Kidney Failure Risk Factor: Gender (Sex)

Why is gender used as a risk factor to predict your chances of reaching kidney failure?

Studies show that although more women than men have chronic kidney disease (CKD), men are more likely to reach kidney failure sooner than women. That's why being male is used as a risk factor to predict a faster time to reach kidney failure.

The reasons for these gender differences are not clearly understood. Women may be more likely to have CKD because of getting urinary tract infections more often, which can lead to kidney damage. Women also have increased risk for kidney damage due to problems with pregnancy, such as high blood pressure or eclampsia.

Men may be at increased risk of reaching kidney failure sooner than women because of differences in hormone levels. Higher testosterone levels in men may cause a loss in kidney function. On the other hand, men's kidneys may not be protected by estrogen, which is higher in women until menopause.

Overall, men may have unhealthier lifestyles, thereby leading to a higher risk for kidney failure. And in studies, men may have been counted as having kidney failure at a younger age than women because they may have gotten dialysis or a kidney transplant sooner than women. Although more women may have had kidney failure, they may not have been counted in studies because they weren't on dialysis or didn't have a kidney transplant.

No matter our gender, we need to take good care of our kidneys. Kidney failure can happen to anyone.

What can men and women do to protect their kidneys?

  • Women
    • Get good prenatal care and start as early as possible.
    • Treat urinary tract infections right away.
    • If you have CKD, know which types of birth control may harm your kidneys, and which types of drugs are safe to use when you are pregnant.
  • Men
    • Check with your healthcare team to know if any prostate or hormone treatments can hurt your kidneys.
    • If you have an enlarged prostate, ask your healthcare team if it is causing a blockage in your urinary tract.
  • Everyone
    • Get your kidneys checked at least every year. Your healthcare team will do a simple blood test to find out your eGFR. They will also do a urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio (UACR), which shows if you have protein (albumin) in the urine. Protein in the urine may mean you have kidney damage.
    • Control blood pressure if you have high blood pressure.
    • Control blood sugar if you have diabetes.
    • In general, if you have CKD, avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen.
    • If you have CKD, tell your healthcare team before having any test that uses contrast dye.
    • Do not smoke.
    • Exercise and follow a healthy diet that's low in sodium, saturated fat, and sugar, but high in fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, and poultry. Avoid highly processed foods.
    • Stay at a healthy weight. Lose weight if your healthcare team says that you should.
    • Discuss any vitamins, minerals, herbs, weight loss or body building supplements with your healthcare team before taking them. Many of these products can hurt your kidneys.
    • Make sure that any drugs you take are the right dose for your age and your level of kidney function. You should discuss this with your healthcare team.

For more information:

  • Speak with your healthcare team
  • Visit the National Kidney Foundation at