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Chronic Kidney Disease- Stages, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment Explained

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Chronic kidney diseases are not apparent until they progress significantly and impair the kidneys to 25% from normal. According to the National Kidney Foundation, 96% of individuals are unaware of their kidney problems in the initial stages. Studies claim that kidney diseases cause more deaths than breast or prostate cancer.

Stages of Chronic Kidney Disease

There are 5 stages through which chronic kidney disease progresses. Each stage projects the condition of the kidneys. Kidney diseases start at stage 1 and end at stage 5 where the organ eventually fails to filter the waste out of the body. The intensity of the damage is measured by doing a blood test- glomerular filtration rate (eGFR). eGFR more than 90 ml/min states healthy kidneys.

Stage 1: eGFR score might be 90 or plus but mild damage might have started surfacing with no symptoms. If protein content is discovered in urine, then the doctor can assert for Stage 1 kidney failure.

Stage 2: At this stage eGFR drops between 60-89 ml/min. It can also have mild damages with no symptoms but slight traces of protein in the urine.

Stage 3: At this stage, the kidneys become moderately damaged. The stage is further classified into 2 stages:

  • Stage 3a: eGFR between 45 ml/min and 59 ml/min
  • Stage 3b: eGFR between 30 ml/min and 44 ml/min

It’ symptoms include anemia, back pain, swelling in hand & feet and the urge to go urine more than often.

Stage 4: At this stage the kidney damage starts getting intense, making the kidneys to nearly stop functioning. It holds eGFR between 15-30 ml/min. Its symptoms include fluid retention, fatigue, change in the color of urine, nausea/ vomiting, loss of appetite, etc.

Stage 5: At the stage, the disease advances beyond control. It holds eGFR of 15 ml/min or less. Its symptoms include little or no urine, swelling, muscle cramps, increased skin pigmentation, nausea/ vomiting, etc.

Causes of Kidney Failure

The major cause of kidney problems is the malfunctioning of some other organ or part of the body or pertaining disease. The following are the major causes of kidney failures:

  • Diabetes- High blood glucose levels damage the blood vessels in kidneys, leading to the impairment of the kidneys.
  • High Blood Pressure- Hypertension or high blood pressure damages glomeruli, the blood vessels present in the kidneys. This hampers the functioning of kidneys abruptly.
  • Glomerulonephritis- This is the third most common cause of chronic kidney disease. It affects the filtering units present in the kidneys, hence, the kidney fails.
  • Prolonged Obstruction in Urinary Tract- Urine flow gets blocked majorly due to the development of kidney stones or tumor. When this situation persists, it starts retaining urine in the kidney and other parts of the body, thus affecting the functioning of the kidneys.
  • Genetic Diseases- Depending upon the intensity and the development of malformations/ diseases at the time of birth, kidney failure problems can persist.
  • Infections– Infections in the urinary tract can affect the functioning of kidneys.

Symptoms of Kidney Failure

Though the symptoms of chronic kidney disease are not apparent until the damage is 75% done; however, in the later stages the following symptoms indicate the chances of kidney failure:

  • Fluid Retention
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Persistent Itching in Skin
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Edema- Swollen Feet or Ankle
  • Hypertension
  • Dark urine
  • Intense Headaches, often unexplained
  • Erectile Dysfunction (in males)
  • High protein content in urine

Kidney Disease Treatment

Early detection of kidney problems is the best-known treatment so far as the damage can be revived or slowed down at the stage of minimal determination. Medications, diet control, and exercise can help in curing the disease in the early stages. After that damage has progressed significantly, dialysis or kidney transplant are the available treatments.

  • Dialysis- It is further classified into 2 categories based on the procedure:
    • Hemodialysis Dialysis- This dialysis procedure involves the removal of waste fluids from the blood by passing the blood through a dialysis machine called, a dialyzer. After the purification, the blood is pumped back to the body through the attached tubes. The frequency of the procedure is 2-3 times per week.
    • Peritoneal Dialysis- It involves the cleansing of the blood inside the abdomen. It uses a special fluid called dialysate. Dialysate uses the abdomen as a filter and absorbs the extra fluid and waste from the body. Peritoneal dialysis can be done anywhere, at work, home or dialysis center.
  • Kidney Transplant- The following are the three types of kidney transplant:
    • Deceased-donor kidney transplant
    • Living-donor kidney transplant
    • Pre-emptive kidney transplant

Kidneys of a deceased donor can be utilized by a kidney patient provided the medical parameters of both the people match. It is a surgical procedure and is bound by some medications to maintain the transplant. Apart from the deceased donor kidney transplant, kidneys donated by living donors are also used. A Pre-emptive kidney transplant involves replacing the kidney before it deteriorates.


Early detection is the optimal way of curing kidney problems. The diagnosis of kidney problems is attained by the following two laboratory tests:

  • Urine Test- The test reveals the amount of protein content present in the urine. Kidneys start leaking protein from blood mainstream into the urine when they deteriorate.
  • Blood Test- It identifies the Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR), which is a measure of the performance of the kidney filters.

Consult your doctor before stepping in for tests or taking medications.

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