Are You At Increased Risk for Chronic Kidney Disease? (CKD)

How do you know?

Your doctor or clinic should check to see if you have any risk factors for chronic kidney disease. These include:

  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • a family history of kidney failure
  • older age.

Chronic kidney disease is also more common in African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and American Indians.

Why are African Americans and other ethnic groups at increased risk for chronic kidney disease?

Diabetes, the leading cause of chronic kidney disease, is more common in these groups. Also, high blood pressure, the second leading cause of chronic kidney disease, appears more often in African Americans than in other ethnic groups. Many experts believe these groups may have an inherited tendency to develop these diseases. When combined with other things, such as being overweight, this tendency may lead to disease. Staying at a normal weight and getting enough exercise is very important for these groups to help prevent diabetes and high blood pressure.

What should you do?

You should visit your doctor or clinic and get tested. Your checkup should include:

  • Checking your blood pressure
  • Having a simple test for protein in your urine. Protein is an important building block in your body. Any filtered protein is normally reabsorbed and kept in your body. When your kidneys are damaged, however, protein leaks into your urine. There are different tests to find protein in your urine. If you have two positive tests over several weeks, you are said to have persistent protein in your urine. This is a sign of chronic kidney disease.
  • Having a simple blood test for creatinine, a waste product that comes from muscle activity. Your kidneys normally remove creatinine from your blood. When your kidneys are damaged, however, your blood creatinine may build to a high level. The results of your blood creatinine test should be used to estimate your glomerular filtration rate, or GFR. Your GFR tells how much kidney function you have.

The National Kidney Foundation provides a free community-based health program called the Kidney Early Evaluation Program (KEEP). This includes tests for the early detection of chronic kidney disease.

Call your local National Kidney Foundation affiliate or the national toll-free number 1-800-622-9010 to find out if this program is available in your community.

What are the symptoms?

Most people do not have any severe symptoms until their kidney disease gets worse. However, you may:

  • feel more tired
  • have less energy
  • have trouble thinking clearly
  • have a poor appetite
  • have trouble sleeping
  • have dry, itchy skin
  • have muscle cramping at night
  • have swollen feet and ankles
  • have puffiness around your eyes, especially in the morning
  • need to urinate more often, especially at night.

What happens if my test results show I may have chronic kidney disease?

Your doctor will want to pinpoint your diagnosis and check your kidney function to help plan your treatment. The doctor may do the following:

  • Calculate your Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR), which is the best way to tell how much kidney function you have. You do not need to have another test to know your GFR. Your doctor can calculate it from your blood creatinine, your age, race, gender and other factors. Your GFR tells your doctor your stage of kidney disease and helps the doctor plan your treatment. (See chart "Stages of Chronic Kidney Disease.")
  • Perform an ultrasound or CT scan to get a picture of your kidneys and urinary tract. This tells your doctor whether your kidneys are too large or too small, whether you have a problem like a kidney stone or tumor and whether there are any problems in the structure of your kidneys and urinary tract.
  • Perform a kidney biopsy, which is done in some cases to check for a specific type of kidney disease, see how much kidney damage has occurred and help plan treatment. To do a biopsy, the doctor removes small pieces of kidney tissue and looks at them under a microscope.

Your doctor may also ask you to see a kidney specialist who will consult on your case and help manage your care.

5 Stages of Chronic Kidney Disease

Stage Description Glomerular Filtration Rate GFR)
At increased risk Risk factors for kidney disease (e.g. , diabetes, high blood pressure, family history, older age, ethnic group) More than 90
1 Kidney damage (protein in the urine) and normal GFR More than 90
2 Kidney damage and mild decrease in GFR 60 to 89
3 Moderate decrease in GFR 30 to 59
4 Severe decrease in GFR 15 to 29
5 Kidney failure (dialysis or kidney transplant needed) Less than 15

Can CKD progression be prevented?

Most likely. Early detection and treatment can often slow or stop chronic kidney disease. How well your treatment can achieve this goal depends on:

  • Your stage of chronic kidney disease when you start treatment. The earlier you start, the better you are likely to do.
  • How carefully you follow your treatment plan. Learn all you can about chronic kidney disease and its treatment, and make sure to follow all the steps of your treatment faithfully.
  • The cause of your kidney disease. Some kidney diseases are more difficult to control.

If you would like more information, please contact us.

© 2015 National Kidney Foundation. All rights reserved. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.

The information shared on our websites is information developed solely from internal experts on the subject matter, including medical advisory boards, who have developed guidelines for our patient content. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. No one associated with the National Kidney Foundation will answer medical questions via e-mail. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.