Chronic Kidney Disease Symptoms, Causes, Types, & Treatment

icon-blog By -Dr. Kanika Sharma
icon-blog By -November 28, 2023
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Chronic kidney disease (CKD) ranks as the 16th major contributor to global years of life lost. It is characterized by sustained kidney damage or reduced function for a minimum of three months, regardless of the underlying cause. However, some therapies can help control chronic kidney disease symptoms, reduce the risk of complications, and slow the progression of the condition. Primary care clinicians play a crucial role in screening, diagnosing, and managing chronic kidney disease symptoms and chronic kidney disease complications to prevent adverse outcomes such as cardiovascular disease, end-stage kidney disease, and mortality. 

Unfortunately, many individuals remain unaware of their chronic kidney disease symptoms until their kidney function drops to 15% of its normal capacity, at which point they may require dialysis or a kidney transplant. Timely detection and intervention can often halt the worsening of CKD symptoms and progression. The condition, affecting 8% to 16% of the global population, is frequently underestimated by both patients and healthcare providers. Particularly in low- and middle-income countries like those in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and various developing nations, CKD imposes a substantial burden that these regions are ill-equipped to handle. 

Individuals at risk or with concerns should consult a doctor for testing, and adopting a healthy lifestyle with proper diet and exercise can contribute to CKD prevention. Delayed treatment are prevalent among older individuals, often due to insufficient knowledge and awareness of chronic kidney disease symptoms and prevalent misconceptions about the condition and its treatment. This article aims to increase awareness and comprehension of chronic kidney disease symptoms, causes, types, and treatment options among the high-risk population.

What Are Chronic Kidney Disease Symptoms?

Indications and chronic kidney disease symptoms manifest gradually as kidney damage progresses over time. The decline in kidney function can lead to the accumulation of fluid, body waste, or electrolyte imbalances. The severity of the loss of kidney function can result in various kidney disease symptoms, including:

-Loss of appetite
-Fatigue and weakness
-Sleep disturbances
-Changes in urination frequency
-Decreased mental acuity
-Chronic kidney disease pain manifesting as muscle cramps
-Swelling in the feet and ankles
-Dry, itchy skin
-Difficult-to-control high blood pressure (hypertension)
-Shortness of breath, indicating fluid buildup in the lungs
-Chest pain, a consequence of fluid accumulation around the heart lining

Chronic kidney disease symptoms are often nonspecific, meaning they can be attributed to other health conditions. Since the kidneys can compensate for lost function, signs of CKD may not become apparent until irreversible damage has occurred.

What Are The Chronic Kidney Disease Causes?

Chronic kidney disease symptoms develop when the function of the kidneys is impaired by a disease or condition, leading to the deterioration of kidney health over a span of several months or years.

The diseases and conditions responsible for chronic kidney disease encompass:

-Type 1 or type 2 diabetes
-High blood pressure
-Glomerulonephritis, an inflammation affecting the kidney's filtering units (glomeruli)
-Interstitial nephritis, inflammation involving the kidney's tubules and adjacent structures
-Polycystic kidney disease or other inherited kidney disorders
-Prolonged obstruction of the urinary tract, stemming from conditions like an enlarged prostate, kidney stones, and certain cancers
-Vesicoureteral reflux, a condition causing the backward flow of urine into the kidneys
-Recurrent kidney infection, also known as pyelonephritis

What Are The Chronic Kidney Disease Types?

Chronic kidney disease is a kind of renal disease that develops gradually over time. Medical professionals typically categorize CKD into three distinct types on the basis of severity of chronic kidney disease symptoms and progression.

Chronic Kidney Disease Types

Chronic prerenal kidney failure: This occurs when there is insufficient blood flow to the kidneys for an extended period, resulting in kidney shrinkage and a loss of functionality.

Chronic intrinsic kidney failure: This type is characterized by prolonged kidney damage due to intrinsic kidney disease. Intrinsic kidney disease is a result of direct trauma to the kidneys, such as severe bleeding or oxygen deprivation.

Chronic post-renal kidney failure: In this form, a persistent blockage in the urinary tract hinders normal urination, leading to pressure build-up and eventual kidney damage.

What Are Chronic Kidney Disease Complications?

Chronic kidney disease has the potential to impact nearly every aspect of your body, leading to various complications, including:

-Fluid retention, which may result in swelling in the arms and legs, high blood pressure, or pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs).
-Sudden elevation of potassium levels in the blood (hyperkalemia), posing a threat to heart function and potentially life-threatening.
-Heart disease
-Weakened bones and an increased susceptibility to bone fractures
-Reduced sex drive, erectile dysfunction, or diminished fertility
-Central nervous system damage, leading to difficulties in concentration, personality changes, or seizures
-Diminished immune response, increasing vulnerability to infections
-Pericarditis, inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart (pericardium)
-Pregnancy complications with risks for both the mother and developing fetus
-Irreversible kidney damage (end-stage kidney disease), ultimately requiring either dialysis or a kidney transplant for survival.

What Are The Chronic Kidney Disease Treatment Options?

Depending on the underlying causes and chronic kidney disease symptoms, certain types of kidney disease may be treatable, but in many cases, chronic kidney disease lacks a definitive cure. Treatment primarily focuses on managing symptoms, reducing complications, and slowing the progression of the disease. In cases of severe kidney damage, treatment for end-stage kidney disease may be necessary.

Addressing the cause: Efforts are made to slow or control the cause of kidney disease, with treatment options varying based on the underlying condition. However, kidney damage may persist even after controlling an underlying condition like diabetes mellitus or high blood pressure.

Managing complications: Complications of kidney disease can be controlled to enhance comfort. Treatment approaches may include:

High blood pressure medications: Prescribed to mitigate worsening high blood pressure, commonly involving angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin II receptor blockers, along with a diuretic and a low-salt diet.

Medications to relieve swelling: Diuretics help maintain fluid balance in individuals with chronic kidney disease who often retain fluids, leading to swelling and high blood pressure.

Medications to treat anemia: Supplements of erythropoietin, sometimes with added iron, stimulate red blood cell production, alleviating fatigue and weakness associated with anemia.

Medications to lower cholesterol levels: Statins may be recommended to reduce elevated cholesterol levels, which are common in people with chronic kidney disease and increase the risk of heart disease.

Medications to protect bones: Calcium and vitamin D supplements, along with phosphate binders, can prevent weak bones and reduce the risk of fractures.

Lower protein diet: To minimize waste products in the blood, a reduced protein intake may be advised by a doctor or registered dietitian.

Regular follow-up testing may be recommended to monitor the stability or progression of kidney disease.

3. Treatment for end-stage kidney disease:

If kidney function declines to the point of complete or near-complete kidney failure, dialysis or a kidney transplant becomes necessary.

Dialysis: Hemodialysis uses a machine to filter waste and excess fluids from the blood, while peritoneal dialysis involves filling the abdominal cavity with a dialysis solution that absorbs waste and excess fluids.

Kidney transplant: Surgically placing a healthy kidney from a donor into the recipient's body. Transplanted kidneys can come from deceased or living donors, and lifelong medication is required to prevent organ rejection.

For those opting against dialysis or a transplant, conservative measures, including symptom management, advance care planning, and palliative care, may be pursued

To Summarize

The above information underscores the critical importance of early detection through a comprehensive understanding of chronic kidney disease symptoms. Recognizing the subtle CKD signs and symptoms in the initial stages is paramount for timely intervention and effective management. Early treatment not only helps control chronic kidney disease symptoms but can also slow down the progression of the disease. 

Let knowledge be the beacon guiding us toward proactive awareness and ultimately improving outcomes in the fight against chronic kidney disease. Rely on Medflick as your trustworthy source for precise, current, and reliable information on chronic kidney disease symptoms or any other health-related subjects. Your health and overall well-being deserve nothing less than well-informed and thoughtful guidance. 

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