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Renal Specialists of Northwest Arkansas Education and Resources

Renal Specialists of Northwest Arkansas is committed to providing high quality care and wellness education to our patients. Please use this page to explore educational resources.

Chronic Kidney Disease - Signs, Treatment and Prevention

Chronic kidney disease affects approximately 15% of the U.S. population. But what is it, and what are the warning signs?

First, it’s important to understand the role your kidneys have in keeping you healthy. “The kidneys are paired organs that purify the blood and remove toxins that the body generates,” says Dr. Umbar Ghaffar, a nephrologist at Renal Specialists of Northwest Arkansas. “They also help with the maintenance of salt and water balance, bone health and cell production, so they are very important organs.”

Ghaffar says chronic kidney disease, or CKD, is fairly common. “Chronic kidney disease is defined as any abnormality in structure or function of the kidney that persists for more than three months,” she explains. “Unfortunately, about eight out of nine people that have CKD don't know that they actually have that diagnosis.”

Chronic kidney disease is more common in certain groups of people:

  • Women
  • People over age 65
  • African Americans

Certain conditions may also increase your risk of CKD. Those include diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, a family history of chronic kidney disease and recurrent kidney infections. Some autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, may also increase your risk. Ghaffar says people with those risk factors should be screened to detect chronic kidney disease in its early stages.

Ghaffar says people in the early stages of kidney disease may not have symptoms and may go undiagnosed unless their doctor orders specific testing. “Even in the absence of symptoms, it is fairly simple to diagnose CKD based on simple lab work.”

As chronic kidney disease progresses, symptoms become more common. “Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, decreased appetite, difficulty sleeping, poor energy levels, fatigue, leg swelling and things like that,” says Ghaffar. “If you notice any of those warning signs, talk with your physician about being screened for CKD.”

Ghaffar says the earlier chronic kidney disease is detected, the easier it is to treat. Managing contributing factors, such as blood pressure, diabetes, quitting smoking, losing weight and avoiding certain medications that can harm the kidneys can help prevent the progression of chronic kidney disease. For people whose chronic kidney disease reaches and advanced stage, Ghaffar says they usually need some form of renal replacement therapy. “Once a patient reaches stage five chronic kidney disease, they would typically need dialysis or a kidney transplant. Dialysis is where a machine is used to filter the blood and remove toxins and extra fluid from the body when the kidneys are not able to do that job. With a kidney transplant, even though it may seem like a daunting option, it has the best long-term outcome for a patient with CKD.”

To keep your kidneys healthy, Ghaffar says it’s important to keep your body healthy. “Drink water to keep yourself hydrated and eat healthy. That means eating more fruits and vegetables and lean protein. Exercise is also important, as well as managing modifiable risk factors. Those are all things in the long run that will keep your kidneys healthier.”