Health problems caused by kidney disease

Learn about common health problems caused by kidney disease (also called complications), including what they are and how to prevent and manage them.

kidney disease written stethoscope

Health problems caused by kidney disease

Learn about common health problems caused by kidney disease (also called complications), including what they are and how to prevent and manage them.

Your kidneys help your whole body work. When your kidneys do not work as well as they should, you have a higher chance of having other health problems (also called complications). Some of the common health problems caused by kidney disease include gout, anemia,secondary hyperparathyroidism (SHPT), bone disease, heart disease and fluid buildup. There are treatments to help manage health problems caused by kidney disease.


Gout is a type of arthritis that causes swelling and pain in your joints, often in your toes. Gout is caused by having too much uric acid in your blood, which can happen because your kidneys do not work well to filter your blood. Gout is the most common health problem caused by kidney disease. However, gout may also lead to kidney disease.


Anybody can develop anemia, but it is very common in people with chronic kidney disease (CKD). People with CKD may start to have anemia in the early stages of CKD, but it is most common in stages 3-5. Anemia usually gets worse as CKD gets worse. If your kidneys are not working as well as they should, you are more likely to get anemia.

If you think you might have CKD, talk to your doctor about getting tested. Management of anemia and its symptoms may help you feel better.

High phosphorus (hyperphosphatemia)

Phosphorus is a mineral your body needs to work well. It is found in many foods and drinks and in certain medicines. Your body uses phosphorus, along with calcium and vitamin D, to keep your bones healthy and strong. However, too much phosphorus in your blood can harm your body.

The type of phosphorus in your blood is called phosphate. Your kidneys work to balance phosphate and other electrolytes in your blood, which help to balance the fluid levels in your body.

Heart disease

Heart disease is any heart or blood vessel problem that keeps your heart from pumping blood as well as it should. Kidney disease can cause heart disease, but heart disease can also cause kidney disease. When you have kidney disease, your heart has to pump harder to get blood to your kidneys, which can cause heart disease. Heart disease is the most common cause of death in people who are on dialysis.

High potassium (hyperkalemia)

If you have kidney disease, you are at risk for high potassium because your kidneys cannot remove the extra potassium in your blood. Instead of leaving your body through your urine, the extra potassium in your blood travels through your kidneys and back into your bloodstream. In time, more and more potassium can build up in your blood.

Pruritus (itchy skin)

Pruritus is distressing, itchy skin. The itchy feeling can be so constant and uncomfortable that it may disrupt your sleep and affect your mental health and overall quality of life. It can be especially severe and troubling in people who are in kidney failure, also called end-stage kidney disease (ESKD) or end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Pruritus is more common in people who are on dialysis. There are several ways to treat pruritus. Talk with your doctor or others on your dialysis care team about the treatment option that is right for you even if you have asked them in the past. There are new treatments available.

Metabolic acidosis

Metabolic acidosis is a buildup of acid in your body. Your kidneys help keep the right balance of acids in your body.

Metabolic acidosis is common in people with kidney disease because their kidneys are not filtering their blood well enough. It can also happen in people with diabetes or kidney failure.

Secondary hyperparathyroidism (SHPT)

Secondary hyperparathyroidism is common in people who have kidney failure (stage 5 kidney disease). It happens when your body's levels of calcium, vitamin D and phosphorus are not in balance. It is important to treat secondary hyperparathyroidism to prevent it from causing other health problems, such as bone disease.

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