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.

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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.

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Gout

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.

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Anemia

Anemia is when there are not enough red blood cells in your body. When your kidneys fail, they cannot help your body make red blood cells, and this causes anemia.

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Secondary hyperparathyroidism (SHPT)

Secondary hyperparathyroidism (SHPT) is a type of hyperparathyroidism. Hyperparathyroidism is a disease that causes your parathyroid glands to make too much parathyroid hormone. SHPT is caused by kidney disease or another disease that lowers calcium levels in your blood. 

SHPT is common in people who have kidney failure. As your kidneys fail, they cannot change inactive vitamin D to active vitamin D. This causes low levels of vitamin D and calcium in your body, which puts them out of balance with phosphorus. To try to "fix" the imbalance, your parathyroid glands grow larger and make too much parathyroid hormone.

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Metabolic acidosis

Metabolic acidosis is a buildup of acid in your body. Your kidneys help keep the right balance of acids in your body. When your kidneys do not work well to filter your blood, acid can build up in your body. Metabolic acidosis is a common health problem caused by kidney disease. 

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High phosphorus (hyperphosphatemia) and bone disease

Phosphorus is a mineral that works with calcium and vitamin D to keep your bones healthy and strong. When you have kidney disease, your kidneys cannot keep the right amount of phosphorus in your body. Phosphorus can build up to high levels in your blood and cause bone disease, which means you have weak bones that may break easily. 

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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.

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High potassium (hyperkalemia)

Potassium is a mineral found in many foods that helps your muscles work. When you have kidney disease, your kidneys may not be able to filter extra potassium from your blood. Potassium can build up in your blood and cause health problems

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Fluid buildup

Fluid buildup means that you have too much fluid (liquid) in your body. When you have kidney disease, your kidneys may not work as well as they should to filter extra fluid out of your blood. The extra fluid can build up in your body and cause problems with your heart and lungs.