Anyone can get kidney disease, but some things can make it more likely to happen to you. In fact, 1 in 3 adults in the United States are at risk for getting kidney disease.

Kidney disease is most often caused by diabetes or high blood pressure. Both of these health problems can cause permanent damage to your kidneys. When your kidneys have been permanently damaged and aren't working as well as they should, it's called chronic kidney disease (CKD), or kidney disease for short.

Diabetes and high blood pressure aren't the only things that can cause kidney disease. Other common risk factors for kidney disease include:

  • Heart (cardiovascular) disease
  • Having a family member who had kidney disease
  • Being African-American, Asian, Native American or Hispanic
  • Being over age 60 If you are at risk for kidney disease, ask your doctor how often you should be tested.

If you catch and treat kidney disease early, you may be able to prevent it from getting worse!


Over 29 million people in the United States have diabetes. Diabetes is the #1 cause of kidney failure. A special diet, exercise and medicines can help manage diabetes and prevent complications, but some people with diabetes may still develop kidney disease, even with good medical care. Learn more about diabetes.

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High blood pressure (hypertension)

High blood pressure is the #2 cause of kidney failure. High blood pressure can be both a cause of kidney disease, and a symptom of it because healthy kidneys help regulate your blood pressure. Keeping your blood pressure under control can help prevent kidney disease, or help keep it from getting worse. Learn more about High blood pressure (hypertension).

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Family history

Knowing your family health history provides you with important information about your risk for disease. If you know you are at risk for kidney disease, you can take steps to protect your health. To be at risk means it is more likely you will get kidney disease.

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Being over age 60 increases your risk for kidney disease.

Over time, the kidneys lose some function naturally. People who are over 60 are also at more likely to have diabetes and high blood pressure, the two leading causes of kidney failure.

If you are over age 60, ask your doctor how often you should be tested for signs of kidney disease.

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African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asian-Americans are more likely to have kidney disease. Doctors and researchers are not exactly sure why these groups are more at risk for kidney disease. It may be because these groups tend to have higher rates of diabetes and high blood pressure, the two leading causes of kidney failure. Access to health care and other factors may also contribute. Learn more about race and ethnicity's link to kidney disease.

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Other causes

Although diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of kidney disease, other diseases and conditions can also lead to kidney disease and kidney failure. Some examples of other causes of kidney failure include:

  • Polycystic kidney disease: a genetic disease that causes many cysts to grow in the kidneys.
  • Glomerulonephritis: a disease causing irritation to the tiny filters (glomeruli) in your kidneys.
  • Acute kidney injury: kidney failure that happens very quickly, often because of injuries, major blood loss or some reactions to medicines.
  • Autoimmune diseases (such as lupus and IgA nephropathy): diseases in which your immune system attacks your own body.
  • Kidney cancer: cancer that grows inside your kidneys.

Having one of these conditions does not always mean that you will have kidney failure. Talk to your doctor about how to prevent kidney failure as part of your care for your condition.

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