An estimated 31 million people in the United States are living with chronic kidney disease (CKD).

The term “chronic kidney disease” means lasting damage to the kidneys that can get worse over time. If the damage is very bad, your kidneys may stop working. This is called kidney failure, or end-stage renal disease (ESRD). If your kidneys fail, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant in order to live.

Who can get chronic kidney disease (CKD)?

Anyone can get CKD. Some people are more at risk than others. Some things that increase your risk for CKD include:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Heart disease
  • Having a family member with kidney disease
  • Being African-American, Hispanic, Native American or Asian
  • Being over 60 years old
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Symptoms

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) usually gets worse slowly, and symptoms may not appear until your kidneys are badly damaged. In the late stages of CKD, as you are nearing kidney failure (ESRD), you may notice symptoms that are caused by waste and extra fluid building up in your body.

You may notice one or more of the following symptoms if your kidneys are beginning to fail:

  • Itching
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Not feeling hungry
  • Swelling in your feet and ankles
  • Too much urine (pee) or not enough urine
  • Trouble catching your breath
  • Trouble sleeping

If your kidneys stop working suddenly (acute kidney failure), you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal (belly) pain
  • Back pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Nosebleeds
  • Rash
  • Vomiting

Having one or more of any of the symptoms above may be a sign of serious kidney problems. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor right away.

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Complications of CKD

Your kidneys help your whole body work properly. When you have CKD, you can also have problems with how the rest of your body is working. Some of the common complications of CKD include anemia, bone disease, heart disease, high potassium, high calcium and fluid buildup. Learn more about the complications of CKD.

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How can I prevent CKD?

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of CKD. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, working with your doctor to keep your blood sugar and blood pressure under control is the best way to prevent kidney disease.

Living a healthy lifestyle can help prevent diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease, or help keep them under control. Follow these tips to lower your risk for kidney disease and the problems that cause it:

  • Follow a low-salt, low-fat diet
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes on most days of the week
  • Have regular check-ups with your doctor
  • Do not smoke or use tobacco
  • Limit alcohol

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How do I know if I have CKD?

CKD usually does not have any symptoms until your kidneys are badly damaged. The only way to know how well your kidneys are working is to get tested. Being tested for kidney disease is simple. Ask your doctor about these tests for kidney health:

  • eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate)

    The eGFR is a sign of how well your kidneys are cleaning your blood.

    Your body makes waste all the time. This waste goes into your blood. Healthy kidneys take the waste out of your blood. One type of waste is called creatinine. If you have too much creatinine in your blood, it might be a sign that your kidneys are having trouble filtering your blood.

    You will have a blood test to find out how much creatinine is in your blood. Your doctor will use this information to figure out your eGFR. If your eGFR is less than 60 for three months or more, you might have kidney disease.

  • Urine test

    This test is done to see if there is blood or protein in your urine (pee).

    Your kidneys make your urine. If you have blood or protein in your urine, it may be a sign that your kidneys are not working well.

    Your doctor may ask you for a sample of your urine in the clinic or ask you to collect your urine at home and bring it to your appointment.

  • Blood pressure

    This test is done to see how hard your heart is working to pump your blood.

    High blood pressure can cause kidney disease, but kidney disease can also cause high blood pressure. Sometimes high blood pressure is a sign that your kidneys are not working well.

    For most people a normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 (120 over 80). Ask your doctor what your blood pressure should be.

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How is CKD treated?

Damage to your kidneys is usually permanent. Although the damage cannot be fixed, you can take steps to keep your kidneys as healthy as possible for as long as possible. You may even be able to stop the damage from getting worse.

  • Control your blood sugar if you have diabetes.
  • Keep a healthy blood pressure.
  • Follow a low-salt, low-fat diet.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
  • Keep a healthy weight.
  • Do not smoke or use tobacco.
  • Limit alcohol.
  • Talk to your doctor about medicines that can help protect your kidneys.

If you catch kidney disease early, you may be able to prevent kidney failure. If your kidneys fail, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive.

Download our free Kidney Health Tracker to keep track of your kidney test results.

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Kidney-friendly diet for CKD

You need to have a kidney-friendly meal plan when you have chronic kidney disease (CKD). Watching what you eat and drink will help you stay healthier. A kidney-friendly diet may also help protect your kidney from further damage by limiting certain foods to prevent the minerals in those foods from building up in your body. Learn more about the kidney-friendly diet for CKD.

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