June 01, 2015

Chronic kidney disease

Early detection improves outcome

Chronic kidney disease

To many people, chronic kidney disease — or chronic kidney failure, as it's sometimes known — sounds bad. It may conjure up thoughts of dialysis and kidney transplants.

But the truth is, chronic kidney disease (CKD) spans many different stages. It's only at the final stage — end-stage kidney disease — that intensive treatment, such as dialysis or a transplant, is necessary.

In its initial stages, CKD doesn't really cause any symptoms. Your kidneys — some of the most industrious organs in your body with plenty of work capacity — are able to function despite increasing damage.

Consequently, CKD often goes unnoticed initially. But it's precisely at this phase that early detection and treatment can change the course of the disease. By taking appropriate steps, you can protect your kidneys from further damage and prevent the disease from worsening to the point of kidney failure.

Your kidneys

Your kidneys are two fist-sized organs just under your rib cage, one on each side of your spine. One of their biggest jobs is to remove excess fluid and waste material from your blood.

Every day, your kidneys filter between 30 and 50 gallons of blood. Blood enters each kidney from its renal artery, which branches off the aorta, the body's main artery.

Within the kidney, blood passes through tiny filtering units called nephrons. There are about a million nephrons in each kidney. Each nephron consists of a tuft of small blood vessels (glomerulus) and attached small tubes (renal tubules).

Out of the...