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Definition

Also known as chronic kidney failure, Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is the gradual loss of kidney function which involves filtering wastes and excess fluids from the blood, which gets excreted in your urine.

Symptoms

The following signs and symptoms of chronic kidney disease are so non-specific that they may not appear until at an irreversible stage:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite, sleep, weight and interest in sex
  • Tiredness and weakness
  • Excessive thirst
  • Blood in stools and irregular urine output
  • Poor mental agility, confusion and drowsiness
  • Loss of muscle mass, twitches and cramps and aches in bones
  • Restless leg syndrome and numbness in hands and feet
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Hiccups
  • Periorbital edema - inflammation around the eyes
  • Pedal edema - Inflammation of ankles and feet
  • Urine-like bad breath
  • Persistent itching
  • Chest pain in case of a fluid build-up around the lining of the heart
  • Shortness of breath in case of a fluid build-up in the lungs
  • Uremic frost - Unusual dark, ashen or light skin prone to bruises and bleeding
  • Uncontrollable High blood pressure (hypertension)

Risk Factors

The following are the risk factors of chronic kidney disease:

  • Diabetes (Type 1 and 2)
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol
  • Being African-American, Native American or Asian-American
  • Family history of kidney disease
  • Age 65 or older
  • Kidney cancer, kidney stones, bladder cancer and kidney infection
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Obstructive kidney disease, including bladder obstruction caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cirrhosis and liver failure
  • Narrowing of the artery that supplies your kidney
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
  • Scleroderma
  • Vasculitis
  • Vesicoureteral reflux, which occurs when urine flows back into your kidney

Diagnosis

The following tests and procedures are required to ascertain the presence of chronic kidney disease:

  • Medical history
  • Blood tests - Complete Blood Count (CBC), Electrolytes, Parathyroid Hormone (PTH) and kidney function tests to check creatinine and blood urea nitrogen levels in the blood.
  • Urine tests - To check any urine abnormalities
  • Imaging tests - Renal flow and scan and renal ultrasound to assess your kidneys' structure and size.
  • Kidney biopsy - Removing a sample of kidney tissue for testing
  • Bone density test
  • Abdominal CT scan and MRI

Treatment

Usually, chronic kidney disease has no cure and treatment revolves around measures to help control signs and symptoms, reduce complications, and slow the progression of the disease with medications to treat high blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, treat anaemia, relieve swelling and protect bones . A low protein diet is also prescribed. End-stages of the disease require dialysis and kidney transplant.

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