What Is Kidney Disease?
Your kidneys are a pair of organs located toward your lower back. One kidney is on each side of your spine. They filter your blood and remove toxins from your body. Kidneys send toxins to your bladder, which your body later removes toxins during urination.
Kidney disease can affect your body’s ability to clean your blood, filter extra water out of your blood, and help control your blood pressure. It can also affect red blood cell production and vitamin D metabolism needed for bone health.
When your kidneys are damaged, waste products and fluid can build up in your body. That can cause swelling in your ankles, nausea, weakness, poor sleep, and shortness of breath. Without treatment, the damage can get worse and your kidneys may eventually stop working. That’s serious, and it can be life-threatening.
Kidney Disease Causes
Acute kidney disease causes: If your kidneys suddenly stop working, doctors call it acute kidney injury or acute renal failure. The main causes are:
- Not enough blood flow to the kidneys
- Direct damage to the kidneys
- Urine backed up in the kidneys
Those things can happen when you:
- Have a traumatic injury with blood loss, such as in a car wreck
- Are dehydrated or your muscle tissue breaks down, sending too much protein into your bloodstream
- Go into shock because you have a severe infection called sepsis
- Have an enlarged prostate that blocks your urine flow
- Take certain drugs or are around certain toxins that directly damage the kidney
- Have complications during a pregnancy, such as eclampsia and preeclampsia
Autoimmune diseases — when your immune system attacks your body — can also cause an acute kidney injury.
People with severe heart or liver failure commonly go into acute kidney injury as well.
Chronic kidney disease causes: When your kidneys don’t work well for longer than 3 months, doctors call it chronic kidney disease. You may not have any symptoms in the early stages, but that’s when it’s simpler to treat.
Diabetes (types 1 and 2) and high blood pressure are the most common culprits. High blood sugar levels over time can harm your kidneys. And high blood pressure creates wear and tear on your blood vessels, including those that go to your kidneys.
Kidney Disease Symptoms
Your kidneys are very adaptable. They can compensate for some of the problems that can happen when you have kidney disease. So if your kidney damage gets worse slowly, your symptoms will reveal themselves slowly over time. In fact, you may not feel symptoms until your disease is advanced.
You might have:
- High blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- A metallic taste in your mouth
- Trouble thinking
- Sleep issues
- Muscle twitches and cramps
- Swelling in your feet and ankles
- Itching that won’t go away
- Chest pain, if fluid builds up around the lining of the heart
- Shortness of breath, if fluid builds up in the lungs