Six Common Myths About Kidney Disease

July 07, 2017, 2:58pm EDT

Myth 1: Kidney disease is a rare condition.

You may be surprised to learn just how common kidney disease is. In fact, one in seven American adults today is living with some level of kidney disease. What puts you at risk? Having high blood pressure, diabetes, a family history of kidney failure, and being over 60 years are major risk factors for kidney disease. Being African-American/Black, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian, or Pacific Islander also increases your risk.

Myth 2: You will know if you have kidney disease.

Unfortunately, most people who have kidney disease don't know it. Why not? Because in the early stages of kidney disease, most people do not have any symptoms. Symptoms may not appear until kidney disease is in the advanced stages. The best way to find out if you have kidney disease is to get tested—and once you are diagnosed there are many steps you can take to reduce the progression of the disease.

Myth 3: Testing for kidney disease is a long and costly process.

Testing for kidney disease is surprisingly easy. It can be done with two simple, inexpensive tests during a routine visit with your healthcare provider.

  • A simple urine test to check for protein in your urine. Having a small amount of protein in your urine can be a sign kidney disease.
  • A simple blood test to estimate GFR (glomerular filtration rate). Your GFR number tells you how well your kidneys are working.

Myth 4: If you are at risk for kidney disease, there is nothing you can do about it.

Not everyone who is at risk will get kidney disease. You can help protect your kidneys. Eat healthy, get regular exercise, control blood pressure and blood sugar, keep a healthy weight, quit smoking, and don’t overuse pain medications like ibuprofen. All these steps will help you keep your kidneys healthy and lessen your chances of getting kidney disease.

Myth 5: No one knows what causes kidney disease.

The two most common causes of kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure. Both can harm your kidneys by causing damage to the tiny blood vessels in your kidneys. Many other conditions can harm the kidneys. These include:

  • Heart disease
  • Glomerulonephritis, a disease that causes inflammation in the kidneys
  • Diseases you are born with, like polycystic kidney disease, which causes cysts to form in the kidneys

Myth 6: The only treatment for kidney disease is dialysis.

Not everyone with kidney disease needs dialysis. Kidney disease is a progressive disease. In its early stages, it is usually managed with exercise, diet, and medication. With this approach, most people can slow or stop the progression of kidney disease and enjoy a normal lifestyle. That’s why it’s so important to find and treat kidney disease early. Dialysis or a kidney transplant is only needed if your kidney disease gets worse and progresses to kidney failure.