The information provided here is offered as a general guide; if you suspect that you might have kidney disease, you should talk to your doctor in the first instance.
CKD – A Global Problem
The first point to make about chronic kidney disease (CKD) is that it is a global health problem. The number of people suffering from CKD is currently estimated to be 900 million. Annual deaths from CKD may be as high as 1.5 million (at the time of writing the full impact of COVID 19 on people suffering from kidney disease is unknown). The point is that if you have been diagnosed with CKD, you are not alone, there are a lot of people out there in the same boat. The vast majority of CKD deaths are linked to high blood pressure and diabetes.
Causes and Symptoms
According to the NHS website, the causes of CKD can include the long term effects of high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, infections and inflammations (glomerulonephritis), polycystic kidney disease, blockages that cause problems in the flow of urine (enlarged prostate, recurrent kidney stones) and certain kinds of medication. A key point to bear in mind is that lifestyle changes might improve these contributory factors and therefore CKD.
In the very early stages of CKD there are often no visible symptoms, that’s why CKD is often picked up by blood or urine tests during medical checkups. The most common noticeable symptoms include general tiredness and shortness of breath, swelling of the ankles and blood in the urine.
Chronic Kidney Disease Diagnosis
There is a formula that is used to calculate the amount of creatinine your kidney can filter out of your blood, it’s called the estimated glomerular filtration rate (GFR). If your GFR score is too low it can indicate CKD. In addition, a urine test can measure the ratio of albumin and creatinine (ACR) in the urine. Together the GFR and the ACR provide insight into possible problems with kidney function. If disease is suspected a scan or even a biopsy may be used to confirm the blood and urine test results.
Currently, estimated GFR is used to categorise the severity of kidney function.
- Stage 1 – A GFR above 90 but other signs of possible problems (G1)
- Stage 2 – A GFR between 60 and 89 but with signs of possible problems (G2)
- Stage 3a – A GFR of 45 to 59 (G3a)
- Stage 3b – A GFR of 30 to 44 (G3b)
- Stage 4 – A GFR of 15 to 29 (G4)
- Stage 5 – A GFR below 15 (G5)
Treatment of CKD
Several lifestyle changes may be recommended as part of a plan to protect your kidney function such as; losing weight, regular exercise, stopping smoking and reducing alcohol intake. There is medication available to help control high blood pressure. And for people at the advanced stages, kidney dialysis or a kidney transplant might be recommended by a doctor.