• Bookmark this Page
  • Print this Page

Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic Kidney Disease, Symptoms and Causes

Chronic kidney disease is the slow loss of kidney function over time. The kidneys' main function is to remove waste and excess water from the body.

Chronic kidney disease causes a buildup of fluid and waste products in the body. Ultimately, the disease affects most body systems and functions, including red blood cell production, blood pressure control, vitamin D and bone health.

In the early stages of chronic kidney disease, there may be no symptoms. Kidneys can slowly lose function over a period of months or years. Kidney function loss can occur so slowly that symptoms do not occur until kidney function has reduced to less than one-tenth of normal function.

In the final stage of chronic kidney disease, known as end-stage renal disease (ESRD), the kidneys cease to function. At this point, the patient needs kidney dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Chronic Kidney Disease Symptoms

Early symptoms of chronic kidney disease often occur in conjunction with other illnesses. These symptoms may be the only signs of chronic kidney disease until the condition reaches more advanced stages.

Symptoms of chronic kidney disease may include:

  • General ill feeling and fatigue
  • Generalized, intense itching sensation (known as pruritus) and dry skin
  • Headaches
  • Weight loss without trying to lose weight
  • Appetite loss
  • Nausea

Other chronic kidney disease symptoms may develop, especially as kidney function worsens:

  • Abnormally dark or light skin
  • Bone pain
  • Brain and nervous system symptoms
    • Drowsiness and confusion
    • Problems thinking or concentrating
    • Numbness in the hands, feet or other areas
    • Muscle twitching or cramps
  • Breath odor
  • Easy bruising and bleeding
  • Blood in the stool
  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent hiccups
  • Low level of sexual interest and impotence
  • Menstrual periods stop (amenorrhea)
  • Sleep problems, such as insomnia, restless leg syndrome and obstructive sleep apnea
  • Swelling of feet and hands (edema)
  • Vomiting, usually in the morning

Chronic Kidney Disease Causes

The two most common chronic kidney disease causes are diabetes and high blood pressure; together, they account for most cases.

A wide variety of other diseases and conditions can lead to kidney damage including:

  • Problems involving arteries leading to or inside the kidneys
  • Birth defects of the kidneys (such as polycystic kidney disease)
  • Various pain medications and other drugs
  • Certain toxic chemicals
  • Autoimmune disorders (such as systemic lupus erythematosus and scleroderma)
  • Injury or trauma
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Kidney stones and infection