About your kidneys.
Healthy kidneys play a vital role in keeping us alive and well. The kidneys do three important things for us:
- Prevent the buildup of wastes and extra fluid in the body.
- Keep electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, and phosphate, balanced.
Produce hormones that do three things:
- Regulate blood pressure.
- Make red blood cells.
- Keep bones strong.
What is kidney disease?
Kidney disease means the kidneys are damaged and cannot filter blood as they should. As a result, waste and extra fluid build up in the body, causing harm to other organs. If kidney disease is not detected and treated, it can lead to many serious and life-threatening problems, including:
- Cardiovascular disease (heart attack, angina, coronary heart disease, stroke)
- Pulmonary edema (fluid buildup in the lungs)
- High blood pressure
- Weakened bones that can easily break
- Decreased ability to fight off infections
- Nerve damage
- Kidney failure
For most people, kidney damage occurs slowly over many years. This is called chronic kidney disease (CKD). As the disease progresses, it becomes more difficult for the kidneys to function properly, eventually leading to kidney failure. Once the kidneys fail, a person must either begin dialysis (machine treatment to help kidneys work), or have a kidney transplant to stay alive.
When someone has a sudden drop or change in kidney function, because of an injury or illness, this is called acute kidney injury (AKI). This can occur in a person with healthy kidneys or in someone who already has kidney problems. If not found and treated, AKI can quickly lead to kidney failure. Learn more about AKI.
What are the symptoms of kidney disease?
Early kidney disease often has no symptoms. In fact, many people are not diagnosed until just before their kidneys fail. That is why it is so important to get checked. Possible symptoms of kidney disease may include:
- More frequent urination
- Blood in your urine
- Muscle cramps
- Foot swelling
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Dry, itchy skin
These symptoms may also be due to another illness or condition. If you have any of these symptoms, call your doctor. The only way to know if you have kidney disease is to get checked.