Chronic Kidney Disease: What is it?

Published: Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Over 37 million American adults have chronic kidney disease. Early detection of kidney disease is key in preventing kidney failure.

Your kidneys are responsible for filtering all the blood in your body to remove toxins, wastes and excess fluid. Kidneys also assist with regulating blood pressure, stimulating the production of red blood cells, keeping bones healthy and regulating the essential blood chemicals that are needed for life.

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

Chronic kidney disease is a condition in which the kidneys are gradually damaged over time and unable to filter blood as well as they should. Because the kidneys are not functioning properly, excess waste and fluid from the blood remain in the body and can cause other health problems. Health consequences of chronic kidney disease can include stroke, heart disease, anemia, common occurrence of infections, loss of appetite, fatigue, trouble thinking clearly, low calcium levels and high potassium levels in the blood, swelling of feet or ankles and depression.

The most common causes of chronic kidney disease include diabetes, high blood pressure, infections, urinary blockages and heart disease.

How is CKD Diagnosed?

It is important to be tested if you have diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure or a family history of kidney disease.

Your doctor may run tests to determine how severe your chronic kidney disease. Blood tests can help to determine the level of waste products in your blood. Imaging tests can be used to determine your kidneys’ size and structure. Urine tests can point out abnormalities that can point to chronic kidney failure and identify the cause of chronic kidney disease. Removing a sample of kidney tissue can help to determine what is causing your kidney problems.

Treatments for CKD

Treatment for chronic kidney disease depends on the cause of the condition. It is likely that your doctor may have you take medicine for high triglycerides and cholesterol, weak bones or anemia.

How to Prevent CKD

If you are at risk for chronic kidney disease, here are a few things you can do to prevent it:

  • Get tested regularly
    Because the symptoms of chronic kidney disease are not obvious, it is important to get tested regularly for chronic kidney disease because it can get gradually worse over time.
  • Control your blood pressure
    High blood pressure can damage your kidneys even further. Controlling your blood pressure can help you to prolong the life of your kidneys.
  • Manage your blood sugar
    High blood sugar can cause blood vessels inside the kidney to become narrower and clogged, which can cause damage to blood vessels. Managing your blood sugar can include taking medicine and making lifestyle changes with diet and exercise.
  • Quit smoking
    Smoking can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Not only can stopping smoking prevent heart disease, but it can also increase your overall health.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation
    Drinking too much alcohol can negatively affect your blood pressure and can add extra calories to your diet. 
  • Maintain a healthy diet and drink plenty of water
    A healthier diet can help to lower blood pressure. A kidney-friendly diet consists of lower amounts of salt and sodium, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or dairy-free products, lean proteins such as chicken or fish, and foods with less phosphorus and potassium. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease, it may be beneficial to meet with a dietician to create a meal plan that is right for you. Proper hydration is important to a healthy diet, so be sure to drink plenty of water too!
  • Get regular exercise
    Being active for 30 minutes or more a day can greatly improve your overall health. Maintaining a healthy weight can decrease stress on your kidneys, decrease your blood pressure and decrease your risk of diabetes.

Next Steps

To learn more or schedule an appointment with a nephrologist, visit