Chronic Kidney Disease



CKD is caused by damage or disease in the kidneys. Common causes are:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Problems with the kidneys, such as:
    • Cystic kidney disease
    • Blockages from kidney stones
    • Glomerulonephritis
    • Acute tubular necrosis
    • Renal tubular disorders
    • Damage due to drugs or toxins
  • Severe infection
  • Problems with the immune system

Risk Factors

CKD is more common in older adults. Smoking and alcohol use disorder are the main risk factors. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Family history of kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Vesicoureteral reflux—back up of urine into kidneys
  • Infections, such as long-term urinary tract infections
  • Exposure to high levels of lead
  • Being overweight or obese
  • A prior kidney transplant



CKD may cause problems such as:

  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Not wanting to eat
  • Nausea
  • Itching
  • Feeling that it is hard to breathe
  • Change in how food tastes
  • Feeling confused, restless, or sad


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam may be done. Blood and urine tests will be done to see how well the kidneys are working.

Other tests will be done to find a cause.



There is no cure, but steps can be taken to prevent or slow damage and manage symptoms. Options are:


The doctor may advise stopping or changing any medicines that hurt the kidneys.

Medicines may be given to:

  • Control health problems that hurt the kidneys, such as high blood pressure and diabetes
  • Manage problems caused by CKD, such as swelling, nausea, or feeling tired.

Lifestyle Changes

The doctor may advise:

  • Not smoking
  • Dietary changes
  • Regular exercise


People with severe CKD may need:

  • Dialysis—a machine that cleans the blood
  • A kidney transplant


To lower the risk of CKD:

  • Manage health problems that can cause kidney damage, such as high blood pressure and diabetes
  • Maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise
  • Do not smoke
  • Limit alcohol

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.