Other kidney problems

Some kidney problems can be early signs of chronic kidney disease (CKD). Finding and treating these problems early can help keep your kidneys working well and prevent CKD from becoming kidney failure. To help you prevent bigger problems in the future, learn what symptoms to watch for and contact your doctor when you notice a possible problem.

Kidney pain

Kidney pain can have many causes. It may be a sign of an infection, injury or another health problem, such as kidney stones. Because of where your kidneys are in your body, kidney pain is also often confused with back pain. Talk to your doctor to find out what is causing your kidney pain and to find the right treatment.

Kidney stones

Kidney stones are one of the most common kidney problems. Usually, your kidneys remove waste from your blood to make urine (pee). When there is too much waste in your blood and your body is not producing enough urine, crystals begin to form in your kidneys. These crystals attract other wastes and chemicals to form a solid object (a kidney stone) that will get larger unless it is passed out of your body in your urine. 

Kidney stones can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball.

Anyone can get a kidney stone, but some people are more likely than others to get them. Men get kidney stones more often than women. Kidney stones are also more common in non-Hispanic white people than in people of other ethnicities.

Blood in urine (hematuria)

Blood in your urine (i.e., your pee) does not always mean that you have kidney disease, but it may mean something is wrong with your kidneys or another part of your urinary tract.

Blood in your urine can look red, pink or brown. Sometimes, you may not know you have blood in your urine until you have a urine test. A urine test may also find white blood cells, which can be a sign of an infection in your kidneys or another part of your urinary tract.

Be sure to tell your doctor if you have blood in your urine so they can decide what to do next.

If you notice a lot of blood, or any blood clots in your urine, contact your doctor right away.

Kidney infection

When bacteria or viruses get into your kidneys, usually through your urinary tract, they can cause a kidney infection. If you have symptoms such as pain in the sides of your lower back, fever, chills or pain while urinating (i.e., peeing), contact your doctor right away. Kidney infection can be serious if not treated with antibiotics or other medicines. 

A kidney infection happens when bacteria or viruses get into your kidneys. Kidney infections can affect both or just one of your kidneys. A kidney infection is a type of urinary tract infection (UTI).

Acute kidney injury (AKI)

Acute kidney injury (AKI) is a sudden decline in the ability of your kidneys to work and perform their normal functions. AKI is sometimes called acute kidney failure or acute renal failure. 

AKI is very serious and needs to be treated right away to prevent lasting kidney damage. If AKI is treated early, most people will return to their previous kidney function. If you were healthy before AKI and you get treated right away, your kidneys could work normally or almost normally after treatment.

AKI can sometimes lead to chronic kidney disease (CKD). This usually happens if the AKI causes severe damage to the kidneys. In time, CKD can cause your kidneys to stop working altogether. This is known as kidney failure, end-stage renal disease (ESRD) or end-stage kidney disease (ESKD).

Nephrotic syndrome

Anyone can get nephrotic syndrome, but it is slightly more common in men than in women. In children, it happens most often between the ages of two and six. There are other factors that may increase your risk.
You are more likely to get nephrotic syndrome if you:

  • Have a disease that affects the kidneys such as FSGS, lupus or diabetes
  • Take certain medicines like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) or antibiotics
  • Have an infection such as HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C or malaria

You may not know that you have nephrotic syndrome until you have routine blood and urine tests at a doctor's appointment. The results of your tests can show that you have too much protein in your urine, not enough protein in your blood, or too much fat or cholesterol in your blood.

Kidney cancer

Kidney cancer, also called renal cancer, is a type of cancer that starts in the kidneys. Cancer is a disease that happens when cells in your body grow out of control and form a tumor. The most common type of kidney cancer in adults is called renal cell carcinoma. The most common type of kidney cancer in children is called Wilms' tumor.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a viral disease that affects the liver. The liver is an organ in the human body that converts everything you eat or drink into nutrients and gets rid of toxins. Hepatitis C and kidney disease are connected. Hepatitis C can cause kidney disease, and sometimes kidney patients can get hepatitis C from hemodialysis, a treatment for kidney failure, if a medical facility does not carefully follow guidelines for infection control.

Alagille syndrome

Alagille syndrome mainly affects your liver but can damage other parts of your body including your kidneys, heart, brain, eyes and skeleton. Alagille syndrome is caused by a buildup of bile in your liver, causing scarring and damage. When your liver is damaged, certain wastes cannot be removed from your blood, which causes problems throughout your body, including damage to the kidneys. There is no cure for Alagille syndrome, but there are medicines that can help control it by removing bile from your liver.

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