What Does It Mean When Kidneys Hurt – Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a long-term condition in which the kidneys work worse than they should. This page provides information about CKD, its treatment and what to expect.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) means that your kidneys are not working properly. They cannot remove waste products from your body. Damage to the kidney’s filter system can also cause blood and protein to leak into the urine. It is not always visible, but it can be detected by a urinalysis.
What Does It Mean When Kidneys Hurt
The term “chronic” means that it is a long-term condition. This does not mean you have serious kidney damage, as many cases of CKD are mild and can be managed with the help of your GP and do not involve hospitalisation.
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Most people are diagnosed with blood and urine tests. You may have these tests as part of a routine checkup or because you are at risk of developing CKD.
After the diagnosis, the doctor will determine what stage you have CKD. This is done by measuring the amount of creatinine, a waste product that builds up in kidney disease. Your doctors can use this to check how well your kidneys are working. You may hear this called your estimated glomerular filtration rate (e-GFR). This is based on how quickly your kidneys clean your blood and is measured in milliliters per minute
Most people with stage one to stage three CKD can manage themselves with their GP and do not need any specialist advice from doctors.
CKD can get worse slowly over time, although it remains stable for most people, and only a very small number of people will need kidney replacement therapy, such as dialysis. It is not uncommon for kidney function to improve significantly after a kidney injury, but this depends on the cause of the problem.
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So. Around 10% of people in the UK have CKD. For people over 80 years old, this indicator increases to 20%. This is usually a mild phenomenon and may not be serious. Most patients with CKD do not have any symptoms and do not need special care.
Anyone can develop CKD. It can affect children and adults of any age. Some people are born with it, and some people develop it with age. It can run in some families and is more common in people of Asian or African descent.
Your doctor will try to determine the cause of CKD in your case. Most people will be cared for by their GP, but some people will need to see a kidney specialist and have further tests. It is not always possible to know what caused the damage.
Most people have no symptoms of CKD. Even if your kidneys are damaged, they may be working well enough to prevent any symptoms. You can be born with only one kidney and still be healthy.
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You can still produce a normal amount of urine even if you have CKD, but your kidneys can’t remove the toxins from your body that they need to keep you healthy. It’s the quality, not the quantity, of the urine you produce that matters!
Although you may not have any symptoms of CKD, kidney damage can still affect your health. CKD can increase the chance of high blood pressure, heart disease, or stroke. Therefore, it is important that you have regular check-ups with your GP or a gynaecologist.
Having CKD increases the risk of developing acute kidney injury (AKI). This is a sudden decrease in kidney function, usually due to disease or infection. AKI is usually very treatable, but it can cause permanent decline in kidney function.
At your first visit, your kidney specialist will try to determine the cause of your CKD. After this visit, your weight and blood pressure will be measured at each visit, and your urine sample will be checked for blood, protein, or signs of infection. You will have blood tests to measure kidney function and check for signs of anemia, bone health, and blood acidity levels. You will talk to your doctor about your symptoms and discuss what treatments are available.
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If your kidney function is stable and moderate, you will usually be referred back to your GP. You should have an annual check-up to make sure everything is fine, but special treatment may not be necessary.
You can get treatment for some of the symptoms of kidney disease, including anemia, fluid retention, and treatment to keep your bones healthy.
If you are approaching the late stages of CKD, you should start learning about the possible treatments available.
Management. There are big decisions to be made and all kidney specialists will give you support and advice to help you decide what you want to do.
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If you smoke, stop. If necessary, get help to stop. There are many treatment methods.
Try to control your blood pressure. Take any blood pressure medication regularly and as directed by your doctor. Reduce the amount of salt in your diet to less than 6g (one teaspoon) per day.
Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, have diabetes or have advanced kidney disease and need dietary advice, ask your GP about services available in your area. They may refer you to a nutritionist for a specialist consultation.
Avoid anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, as they can make kidney disease worse. Ask your pharmacist every time you are given a new medicine to make sure you can take it with reduced kidney function
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If you feel unwell, you may need to temporarily stop taking certain medications. This is especially important if you are taking blood pressure medication. Discuss this with your GP, pharmacist or kidney specialist.
Most people have two kidneys (although 1 in 10,000 of us are born with only one kidney), and if we are healthy, our two kidneys work by filtering waste from the bloodstream and leaving the body as urine. Our kidneys help control blood pressure and produce a hormone that helps make red blood cells and stop anemia. They also play a big role in maintaining healthy bones. In addition, they maintain a number of salts and chemicals at the right level in the body, such as sodium, potassium, phosphate and calcium. Any chemical imbalance can cause problems in other parts of the body, and as kidney disease can interfere with treatment, it is important for patients to seek advice from their GP or consultant.
We know how difficult it can be to diagnose a long-term condition like kidney disease. We are here to provide full support to help improve the quality of life for anyone affected by kidney disease and have a number of ways to help support you:
Kidney disease affects different people in different ways, both physically and emotionally. It can affect many aspects of life, including personal relationships, work and social life.
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Get help with many aspects of living with kidney disease, including mental health, diet, fluid restrictions, questions to ask your doctor and benefits, in our Living with Kidney Disease section.
Most people with chronic kidney disease experience only a mild to moderate decline in kidney function with few symptoms. However, it can progress to a more serious stage when the kidneys stop working – this is called kidney failure.
About 10% of people with CKD may reach a stage known as end-stage kidney disease, where the kidneys no longer work well enough to support our health and life, and the maintenance that treatment with dialysis or a kidney transplant is considered. Remember, it’s never too late to review your health care options, and you can change your treatment, too. Always consult your kidney care team for good advice.
Stone migration. Transplantation is the best treatment for most patients with established renal failure. Transplant extends life expectancy, improves quality of life and provides an opportunity to eliminate dialysis.
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Dialysis. Dialysis is an artificial method of removing wastes and unwanted water from the blood. You can choose between:
No dialysis: Some patients choose a path called conservative treatment rather than dialysis treatment. It may be suitable for people with other medical conditions who find dialysis unsuitable for them.
This is the most successful treatment for kidney failure. Donor kidneys come from two sources: a national pool of deceased (cadaveric) donors or a living donor. Kidneys from living donors offer the best chance of overall success and avoid the need to join a national transplant waiting list. One in three kidney transplants in the UK is now performed from a living donor, either between close family members (blood relatives) or between non-blood relatives, including those partner and friend.
It is important to talk about living donation with friends and family. If you have someone who wants to donate a kidney but they cannot match your blood type and tissue type, there is now a national scheme
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