Kidney care: Knowledge is the best treatment

Understanding Kidney Disease
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in nine American adults – 26 million – have some level of chronic kidney disease and 20 million more, 1 in 9, are at risk and they may not know it.

There are many types of kidney disease. Following are general definitions. Your physician can help you better understand these types of kidney disease and what they mean to you.

  • Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD): Gradual loss of kidney function
  • Acute Kidney Failure, Kidney Failure: Loss of kidney’s ability to remove waste and help balance fluids in the body
  • Renal Disease: Another name for kidney disease, or damage to kidney function
  • End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD): Most advanced, stage 5, chronic kidney disease requiring renal replacement treatment


Tips for your first visit

Learn how you can prepare for your first doctor’s by visiting Planning For Your Appointment.

About Your Kidneys

Kidneys are your body’s filtering organs

Kidneys sort out and remove waste from your blood stream so it doesn’t build up in your body and become toxic. Each kidney is made up of nephrons, or filtering units. Inside each nephron is a glomerulus, or a blood vessel, that allows waste and extra fluid to flow out while keeping in blood cells and protein. The wastes and extra fluid leave the kidneys and become urine.

Kidneys regulate certain fluid and chemical levels

Kidneys regulate the level of water and amount of important chemicals in your body, like sodium, potassium and acids.

Kidneys create hormones

Chemicals from your kidneys help control blood pressure, salt levels, red cell production to prevent anemia, and vitamin D for strong bones.

Kidney disease risk

Among the risks for kidney disease are diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, a family history of kidney failure, inflammation from an ongoing infection, kidney damage from an accident, cancer or overuse of pain medication or recreational drugs. Learn more about the symptoms that might alert you and your doctor to kidney disease.

What If You Are Diagnosed with Kidney Disease?

Get tested

To measure kidney function, your doctor will test your blood for the eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate). To rule out kidney damage, a urine sample will be used to measure for albumin, a type of protein.

Educate yourself

Gather your questions and ask your doctor about your condition and treatment. Learn more about your diagnosis by reading information found below in Get Answers.

Track your blood pressure

Have your blood pressure checked regularly. High blood pressure can damage the kidneys, so learn what range is healthy for you and work with your physician to keep your blood pressure numbers in range.

Manage your medications

Healthy kidneys filter excess medication from the blood. If your kidneys are not functioning properly, your physician will pay special attention to dosing for all of your medications. Always consult your physician before you make any changes to your medication regimen like taking herbal supplements or over the counter medications to avoid negative effects and possible kidney damage. Remember to bring the medication bottles to your first appointment.

Eat right

No matter what stage of kidney disease you have, it is very important to eat what your doctor or dietitian recommends. Every person’s needs are different, so make an appointment with a renal dietitian (one who specializes in kidney disease). Medicare covers dietitian services for those with eGFR less than 50 as well as for those with diabetes.

Quit smoking

In addition to other dangers of smoking, it is also associated with kidney disease, kidney cancer and bladder cancer. If you have kidney disease, smoking can make it even worse.

Plan for treatment

If you are in stage 4 or stage 5 of kidney disease, ask your physician about your treatment options. Dialysis may be necessary three or more days per week. Depending on your health and needs, your physician may recommend hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, home dialysis or a transplant.

Get answers

Talk to your nephrologist

Your nephrologist – or kidney specialist – is your best resource for information about your individual condition. They can answer any questions you may have and can offer recommendations for next steps.