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End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD)

What are the causes of ESRD?

How is ESRD different from chronic kidney disease (CKD)?

Who gets ESRD?

How can I prevent ESRD?

What are the tests for ESRD?

How is ESRD treated?

More Information


What are the causes of ESRD?

ESRD is when the kidneys stop working well enough for you to live without dialysis or a transplant.  This kind of kidney failure is permanent.  It cannot be fixed.  Most cases of ESRD are caused by diabetes or high blood pressure.  Some problems you are born with, some reactions to medicines, and some injuries can also cause ESRD.  If you have ESRD, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant to live.


How is ESRD different from chronic kidney disease (CKD)?


Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is when there is permanent damage to your kidneys.  Your kidneys may still work well enough for you to live, even if they have some damage. 


If your kidneys keep getting worse, CKD can lead to kidney failure (ESRD).  This is when the kidneys do not work well enough for you to live.  If this happens, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant to live.


Who gets ESRD?


Anyone can have ESRD. Some people are more likely to have ESRD than others.  You are more at risk for ESRD if you have:


  • Chronic kidney disease (CKD)
  • Injury or trauma to the kidneys
  • Major blood loss

Many people have CKD but don’t know it.  Click here to learn more about CKD and find out if you are at risk.


How can I prevent ESRD?


The best way to prevent ESRD is to prevent CKD.  Diabetes and high blood pressure are the two leading causes of CKD. You can help to protect your kidneys by keeping these in control.  Get your blood sugar and blood pressure checked often.


You an also help protect your kidneys with other healthy habits.  You should:


  • Have regular check-ups with your doctor
  • Eat a low-fat, low-salt diet
  • Exercise most days of the week
  • Avoid tobacco
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation

Also, take medicines the way your doctor tells you.  Talk to your doctor before you start any new medicine or supplement. 


What are the tests for ESRD?


You may not know that you have a kidney problem until it is very far along.  The only way to know how your kidneys are working is to have some simple medical tests.  Ask your doctor about these tests:


If you do not have a doctor, you may also want to look for kidney screenings in your area.  Our MIKE Program offers screenings in Atlanta, Chicago and Washington, D.C.  Click here to learn more.  You can also call our toll-free HelpLine at 1.866.300.2900 for more help finding a screening near you.


How is ESRD treated?


The main job of the kidneys is to clean wastes and extra fluid from your blood.  If your kidneys fail, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant to live.  These are treatments to help replace the job of the kidneys.


Click here to learn more about hemodialysis.


Click here to learn more about peritoneal dialysis.


Click here to learn more about kidney transplant.


But your kidneys do other jobs, too.  They help: 

  • Control chemicals in your body
  • Control your blood pressure
  • Keep your bones healthy
  • Make red blood cells

If your kidneys fail, they will not do these jobs well enough. Talk to your doctor about how you can prevent problems like high blood pressure, bone disease and anemia (not enough red blood cells). 


Changing some of the foods you eat is also important.  You will need to have a kidney friendly diet to help you feel better and avoid other problems. 


Click here to order the brochure “Living Well with Chronic Kidney Disease”


More Information


American Association of Kidney Patients


Kidney School


Life Options


National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases


National Kidney Disease Education Program


National Kidney Foundation


Updated 2/11/08 


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