If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD), you may have a lot of questions. Below, we clear up some common concerns people have when it comes to CKD.
What Is CKD?
CKD is kidney damage that gradually gets worse over time. As a result of this damage, the kidneys cannot work properly.
Healthy kidneys filter toxins and other waste out of your blood. Kidneys also help control your body’s acid levels, and make red blood cells, vitamins, and hormones. If you have CKD, your body may not be able to do all of these things as well as they should.
CKD doesn’t happen overnight. It usually takes many years to develop.
Why Do I Have CKD?
There are many things that can cause CKD. The two most common causes of kidney disease are high blood pressure and diabetes.
Here are some of the most common conditions that can cause CKD:
- High blood pressure
- Glomerulonephritis - these diseases cause inflammation in the kidney, making it harder for them to filter your blood
- Conditions that block the kidneys, like kidney stones or enlarged prostate (in men)
- Genetic conditions like Polycystic Kidney Disease, Tuberous Sclerosis, or Alport’s Syndrome
How Is CKD Diagnosed?
Doctors diagnose CKD using a blood test. Your doctor will monitor the level of creatinine in your blood. If creatinine goes up over time, you might have kidney disease.
Your doctor will also look at another blood test called GFR. This stands for glomerular filtration rate. GFR is a measure of how well your kidneys are working. Your GFR will tell your doctor what stage of kidney disease you have.
What Does CKD Feel Like?
Most people with CKD do not have symptoms. This is one of the reasons kidney disease can be dangerous. People with CKD may feel fine and think they do not need to see their doctor or take their meds. It’s important to follow up with your doctor regularly even if you feel like you are in good health.
If kidney disease progresses, some people do develop symptoms. Some symptoms that may arise in later CKD stages are:
- Swelling, especially around your feet and ankles
- Shortness of breath
- Taste changes
- Itchy skin
Will I Have to Start Dialysis?
Not everyone who has CKD needs dialysis. If the kidney function decreases to the point that a transplant is needed, dialysis may be one option for you. Your kidney care team can help you understand the pros and cons of both kidney transplant and dialysis.
For many people, kidney disease never progresses far enough to need dialysis or a transplant. Eating balanced meals, taking medication, and being active can all slow the progression of kidney disease.
Regular appointments with your nephrologist and lab testing can help your care team predict when you will need to think about dialysis or a kidney transplant. These visits ensure they have the information needed to make the best decisions for your health.
What is dialysis? Will I need it?
When kidney function drops by more than 85 to 90%, the kidneys may not be able to do the jobs they normally do. When this happens, one of two treatment options may be needed: a kidney transplant or dialysis. Dialysis is a treatment that does some of the things that are normally done by healthy kidneys, such as removing wastes from your body. Dialysis can be done at home, in the hospital, or at a dialysis unit that is not part of a hospital. Your kidney team can help you understand the pros and cons of a kidney transplant and dialysis, and help you choose the best treatment for you.
For many people, kidney disease never progresses far enough to need dialysis or a transplant. Eating balanced meals, taking medication as needed, controlling blood pressure and blood sugar, and living a healthy lifestyle can all slow the progression of kidney disease.
Regular appointments with your nephrologist and lab testing can help your care team predict when you will need to think about dialysis or a kidney transplant. These visits ensure they have the information needed to help you make the best decisions for your health.
Questions about your individual CKD needs? Schedule a session with a Livongo expert coach.