Kidney Disease


Your kidneys have a critical job – to filter your blood. They remove waste and extra fluid through your urine. So, if your kidneys are not working properly, waste builds up and can make you sick.

Chronic kidney disease is often caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure or high blood sugar over the course of several years. There are five stages of the disease, determined by the glomerular filtration rate (GFR). That’s the process your kidneys use to filter your blood. The lower the GFR, the more damage has been done to your kidneys.

Symptoms of chronic kidney disease may seem to appear out of nowhere, but it’s likely the damage has been occurring “silently” for several years. Some people live normally for 30 years or more without noticing any symptoms. As your kidney function gets worse, you may experience:

  • Less frequent urination
  • Swelling and weight gain from fluid buildup in your tissues (also called edema)
  • Sleepiness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Headaches or trouble thinking clearly

Diagnosis and Treatment of Kidney Disease

Simple blood and urine tests can help determine how well your kidneys are working. Your doctor may recommend additional tests to help rule out other conditions. You might also have an ultrasound or CT scan to give your doctor a closer look at your kidneys.

Since kidney disease is often caused by another condition, treating that condition is usually the first step after diagnosis. You will likely need medication to help treat the underlying condition and relieve the symptoms it is causing.

Lifestyle changes will play an important role in your treatment plan. Options can include:

  • Following a diet plan that’s easy on your kidneys. A Mercy dietitian can help develop a menu just for you.
  • Making exercise a recurring part of your everyday routine
  • Avoiding tobacco
  • Avoiding alcohol

Following the treatment plan you and your doctor develop can help prevent kidney failure, which can be life-threatening.

Prevention is also key. If you have high blood pressure or diabetes or a family history of these conditions, see your doctor regularly. Keeping these conditions under control is a major step in preventing damage to your kidneys. 

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