The kidneys are two fist-sized organs, located just below the rib cage on each side of the spine. Kidneys work as a filtering system for the body, processing about 200 quarts of blood each day to sift out waste products and excess water. The waste collected by the kidneys leave the body as urine. With chronic kidney disease (also called chronic kidney failure), function of the kidneys gradually decreases and waste levels increase in the blood and kidneys.
Certain medical conditions increase an individual’s risk of developing chronic kidney disease. For example, high blood pressure (hypertension) and diabetes are the leading causes of kidney disease and kidney failure. If you have a condition that increases your risk, your doctor should monitor your blood pressure and kidney function through urine and blood samples. Imaging tests or removing a sample of the kidney for testing also may be necessary.
The best way to treat chronic kidney disease is to control the condition causing the kidney failure. This may be accomplished through a variety of methods including medications and lifestyle changes such as stopping smoking, adopting a healthier diet and losing excess weight.
There are few signs or symptoms associated with the early stages of the disease, and typically chronic kidney failure does not become apparent until kidney function is significantly impaired. Kidney disease is categorized into five stages. Stage one is marked with slightly diminished function, whereas stage five or end stage renal disease, may require the need for kidney transplant or dialysis.
Damage to the kidneys from chronic kidney disease cannot be repaired, only slowed, yet people can reach kidney failure and live for decades with the help of dialysis or a kidney transplant. It is important to follow the treatment plan outlined by your doctor very closely to keep a good quality of life. You also should learn what to watch for and tell your doctor what you are experiencing. Partnering with a doctor helps you get the most out of your treatment plan and thrive despite the kidney disease.