The main job of each kidney is to filter waste and excess water out of your blood to make urine. They help maintain the body's chemical balance, control blood pressure and make hormones. Damaged kidneys can cause waste to build up in your body as well as other health problems. 

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of chronic kidney disease. Other causes include:

  • Arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries
  • Blockage in the urinary system
  • Cancer
  • Chronic infections, such as pyelonephritis, a kidney infection that often spreads from bacteria in the bladder
  • Cirrhosis or scarring of the liver
  • Collagen diseases, such as:
    • Lupus, which occurs when the immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues by mistake
    • Scleroderma, abnormal growth of connective tissue in skin or body organs
  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Cystic kidney disease
  • Drug abuse or other poisons
  • Glomerulonephritis, a type of kidney disease that damages the kidneys so they are unable to filter waste and fluids from the blood
  • Heart problems, such as heart disease or heart failure
  • Kidney stones 

Chronic kidney disease occurs over a long period of time. Although it cannot be stopped or cured, you and your health care team can work together to slow its progress.


If the kidneys do not start working on their own, dialysis or other treatment may be needed. Your doctor may also want to start tracking a kidney function measure called the Estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate (eGFR), an approximate calculation of the amount of kidney function that remains.

It is important to track your baseline eGFR and changes in this score over time. Ask your health care team about what is normal for you.


A doctor specializing in kidney disease, called a nephrologist, will help with your treatment.

Treatment may include medicines to lower blood pressure, control blood glucose and lower blood cholesterol.

If it continues to get worse over time, chronic kidney disease may lead to kidney failure. The only treatment options for kidney failure are dialysis or a kidney transplant.

You can take steps to keep your kidneys healthier longer:
  • Choose foods with less salt (sodium)
  • Keep your blood pressure below 130/80
  • Keep your blood glucose in the target range, if you have diabetes

If you are being treated for kidney disease, contact your doctor if you see any changes to your condition or if any of these signs worsen:

  • Swelling in the hands, face or feet
  • Itching of the skin
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Changes in urination
  • Headache and confusion
  • Fatigue and weakness, which may be due to anemia
  • Feeling short of breath 

Why seek treatment at Ohio State

Ohio State is recognized by U.S.News & World Report as one of the nation's best hospitals for urology and nephrology. Schedule an appointment with Ohio State's urology and kidney experts.

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