneys and can lead to chronic kidney disease.
  • Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS)
    FSGS is the medical name for having scar tissue on your kidneys’ filters (glomeruli). For people with FSGS, the cause of the scars is often unknown. Over time, these scars can cause damage to the kidneys and can lead to chronic kidney disease.
  • Minimal change disease
    Minimal change disease is when there is damage to your kidneys’ filters (glomeruli). It is called minimal change disease, because the damage is so small, it can only be seen using a very powerful microscope. The cause of minimal change disease is unknown. The damage caused by minimal change disease can lead to chronic kidney disease.

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Rare causes of chronic kidney disease

  • Alport syndrome
    Alport syndrome is a genetic disease. In Alport syndrome, certain parts of your kidneys, ears and eyes do not grow correctly. Alport syndrome always causes chronic kidney disease.
  • Amyloidosis
    Amyloidosis (am-il-oyd-OH-sis) is a disease that causes proteins called amyloids to build up inside your organs and tissues. When these proteins build up, they form clumps that damage the tissue around them. These clumps can form in the kidneys, heart, brain, liver and intestines. When kidney tissue is damaged, this can cause chronic kidney disease.
  • Goodpasture syndrome
    Goodpasture syndrome is a group of conditions that affects the kidneys and the lungs. It includes glomerulonephritis, bleeding in the lungs, and a problem with your immune system that causes it to attack the tiny filters in your kidneys (glomeruli) and the tissue in your lungs. The damage to your kidneys can lead to chronic kidney disease.
  • Wegener’s granulomatosis
    Wegener’s granulomatosis, now known as granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA), is a disease that causes swelling and irritation of blood vessels in the kidneys, nose, sinuses, throat and lungs. Swollen blood vessels make it harder for blood to get to the organs and tissues that need it, which can be harmful. The disease also causes lumps called granulomas to form and damage the area around them. This damage can lead to chronic kidney disease.

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Risk factors for kidney disease

There are certain factors (things) that can increase your chances of getting a disease, but do not necessarily cause the disease. These are called risk factors.

Risk factors for kidney disease include:

  • Having a family member with kidney disease
  • Being African-American, Hispanic, Native American, or Asian
  • Being over 60 years old
  • Heart disease
  • Being obese
  • Smoking
  • Having a history of acute kidney injury

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