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Kidney Disease

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a condition characterized by a gradual loss of kidney function over time.

About Your Kidneys

Your kidneys are very sophisticated machines that remove waste and excess water from your blood so that it can be removed from your body via urination.

Your kidneys are about the size of your fist and are located in the back of your torso, near your waistline, with one on either side of the spine. While most people are born with two kidneys but sometimes, some people are born with only one. In other cases, disease or injury may inhibit the function of one or both kidneys. 

Your kidneys perform several important tasks, including:

  • Removing waste products from your blood.
  • Regulating the total amount of fluids in your body by balancing water and salt.
  • Helping to strengthen your bones and produce red blood cells.
  • Controlling the amount of potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus in your blood.

Properly functioning kidneys can easily perform these tasks every day for your entire life. If you do not have adequate kidney function, you could have a build-up of poisonous waste products, high blood pressure, anemia, or too much fluid in your body that can cause swelling and shortness of breath.

Conditions and diseases related to an impaired function of your kidneys are collectively called “kidney failure. Research has found that most people can function normally if only 20 percent of one kidney is working.

Causes of Kidney Disease

The most common causes of kidney failure include:

  • Diabetic nephropathy, kidney damage due to high blood sugar
  • High blood pressure
  • Lupus, an immune system disease
  • Urinary tract blockage
  • Alport syndrome, a genetic disorder
  • Nephrotic syndrome, a condition that leads to too much protein in the urine
  • Polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disorder that causes fluid-filled cysts in the kidneys
  • Cystinosis, a genetic problem in which the amino acid builds up within the cells in the kidneys
  • Interstitial nephritis or pyelonephritis, inflammation of the small structures in the kidney

Other risk factors for developing kidney disease a family history of kidney disease and advanced age. In addition, people who have conditions such as anemia, diabetes or heart disease, might develop symptoms sooner than patients without these other conditions.

Symptoms of Kidney Disease

Most symptoms of kidney failure are nonspecific. That means the same symptoms could apply to a number of diseases or conditions. For example, the most common symptoms are a loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting but the common cold or flu can produce the same symptoms. Other symptoms of kidney disease include:

  • Bone pain
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Itching
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue with light activity
  • Muscle cramps
  • High urine output or no urine output
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Pale skin
  • Bad breath
  • Hearing problems
  • Irritability
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Change in mental alertness
  • Metallic taste in the mouth

Treating Kidney Disease

When life brings you face to face with kidney disease, you want the best care possible. And the best team. That’s why the Crozer Health team brings together physicians, surgeons and other healthcare professionals from across the hospital—nephrology, cardiology, oncology, endocrinology and the largest dialysis center in the Delaware Valley—to deliver a compassionate, multi-disciplined team approach to treating kidney disease.

  • Dialysis: For patients with kidney disease, dialysis (cleansing of the blood with an artificial kidney machine) may be needed to perform the tasks that the kidney once performed.
  • Kidney Transplant: For patients with end-stage renal disease or those who cannot or do not want to depend on dialysis, kidney transplant surgery can be lifesaving and life-changing.