Chronic Kidney Disease Affects Over One-Third of Diabetics in the U.S.

Patients with long-standing diabetes are at high risk for developing renal failure

The kidneys are two fist-sized organs located in the back of the abdomen on either side of the spine, directly above the waist. Our kidneys perform several crucial and life-sustaining functions including removing waste and excess fluid and regulating blood pressure.

The two main causes of chronic kidney disease (CKD) are diabetes and high blood pressure. It is estimated that out of the 22 million people in the U.S. diagnosed with diabetes, about 40% exhibit kidney disease. CKD may also be caused by immune deficiencies (i.e. lupus), life-threatening viral infections (i.e. HIV/AIDS), urinary tract infections, inflammation, congenital defects, damage incurred from drug use or toxins, or a condition called polycystic kidney disease (PKD), in which fluid-filled cysts form in the kidneys.

Hypertension, uncontrolled blood sugar may pose irreversible kidney damage

In the early stages, there may be no symptoms and the damage to the kidneys can get progressively worse over months or years. When chronic kidney disease reaches an advanced stage, waste products and fluids build up, causing swelling in the ankles, vomiting, weakness, poor sleep, and shortness of breath. Diseased kidneys may result in complications including high blood pressure, anemia (low blood count), weak bones, and nerve damage. Kidney disease can also elevate a person’s risk of heart and blood vessel disease.

Some common, and even early, indications of CKD are:
• Lethargy
• Difficulty concentrating
• Poor appetite
• Trouble sleeping
• Muscle cramping at night
• Swollen feet and ankles
• Puffiness around eyes
• Dry, itchy skin
• Frequent urge to urinate

Chronic kidney disease can eventually lead to end stage renal disease

Chronic kidney disease eventually progresses to kidney failure—the complete shutdown of the organs—leaving the patient dependent on dialysis or in need of a kidney transplant to sustain life.

To confirm a diagnosis of CKD, doctors will collect a blood sample in order to estimate the Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR), which is the best method to gauge a patient’s stage of kidney disease and helps in planning treatment options. The estimate is calculated using a formula that takes into account the blood creatinine level (a normal by-product of muscle breakdown), age, race, and gender. CT scans may also be used to get a picture of the kidneys and urinary tract, and in some instances, doctors may perform a kidney biopsy to check for a specific type of kidney disease.

Though chronic kidney disease affects people of all ages and races, it is most common in older adults and certain ethnic groups such as African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and American Indians, in whom diabetes and high blood pressure are more prevalent.