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Quick Facts

Chronic Kidney Disease

(Chronic Kidney Failure)


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Aug 2021| Content last modified Aug 2021
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Your kidneys are 2 bean-shaped organs that produce urine. They're about the size of your fist and are in the back of your abdomen, near your spine. Kidneys balance your body’s water and mineral levels and filter waste out of your blood.

What is chronic kidney disease?

A chronic disease is one that starts slowly and lasts a long time. So, chronic kidney disease is when your kidneys slowly lose their ability to filter (clean) your blood, remove waste, and make urine. Your kidneys stop working over a period of several months or years.

Chronic kidney failure is what doctors used to call chronic kidney disease. They used that term so people didn't confuse it that with other long-term kidney diseases that didn't make the kidneys stop working.

The Urinary Tract

The Urinary Tract

What are the complications of chronic kidney disease?

What causes chronic kidney disease?

What are the symptoms of chronic kidney disease?

Your symptoms depend on how severe your kidney disease is.

Symptoms of mild kidney disease:

  • Needing to urinate several times at night

Symptoms of moderate kidney problems:

  • Feeling tired, weak, confused, and less alert

  • Being less hungry

  • Shortness of breath

  • Feeling sick to your stomach

  • A bad taste in your mouth

With severe kidney problems you may also have:

How can doctors tell if I have chronic kidney disease?

Your doctor will do:

  • Blood tests to measure the amount of waste products building up in your blood

  • Urine tests

  • Ultrasound to look at your kidneys

  • Sometimes, take a small piece of one of your kidneys to look at it under a microscope (biopsy)

How do doctors treat chronic kidney disease?

Doctors treat the problem that's causing chronic kidney disease or making it worse. Common treatments are:

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