Causes of Chronic Kidney Disease


Reprinted with permission of DaVita, Inc.

Twenty-six million Americans have chronic kidney disease, caused by many combinations of factors. While a majority of those people are unaware they have kidney disease, the causes affecting the most people are diabetes and high blood pressure. Awareness of what causes kidney disease as well as the symptoms that may signal a person has it, is valuable information. The sooner kidney disease is diagnosed and treated the better chances are for slowing its progression.

Most Common Causes of Chronic Kidney Disease

Diabetes occurs when a person's body cannot manufacture or use insulin in the normal amounts required for good health. When this happens, the amount of sugar circulating in the bloodstream rises abnormally high. Kidneys can't work properly under these conditions, and delicate tissues gradually sustain damage.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is more commonly associated with heart attacks and stroke because of the increased stress it puts on artery walls. The small blood vessels of the kidneys, however, are also sensitive to the increased pressure, and can sustain damage if the condition is not brought under control.

Less Common Causes of Chronic Kidney Disease

Glomerulonephritis, explained simply, is an inflammation of the kidneys, either brought on suddenly by a rapid infection, or a slow-developing chronic condition, or inflammation of the blood vessels. Infections include strep throat, impetigo of the skin, bacterial endocarditis, and, HIV and hepatitis B and C, which affect the liver and become chronically infectious. Immune diseases that can lead to glomerulonephritis include Lupus, Goodpasture's syndrome and IgA nephropathy. Vaculitis is an inflammation of the blood vessels caused by Polyarteritis and Wegener's granulomatosis.

Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is the most widely diagnosed form of an inherited condition centered in the kidneys. Infants can sometimes be diagnosed with PKD while still in the womb. Tiny cysts grow over time, crowding healthy tissue, gradually affecting function and sometimes leading to renal failure.

Kidney stones form right inside the kidneys when salts and minerals normally found in urine solidify to form small masses. They are painless until dislodged and passed into the urinary tract where they can cause extreme pain as well as obstructions and infection. Diet, medicines and treatments can effectively inhibit kidney stones, sometimes dissolving or breaking them up so they can pass painlessly out of the body.

Congenital diseases are those that occur while a baby develops in the womb. A common congenital condition known as reflux causes urine to back up into the kidneys due to a valve problem. Children with recurring infections sometimes develop reflux.

Hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis is the narrowing of arteries due to fatty cholesterol deposits which gradually calcify and thicken fibrous tissue. Then, oxygen and blood are not distributed efficiently to the kidney, and a health risk is present.

Illegal drugs are well known to affect kidney function. Heroin use, in particular, is a known precursor to kidney disease in many users.

Over-the-counter substances can be toxic to the kidneys in large or prolonged doses, such as pain relievers and pesticides. If you are experiencing pain requiring an over-the-counter pain reliever for more than 14 days, your doctor should be notified. If a situation involves you being exposed to pesticides or other water or airborne toxins, you should ask your doctor how to avoid, protect and/or minimize exposure.

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Last Modified Date: February 16, 2013

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by Brenda Bell
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