Hypertension and chronic kidney disease


Overview

The kidneys play a key role in keeping blood pressure in a healthy range. In turn, blood pressure can affect the health of the kidneys. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, can damage the kidneys and lead to chronic kidney disease (CKD).

High blood pressure, or hypertension, makes the heart work harder and, over time, can damage blood vessels throughout the body. If the kidneys' blood vessels are damaged, they may stop removing wastes and extra fluid from the body. The extra fluid in the blood vessels may then raise blood pressure even more and cause hypertension. It’s a dangerous cycle.

High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of kidney failure, also called end-stage renal disease (ESRD). People with kidney failure must either receive a kidney transplant or have regular blood-cleansing treatments called dialysis.

Causes

A variety of factors can affect blood pressure, including:

  • The amount of water and salt in the body
  • The condition of the kidneys, nervous system, or blood vessels
  • The levels of different body hormones
  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Family history of high blood pressure

Every year, hypertension causes more than 25,000 new cases of kidney failure in the United States. Although everyone has some risk of developing kidney failure from high blood pressure, the top high-risk groups are African Americans and people with diabetes. In fact, African Americans are six times more likely than Caucasians to develop hypertension-related kidney failure.

Symptoms

Most people with high blood pressure have no hypertension symptoms. When symptoms occur, they might include:

  • Confusion
  • Ear noise or buzzing
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nosebleed
  • Vision changes

Diagnosis

A health professional can test for hypertension by measuring blood pressure with a blood pressure cuff. To confirm a diagnosis of high blood pressure, it is important to have blood pressure checked repeatedly over time. A person’s blood pressure is considered normal if it stays at or below 120/80. A person whose systolic blood pressure is consistently 140 or higher or whose diastolic pressure is 90 or higher is considered to have high blood pressure and should talk with a doctor about the best ways to lower it.