Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is marked by the gradual loss of kidney function, which means the kidneys cannot filter waste and regulate water and acid in the blood as well as they should. 

In 75% of cases, CKD is caused by one of three conditions: diabetes, high blood pressure, or glomerulonephritis, an inflammation of the glomeruli, which are a component of nephrons (the structural and functional unit of the kidneys).

Early in the disease, there may be no symptoms, but the damage is progressive and permanent. CKD can be diagnosed with blood and urine tests, and treatment is focused on treating the underlying cause of kidney impairment as well as any complications.

Chronic kidney disease can progress to end-stage renal failure (ESRF), which is fatal without dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes chronic kidney disease?

    Chronic kidney disease occurs when another condition impairs kidney function. In most cases, CKD is caused by diabetes, hypertension, or a group of infections known as glomerulonephritis, but it may also be caused by autoimmune diseases like lupus; genetic disorders like polycystic kidney disease; obstructions such as tumors, kidney stones, or an enlarged prostate; or frequent kidney infections. 

  • Can chronic kidney disease be reversed?

    Unlike acute renal failure, which can be reversible, chronic kidney disease is marked by progressive, irreversible damage to the nephrons of the kidneys. Treatment may help slow the course of the disease, but dialysis or a kidney transplant may eventually be required if the kidneys stop functioning.

  • How is chronic kidney disease treated?

    Treating chronic kidney disease first requires identifying the underlying cause, then trying to slow the progression while also reducing complications that may affect other organs, like the heart. Treatment options may include a protein-restricted diet, antihypertensive medications, diabetes medications, diuretics, bone-marrow stimulants, and calcium reducers.

  • What are the symptoms of chronic kidney disease?

    CKD is often referred to as "the silent killer," as early symptoms often go unnoticed, and noticeable symptoms don't take effect until the disease has significantly progressed. Early signs of CKD may include fatigue, ammonia-smelling breath, loss of appetite, malaise, ankle swelling, weight gain, difficulty urinating, and kidney pain. As kidney function worsens, symptoms become more severe.

  • How can you prevent chronic kidney disease?

    Preventing CKD involves staying on top of healthy lifestyle habits, like exercising, quitting smoking, and following a heart-healthy diet, which can help keep blood pressure in check.1 If you have other chronic conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, it's important to keep them well-controlled within the target ranges your doctor has set for you in order to protect your kidneys.

Key Terms

Explore Chronic Kidney Disease

Illustration of pill/capsule
Auryxia (Ferric Citrate) Oral: Uses, Side Effects, Dosages
Doctor discusses life expectancy with patient with chronic kidney disease
Life Expectancy With Chronic Kidney Disease
Middle-aged man being examined by a female doctor in a doctor's office. Patient complains to the doctor of kidney pain.
Living With Stage 3 Chronic Kidney Disease
kidney ultrasound
What Are the Signs of Kidney Failure?
Technician performing a kidney ultrasound
What Is Renal Hypertension?
Imaging technician performing a kidney ultrasound
Acute vs. Chronic Kidney Disease: What's the Difference?
An imaging technician performing a kidney ultrasound
Anemia and Chronic Kidney Disease
Doctor reviewing X-rays
A Renal Arteriography Can Help You Get Answers About Your Health
Woman shopping for fruit
Kidney Disease Diet: What to Eat
person with kidney failure
Understanding the Stages of Kidney Disease
Middle-aged man being examined by a female doctor in a doctor's office. Patient complains to the doctor of kidney pain.
Stage 4 Kidney Disease: Overview, Symptoms, Treatment
Foods to avoid with stage 3 chronic kidney disease
21 Foods to Avoid for Kidney Disease
Man buying kidney friendly vegetables
Nutrition and Chronic Kidney Disease
Smiling female doctor talking to woman in hospital.
Treating Kidney Failure
In home nurse helping patient with blood sugar monitor
Diabetes and Your Kidneys: Risk Factors for Nephropathy
Anatomical illustration of cross-section of a kidney with a cyst inside
How Polycystic Kidney Disease Is Diagnosed
Woman in home office suffering from back pain sitting at computer desk
How Kidney Failure is Diagnosed
Feeling the strain of a long day at his desk
Signs of Kidney Failure
Doctor performing surgery and assistant hands out instruments inside modern operating room
Nephrectomy: Everything You Need to Know
What Is Kidney Failure?
Cardiovascular Problems Caused by Polycystic Kidney Disease
Causes and Risk Factors of Polycystic Kidney Disease
beef stew for polycystic kidney disease
Polycystic Kidney Disease: What to Eat for Better Management
Illustration of Polycystic Kidney compared to Health Kidney
Symptoms of Polycystic Kidney Disease
human kidneys illustration
The Association Between Psoriatic Arthritis and Kidney Disease
person wearing mask outside
What to Know About Chronic Kidney Disease and COVID-19
woman with renal failure adjusting tube of her glucose meter at her stomach while speaking with her doctor online
Is Telehealth a Good Option for Managing Kidney Disease?
woman taking a medication
What You Should Know About Bumex (Bumetanide) Side Effects
Blood tests to be analyzed for anion gap
What Is an Anion Gap?
Man holding knee interposed with image of leg bones
What Is Osteodystophy?
Hectorol at the End of Dialysis for Secondary Hyperparathyroidism
What to Know About Hectorol (Doxercalciferol)
diabetic nephropathy
The Importance of Early Intervention of Diabetic Nephropathy
Hydronephrosis or Swollen Kidney
What You Need to Known About Ureteropelvic Junction Obstruction
Doctor assisting patient
What to Know About Hypernatremia
Image of kidneys
What to Expect From Cancer of the Kidney
Elbow pain
What You Should Know About a Uric Acid Test
Lady at doctor's office
Albumin Test: Uses, Side Effects, Procedure, and Results
Woman at check up visit in doctor's office
What Is a Retrograde Pyelogram?
Dialysis machine & patient
What Is Renal Tubular Acidosis?
What Is a Calcium Blood Test?
What to Expect With a Calcium Blood Test
A doctor meets with a patient.
Learn About the Uses, Side Effects, and Results of a Cortisol Test
A doctor and her patient talking in a hospital
The Uses, Side Effects, Procedure, and Results of a Sodium Test
female-doctor-with-male-patient
What Is Subjective Global Assessment?
Phlebotomist preparing to do a blood draw on a patient
Why Might You Need a Globulin Test?
Illustration of male kidneys and heart
The Interdependency Between the Heart and Kidneys
Male doctor talking to female patient lying in hospital bed
How Can My Healthcare Providers Tell If I Have Acute Kidney Failure?
Acute Interstitial Nephritis
Kidney disease
Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD): The Basics
Doctor explaining kidney diseases.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Acute Renal Failure?
Human Urinary System Kidneys with Bladder Anatomy
Hepatitis C Could Potentially Damage Your Kidneys
Doctor showing tablet to patient in medical practice
Reducing Risk of Cancer After a Kidney Transplant
Horseshoe_1500
Horseshoe Kidney: Do You Need to Worry?
Illustration of a polycystic kidney
Treatment of Polycystic Kidney Disease
a woman getting dialysis
How Acute Renal Failure Is Treated
Urine test strip with urine sample underneath it
How to Find out What Your Renal Test Results Really Mean
Pouring coffee into a blue cup
Can Drinking Too Much Coffee Give You Kidney Disease?
Human kidneys, medical 3D illustration.
Hepatitis B: Can It Cause Kidney Disease?
Male kidney anatomy, illustration
Learn All About Pyelonephritis (A Kidney Infection)
Man having dialysis
Do You Continue to Make Urine After Starting Dialysis?
Smiling senior man talking with wife and doctor in examination room
Do You Have a Renal Cyst? Here's What to Expect
Could This Drug Be a Game Changer For Diabetic Kidney Failure?

Explore Chronic Kidney Disease

More In Urological Health

Page Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chronic Kidney Disease in the United States, 2019. Updated March 11, 2019.

  2. Rodger RS. Approach to the management of end-stage renal disease. Clinical Medicine. 2012 Oct;12(5):472. doi:10.7861%2Fclinmedicine.12-5-472

  3. Veridiana A, Rodrigo R, Wilson A. Primary vesicoureteral reflux and chronic kidney disease in pediatric population. What we have learnt?. Int. Braz J Urol. 2020 Mar; 46(2): 262-268. 10.1590/s1677-5538.ibju.2020.02.02

Additional Reading