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What is CKD?

Acute kidney failure comes on suddenly. It may be the result of a toxin, accident or other cause that damages the ability of the kidneys to filter your blood. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) develops slowly over time. It could be the result of years of uncontrolled diabetes or long-term untreated high blood pressure. Interestingly, kidney disease can also be a cause of high blood pressure.

What Your Kidneys Do

You have two kidneys that resemble the bean that is their namesake. Each of your kidneys is approximately the size of your closed hand. Arteries deliver blood to each kidney. As the blood passes through nephrons in your kidneys, excess water and waste products are filtered out to become urine, which is stored in your bladder until you urinate. Your kidneys control levels of electrolytes in your blood such as calcium, potassium and sodium. Your kidneys help control your blood pressure as well as being greatly affected by it when it is high.

Kidneys Are Efficient at What They Do

You can live a normal life with only one functioning kidney. Transplant patients only receive one kidney that begins to produce urine as soon as it is connected to the patient’s blood supply. Kidneys are so efficient at filtering your blood to control levels of chemicals that can become toxic that they can lose more than 50 percent of their filtering capability before any problems begin to show up with some blood tests. Even damaged, yet stabilized, kidneys can retain functionality to the degree of delaying the need for dialysis for a long time.

What Causes CKD?

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the root causes of most cases of CKD. It is considered a chronic disease if your kidney function continues to worsen as time goes on. It may be months or years before total kidney failure requiring dialysis or transplant is necessary. Polycystic kidney disease (cysts in kidneys), vesicoureteral reflux (urine backflow into kidneys), blockage of urinary output, kidney infections and different nephritis causes can all lead to CKD.

Treating CKD

Correcting the underlying cause of CKD can help to slow or stop the progression of the disease. Controlling diabetes or high blood pressure is not a cure for CKD, but it can help retain the remaining kidney function you have. If your disease has progressed to the point that toxins and fluids are building up in your body, then dialysis must be used to take over blood filtering responsibilities your kidneys can no longer provide. A transplant can return a person severely ill with CKD to a normal quality of life. There are also medications and dietary changes to help in managing the early stages of CKD.

Dialysis and kidney transplantation offer hope for those who have CKD that has reached the end stage of total kidney failure. Dialysis can filter toxins and excess fluids from your body while you wait to receive a kidney from a donor. Since people can live healthy lives with only one kidney, relatives may be a donor match.

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