• Wed. May 4th, 2022

Chronic kidney disease and its symptoms, causes, and risk factors

Chronic kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease, also called chronic kidney failure, affects a gradual loss of kidney function. Your kidneys filter wastes and extra fluids from your blood, which are then removed in your urine. Advanced chronic kidney disease can cause dangerous levels of fluid, electrolytes, and wastes to build up in your body.

In the early stages of chronic kidney disease, you might have few symptoms. You may not realize you have kidney disease until the condition improves. 

Treatment for chronic kidney disease focuses on reducing the progression of kidney damage, usually by controlling the cause. But, even controlling the cause does not prevent the kidney damage from progressing. Chronic kidney disease can progress to the final stage of renal failure, which can be dangerous without artificial dialysis (dialysis) or kidney transplant surgery.


As kidney damage progresses slowly, the symptoms of chronic kidney disease develop over time. Loss of kidney function can lead to fluid or body waste or electrolyte problems. Depending on how severe it is, loss of kidney function can occur:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Sleep problems
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Sleep problems
  • Urinating more or less
  • Decreased mental sharpness
  • Swelling of feet and ankles
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) that’s difficult to control
  • Shortness of breath, if fluid accumulates in the lungs
  • Chest pain, if fluid accumulates around the inside of the heart

The symptoms of kidney disease are often unexplained. This means they can be caused by other diseases as well. Since your kidneys will compensate for the lost function, you will not be able to develop symptoms until irreversible damage occurs.


Chronic kidney disease occurs when a disease or condition affects kidney function, causing kidney damage to worsen over several months or years.

Diseases and conditions that cause chronic kidney disease include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Type 1 or type 2 diabetes
  • Glomerulonephritis is an inflammation of the filtration units (glomeruli) of the kidneys
  • Interstitial nephritis is an inflammation of the tubes and surrounding systems of the kidneys
  • Polycystic kidney disease or other inherited kidney diseases
  • Chronic obstruction of the urinary tract, from conditions such as enlarged prostate, kidney stones, and some cancers
  • Recurrent kidney infection also called pyelonephritis 
  • Vesicoperative reflux is a condition in which your kidneys have to withdraw urine

Risk factors

Factors that increase the risk of chronic kidney disease:

  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart (cardiovascular) disease
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Black, Native American, or Asian American
  • Family history of kidney disease
  • Abnormal kidney structure
  • Older age
  • Frequent use of medications that can damage the kidneys

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if you have any symptoms of kidney disease. Early detection can help prevent kidney disease from causing kidney failure.

If you have a medical condition that increases your risk of kidney disease, your doctor may monitor your blood pressure and kidney function through urine and blood tests during office visits. Ask your doctor if you need these tests.