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Are You At Risk For Chronic Kidney Disease

Having diabetes or high blood pressure can have greater consequences than simply needing to take medication. They’re the top risk factors for chronic kidney disease. Find out more.

man using a glucose monitor to check his blood sugar
Updated August 21, 2023

By Brett Rosenthal, DO, Nephrologist — Virtua Nephrology

Your kidneys have a big job. Every day, they filter 150 quarts of blood to rid your body of wastes and maintain a healthy balance of fluids, salts, and minerals. As importantly, they make hormones that control your blood pressure, produce red blood cells, and keep your bones strong.

So if your kidneys were not working properly, you would be aware of it, right? Not necessarily.

Of the estimated 37 million Americans with chronic kidney disease (CKD), 90% don’t know it.

Am I at Risk for Chronic Kidney Disease?

Chronic kidney disease is the gradual loss of kidney function. Symptoms often don’t appear until the disease has progressed to a later stage and more intensive treatment is necessary.

Risk factors for CKD include:

  • Diabetes. Diabetes is the leading cause of CKD. High blood sugar from diabetes can damage the blood vessels in the kidneys.
  • High blood pressure. Hypertension is the second-leading cause of CKD, and like high blood sugar, damages blood vessels in the kidneys.
  • Heart disease. Heart disease and CKD are linked, with the health of one organ affecting the other.
  • Obesity. Being obese heightens your risk for diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • Smoking. Smoking slows blood flow to your organs, and can interfere with medicines used to treat hypertension.
  • Family history of CKD. Kidney disease runs in families. If a close relative had kidney disease, speak to your doctor about getting tested.

Your chances of having CKD increases with age. African-Americans, Latinx and Indigenous peoples have a higher risk for kidney disease, largely due to higher rates of diabetes and hypertension, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Know the Signs

In the early stages of CKD, your kidneys are able to stay on task. Many people feel fine, and any symptoms you do experience are easily attributed to another medical condition.

One of the first signs is edema—swelling in your legs, feet, or ankles—as the body is unable to get rid of extra fluid and salt. As CKD progresses, you may also experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches or trouble concentrating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Changes in urination
  • Blood or excessive bubbles in the urine
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dry or itchy skin
  • Weight loss

People with CKD also may develop anemia, bone disease, and malnutrition, as well as an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

The earlier we diagnose CKD, the more we can do to preserve your kidney health. If you experience any of these symptoms, see your doctor for a comprehensive evaluation.

Take the Next Step for Your Kidney Health

To schedule an appointment with a Virtua kidney specialist, call 856-325-3341 or request an appointment here

If you are unsure about your kidney health, take our quick and easy Kidney Health Risk Assessment