Kidney Disease

Understand kidney disease, and its causes and symptoms.

Kidney Disease

Overview

What is kidney disease?

Kidney disease, also known as renal disease or nephropathy, is conditions that affects the proper functioning of your kidneys—vital organs that filter wastes and excess fluids from your blood, which are then removed via your urine.

Types

Kidney disease can be acute or chronic. Acute kidney disease or injury (AKI) develops rapidly over a short period and is usually reversible. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) progresses gradually over a period of months or years. Advanced chronic kidney disease can cause dangerous levels of fluid, electrolytes, and wastes to build up in your body and can eventually lead to kidney failure.

Causes

Acute kidney disease is often due to a sudden injury, infection, or medication side effects. However, chronic kidney disease (CKD), is usually caused by underlying health conditions such as diabetes (type 1 or 2), high blood pressure (hypertension), heart (cardiovascular) disease, autoimmune disorders, and polycystic kidney disease.

Additional factors that can put you at a higher risk for CKD:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Family history of kidney disease
  • Abnormal kidney structure
  • Older age
  • Prolonged use of some medications (like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), certain antibiotics, and certain chemotherapy drugs)
  • Prolonged exposure to toxins or heavy metals

Symptoms

Acute kidney disease symptoms may include a sudden decrease urine output, swelling, fatigue, nausea, changes in urine colour, abdominal pain, confusion, high blood pressure, and fluid overload.

Chronic kidney disease has few signs or symptoms in the beginning so you might not realise that you have the condition until it is advanced. As the condition progresses, you may notice:

  • Feeling constantly tired and lacking energy
  • Decreased urine output and it may appear darker than usual, or pink, red, or brown
  • Increased urine frequency, especially at night (nocturia)
  • Swelling (oedema) in the legs, ankles, feet, and face.
  • Blood in the urine (haematuria)
  • Persistent itching, often with dry skin
  • High blood pressure (Hypertension)
  • Loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting, which can lead to unintended weight loss
  • Muscle cramps and twitches
  • Difficulty concentrating, with memory, and mental fog

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