Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) 

The role of the kidneys is to remove waste products and extra water from the blood. When the kidneys don't work as they should, waste products start to build up in the blood. This is called chronic kidney disease (CKD). CKD means that you have kidney damage or a decrease in kidney function lasting at least 3 months. CKD allows extra water, waste, and toxins to build up in the body. This can eventually become life-threatening. You might need dialysis or a kidney transplant to stay alive. This most severe form is called end stage renal disease.

Diabetes is the leading causes of chronic renal failure. Other causes include high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), lupus, inflammation of the blood vessels (vasculitis), and past viral or bacterial infections. Certain over-the-counter pain medicines can cause renal failure when taken often over a long period of time. These include aspirin, ibuprofen, and related anti-inflammatory medicines called NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).

Home care

The following guidelines will help you care for yourself at home:

  • If you have diabetes, talk with your healthcare provider about keeping your blood sugar under control. Ask if you need to make and changes to your diet, lifestyle, or medicines.

  • If you have high blood pressure:

    • Take prescribed medicine to lower your blood pressure to the recommended goal of less than 130/80.

    • Start a regular exercise program that you enjoy. Check with your healthcare provider to be sure your planned exercise program is right for you.

    • Eat less salt (sodium). Your healthcare provider can tell you how much salt per day is safe for you.

  • If you are overweight, talk with your healthcare provider about a weight loss plan.

  • If you smoke, you must quit. Smoking makes kidney disease worse and puts you at risk for developing other serious illnesses. Talk with your healthcare provider about ways to help you quit.  For more information, visit the following links:

    • www.smokefree.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/clearing-the-air-accessible.pdf

    • www.smokefree.gov

    • www.cancer.org/healthy/stayawayfromtobacco/guidetoquittingsmoking/

  • Most people with CKD need to follow a special diet.  Be sure you understand yours. In general, you will need to limit protein, salt, potassium, and phosphorus. You also need to limit how much fluid you drink. 

  • CKD is a risk factor for heart disease. Talk with your healthcare provider about any other risk factors you might have and what you can do to lessen them.

  • Talk with your healthcare provider about any medicines you are taking to find out if they need to be reduced or stopped.

  • For your own safety, check with your doctor before taking any medicines or supplements. Don't use the following over-the-counter medicines. Or consult your healthcare provider before using them:

    • Aspirin and NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Using acetaminophen for fever or pain is OK.

    • Laxatives and antacids containing magnesium or aluminum

    • Fleet or phospho soda enemas containing phosphorus

    • Certain stomach acid-blocking medicine such as cimetidine or ranitidine 

    • Decongestants containing pseudoephedrine 

    • Herbal supplements

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. Contact one of the following for more information:

  • American Association of Kidney Patients www.aakp.org

  • National Kidney Foundation www.kidney.org

  • American Kidney Fund www.kidneyfund.org

  • National Kidney Disease Education Program www.nkdep.nih.gov

If an X-ray, ECG (cardiogram), or other diagnostic test was taken, you will be told of any new findings that may affect your care.

Call 911

Call 911 if you have any of the following:

  • Severe weakness, dizziness, fainting, drowsiness, or confusion

  • Chest pain or shortness of breath

  • Heart beating fast, slow, or irregularly

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Unexpected weight gain or swelling in the legs, ankles, or around the eyes

  • Decrease or absent urine output

  • New symptoms or symptoms that get worse

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