U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Living with Kidney Disease

If you have been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease—or have a family member or friend who has—you probably have a lot of questions. What does it mean to have chronic kidney disease? How will it impact my health and my life? Will I need dialysis? What do I do now? We hope this site will provide some answers.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

What is kidney disease?

Kidney disease means that the kidneys are damaged and can't filter blood like they should. This damage can cause wastes to build up in the body. It can also cause other problems that can harm your health.

For most people, kidney damage occurs slowly over many years, often due to diabetes or high blood pressure. This is called chronic kidney disease. When someone has a sudden change in kidney function - because of illness, injury, or have taken certain medications - this is called acute kidney injury. This can occur in a person with normal kidneys or in someone who already has kidney problems.

People with kidney disease often have high blood pressure, and are more likely to have a stroke or heart attack. They can also develop anemia (low number of red blood cells), bone disease, and malnutrition. Kidney disease can get worse over time, and may lead to kidney failureLearn about what your kidneys do.​

What causes kidney disease?

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of kidney disease. Other important causes include glomerulonephritis and polycystic kidney disease. Your provider will want to know why you have kidney disease so your treatment can also address the cause.​

Can kidney disease be treated?

Treatment may help slow kidney disease and keep the kidneys healthier longer. Find out about medicines and diet and lifestyle changes that are important for people with kidney disease.

Take these steps to help keep your kidneys healthier longer:

  • Choose foods with less salt (sodium).
  • Keep your blood pressure at or below the target set by your health care provider. For most people, the blood pressure target is less than 140/90 mm Hg.
  • Keep your blood glucose in the target range, if you have diabetes.

Work with your health care team to figure out the treatment plan that makes the most sense for you. With proper management, you may never need dialysis or, at least, not for a very long time.

NIDDK conducts and supports research to improve the detection of kidney disease, as well as treatment for those with kidney disease and kidney failure. For example, the Chronic Renal Insufficiency Cohort (CRIC) Study, an NIDDK-funded study started in 2001, is working to better understand kidney disease and its link to heart disease. NIDDK also supports many clinical trials, which are research studies to determine how well a treatment works. To learn more about eligibility and how to get involved in a clinical trial, visit www.clinicaltrial.gov.​​​


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