What is chronic kidney disease?

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is when the kidneys stop working as well as they should. When they are working normally, the kidneys filter the blood and remove waste and excess salt and water

Anatomy of the urinary tract

Urine is made by the kidneys. It passes from the kidneys into the bladder through two tubes called the ureters. Then it leaves the bladder through another tube called the urethra.

In people with CKD, the kidneys slowly lose the ability to filter the blood. In time, the kidneys can stop working completely. That is why it is so important to keep CKD from getting worse.

What are the symptoms of CKD?

At first, CKD causes no symptoms. As the disease gets worse, it can:

  • Give you high blood pressure
  • Damage your bones
  • Taking blood pressure and other medicines every day, if your doctor or nurse prescribes them to you
  • Changing your diet, if your doctor or nurse says you should
  • Losing weight, if you are overweight

What are the treatments for CKD?

What happens if my kidneys stop working completely?

If your kidneys stop working completely, you can choose between 3 different treatments to take over the job of your kidneys. Your choices are described below.

You can have your blood filtered by a machine. This treatment is called “hemodialysis,” but many people call it just “dialysis.” If you choose this approach, you will need to be hooked up to the machine at least 3 times a week for a few hours for the rest of your life. Before you start, you will also need to have surgery to prepare a blood vessel for attachment to the machine.

How do I choose between the different treatment options?

You and your doctor will need to work together to find a treatment that’s right for you. Kidney transplant surgery is usually the best option for most people. But often there are no kidneys available for transplant.

Ask your doctor to explain all of your options and how they might work for you. Then talk openly with him or her about how you feel about all of the options. You might even decide that you do not want any treatment. That is your choice.

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