Diane W. Shannon, MD, MPH
Chronic kidney disease is a condition in which the kidneys are not working correctly. It is caused by damage to tiny structures within the kidneys called nephrons. In the early stages, chronic kidney disease does not cause symptoms; therefore, most people don’t know they have the condition.
The kidneys are bean-shaped organs located in the lower back just below the rib cage. Each kidney is about the size of a fist. The two kidneys filter blood, catch needed substances, return them to the circulation, and dispose of wastes in the urine. If the kidneys don’t filter properly, wastes build up in the blood. The kidneys also maintain the balance of water in the body and release hormones. These hormones keep the bones strong, control blood pressure, and help the body make red blood cells. If your kidneys stop working, your bones may become weak, your blood pressure may increase, and your red blood cell count may decrease.
Chronic kidney disease is a progressive condition. Doctors use stages to describe how serious it is. The stage is based on the glomerular filtration rate (GFR).
The two most common causes of chronic kidney disease are diabetes and hypertension.
Other conditions that can cause chronic kidney disease include:
Chronic renal failure can cause many complications, including:
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Last reviewed July 2013 by Adrienne Carmack, MD; Michael Woods, MD
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