Chronic Kidney Disease | CKD

Many people do not know they have kidney disease. But if the kidneys are damaged, wastes and toxins are not filtered properly, leading to health problems.

The doctors and specialists at MaineHealth have the skill and experience to evaluate patients and make sure they get the care they need.

What is chronic kidney disease?

With chronic kidney disease (CKD), the kidneys do not have the ability to filter and clean blood as well as they should.

There are five stages of kidney disease that are based on how well the kidneys filter waste and fluid from the blood.

  • In early stage kidney disease, there are higher levels of creatinine (urea) in the blood, as well as blood or protein in urine. The patient usually does not have any symptoms.  Kidney damage may show up when diagnostic screening is done of the kidneys.
  • In late-stage kidney disease, there may be fluid retention, shortness of breath, dark-colored urine and kidney pain in the back. Other symptoms include nausea, bad breath and nerve problems.
  • At Stage 5, the kidneys have lost almost all functioning. This is called end-stage renal disease. The patient will need dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive.

Kidney disease symptoms

Some kidney disease symptoms may not be present until minimal kidney function remains. These symptoms include:

  • Feeling overly tired

  • Poor appetite

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Dry, itchy skin

  • Muscle cramping, especially at night

  • Puffy eyes, especially in the morning

  • Swelling in the body

  • Frequent urge to urinate, especially at night

CKD symptoms do not always show up until the kidneys are not functioning as they should. It is important to get tested if you believe you could be at risk of kidney disease.

Diagnosing kidney disease

Early testing and diagnosis can keep kidney disease from getting worse. If you believe you may be at risk, contact your doctor about getting tested.

The only way to know if you have chronic kidney disease is through a blood test and a urine test.

Doctors will continue screening if tests are positive. An ultrasound of your kidneys will show physical damage. A kidney biopsy may be done to show how damaged the kidneys are.

Kidney disease management

Kidney disease can be managed with proper treatment and lifestyle changes. Catching kidney disease in earlier stages makes management easier.

Controlling blood pressure and blood sugar are key ways to manage CKD. Your healthcare provider may advise you to change your diet and habits. These changes include:

  • Exercise

  • Quitting smoking

  • Not abusing alcohol or drugs

  • Low-protein diet

  • Taking medications to closely manage diabetes and high blood pressure

Kidney disease treatment

In addition to lifestyle changes, people with kidney disease may need dialysis or a kidney transplant in the later stages of the disease. Your doctor also may prescribe medications.

The risk for developing chronic kidney disease increases for people with:

  • Diabetes

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

  • Kidney injury from infections, medications, or other causes

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Excess weight

  • High cholesterol

  • Lupus

  • Family history of CKD

  • Older age