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Home > Services > Kidney Care > Kidney Conditions > Kidney Disease

Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease is a condition in which the kidneys are not working correctly. It's caused by damage to tiny structures within the kidneys called nephrons. 

The kidneys are bean-shaped organs located in the lower back just below the rib cage. Kidneys filter blood, catch needed substances, return them to the circulation and dispose of wastes in the urine. If the kidneys don’t filter properly, wastes build up in the blood.

The kidneys also maintain the balance of water in the body and release hormones. These hormones keep the bones strong, control blood pressure and help the body make red blood cells. If your kidneys stop working, your bones may become weak, your blood pressure may increase and your red blood cell count may decrease.

Are You at Risk?

Consider getting screened if you have any of the following risk factors:

  • Diabetes (about one-third of people with diabetes will develop kidney disease, according to the National Kidney Foundation)
  • Heart disease
  • Lupus
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Recurring kidney infections
  • Urinary track blockages

According to the National Institutes of Health, chronic kidney disease may also result from:

  • A direct and forceful blow to the kidneys
  • Prolonged consumption of some over-the-counter painkillers that combine aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen
  • Family history of kidney disease

Diagnosis & Treatment at UVA

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam. You will also undergo a few tests, including:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests

Treatment of less advanced stages may include lifestyle changes or medication. Severe chronic kidney disease must be treated with dialysis or kidney transplantation.

Prevention

Take the following steps to care for or prevent kidney disease:

  • Monitor and control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid prolonged use of ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Take steps to prevent bone disease by monitoring your calcium, phosphate and vitamin D intake
  • Talk to your doctor about medication dosages so medicine doesn't accumulate in the body and lead to side effects

Get Screened

Simple blood and urine tests can reveal early signs of kidney disease. Protein in urine signals that a person’s kidneys aren't eliminating wastes as they should.

You should also see a doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms:

  • Increased urination (especially at night)
  • Blood in your urine
  • Swelling of hands, feet and eyes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Thirst
  • Bad taste in your mouth
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle twitching and cramping

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Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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