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What is chronic kidney disease (CKD)?

Updated: Sep 29, 2022

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a condition where the kidneys become damaged over time and are unable to function properly. A person may have CKD if his or her estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), which measures the amount of blood filtered out of the body by the kidneys each minute, is below 60 milliliters per minute (ml/min). This is equivalent to about 1 liter per hour or lower than what is considered normal. In general, the kidneys filter approximately 120 milliliters (about 2 liters) of blood every day.

There are many causes of CKD, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart conditions, obesity, and certain drugs. Diabetes is the leading cause of CKD worldwide. Other risk factors can include aging and lifestyle habits. CKD often presents no symptoms early on, but eventually becomes more severe. As the damage continues, the patient's eGFR decreases further until it reaches the point at which the kidneys completely fail. At this stage, dialysis or transplantation may be necessary.

There are five categories of CKD:

Stage 0 - No significant damage has occurred yet.

Stage 1 - Damage to some small area of the kidney.

Stage 2 - Damage to some larger area of the kidney. Kidneys may lose their effectiveness and not work right.

Stage 3a - Moderate damage to kidneys.

Stage 3b - Severe damage to kidneys.

Stages 4 and 5 - Completely destroyed kidneys. Dialysis or transplants are needed.

The following tips can help reduce the chances of developing CKD:

• Avoid smoking cigarettes. Nicotine can be toxic for the kidneys.

• Follow a low-fat diet. Fatty foods put extra strain on the kidneys.

• Get regular exercise. Exercise increases blood flow to the kidneys.

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