Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) often remains unnoticed until it reaches advanced stages, causing irreversible kidney damage. When CKD progresses to end-stage kidney disease, patients face a tough choice: kidney transplant or dialysis.
While dialysis may be a convenient treatment option, it negatively impacts quality of life, limits time with loved ones, and strains the healthcare system. Sadly, many patients are unaware of kidney transplantation as an alternative. Consequently, most start with dialysis when kidneys fail, making the path to transplantation difficult and emotionally taxing as health declines over time.
The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located near the middle of your back, one on each side of your spine. Each kidney is connected to the bladder by a thin tube called a ureter.
The kidneys remove waste and extra fluid out of the blood to make urine. Your kidneys filter waste and other toxins and excess salts from your blood. This helps to keep a healthy balance of electrolytes and fluids in your body.
Fact: Every day, your kidneys continuously filter your blood to remove extra water and waste products. The waste products in your blood come from the food you eat and the use of your muscles.
This waste and extra water that your kidneys filter makes up your urine (pee).
When your kidneys do not work, you are not able to make urine to get rid of fluid and waste.
You need at least one kidney to live.
Other important things that your kidneys do:
Kidney Transplant: A kidney transplant is a surgical procedure in which a healthy kidney from a living or deceased donor is transplanted into a patient with kidney failure. Transplantation is considered the best treatment option for many people with end-stage renal disease because it offers the potential for a better quality of life and fewer dietary restrictions compared to long-term dialysis. Not everyone is a candidate for a kidney transplant, and there may be a waitlist for available organs. However, all types of kidney transplants can be lifesaving and life-improving procedures for individuals with end-stage kidney disease.
Dialysis: Dialysis is a medical procedure that helps filter waste, excess fluids, and electrolytes from the blood when the kidneys are no longer able to perform this function adequately. There are two primary types of dialysis:
When your kidneys do not work, waste and water is not filtered the way it should in your urine, and this flows back into your bloodstream. This causes waste and water to build up in your body.
Kidney damage also causes issues with the other important things that your kidneys do which makes it harder for the rest of your body to work the way it should. When this happens, you may experience some signs of kidney disease.
Kidney failure is when your kidneys stop working.
As kidney damage progresses over time, signs and symptoms of chronic kidney disease develop. Loss of kidney function can cause a buildup of fluid or body waste or electrolyte problems.
Depending on how severe it is, loss of kidney function can cause:
Signs and symptoms of kidney disease can be nonspecific, which means they can also be caused by other illnesses. Also, you might not develop signs and symptoms until irreversible damage has occurred.
Should you be experiencing these symptoms it is very important to be seen by your healthcare provider for further evaluation. Early detection might help prevent kidney disease from progressing further or from kidney failure.
There are diseases or conditions that impair kidney function, causing kidney damage to worsen over time (i.e., several months or years).
Other risk factors that put people at higher risk of chronic kidney disease and failure are:
Your healthcare provider may order blood, urine, and other tests to check on the health of your kidneys. These tests might include:
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is divided into five stages. The stages are based on a blood test, called the eGFR, and the test result shows how well your kidneys work to filter waste and extra fluid out of your blood. As the CKD stages go up, it means that your kidney disease is getting worse, and your kidneys work less well. At each stage, it is important to take steps to slow down the damage to your kidneys. It is important to note that kidney disease stage cannot be reversed, but it can be slowed down to prevent further damage to your kidneys. With treatment and healthy life changes, many people can slow or stop the progression of kidney disease.