What is Kidney Disease?

Explore this section to learn more about chronic kidney disease (CKD). You will find that CKD, which can happen at any age, can have both common and rare causes. Learn about the symptoms, some of which may not show up until a later stage of the disease.

When someone is diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, the first step is to determine the stage of the disease. The National Kidney Foundation has classified five stages to help doctors better treat their patients based on how much kidney function the patient has left. Measuring a person’s glomerular filtration rate (GFR) indicates how much blood is being filtered through the kidneys and will guide the course of treatment.

  • Stage 1: GFR 90ml/min or higher

    Kidney damage has been identified but there is still normal kidney function. Your doctor may recommend limiting protein in the diet, controlling blood sugar and blood pressure levels, stopping smoking, exercising and practicing overall healthy habits.

  • Stage 2: GFR 60-89 ml/min

    During this stage, your doctor will identify that you have mild loss of kidney functioning and may continue to recommend limiting protein in the diet, controlling blood sugar and blood pressure levels, stopping smoking, exercising and practicing overall healthy habits.

  • Stage 3: GFR 30-59 ml/min

    In stage three, your doctor will identify that you have mild to moderate kidney loss. A visit to a nephrologist (doctor who specializes in kidney care) is recommended at this time. In addition to following the advice given for people in stages one and two, your nephrologist may also refer you to a dietitian for additional guidance in getting proper nutrition. Some people begin to feel some of the effects of kidney function loss in stage three, such as swelling in the face, hands or feet, and decreased urine output.

  • Stage 4: GFR 15-29 ml/min

    By stage four, you will be considered to have severe kidney loss. At this time, you may  visit your nephrologist every three months for testing. During this stage your nephrologist will explain the treatment options for kidney failure, including dialysis, transplantation, and palliative care. If you choose dialysis, your doctor will explain the different types of dialysis treatments available such as hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. At this point, it is helpful to schedule surgery to have your dialysis access placed, which is the technique that allows your blood to be cleansed. Talk to your nephrologist about the “gold standard” AV Fistula or the best one for you. You may want to attend a pre-ESRD class to learn about the treatment options and which one will fit best with your lifestyle.

  • Stage 5: GFR < 15ml/min, Kidney Failure

    End stage renal disease (ESRD) is the final stage of chronic kidney disease (CKD), also known as kidney failure. This occurs when the kidneys function below 10-15 percent and is often a result of years of chronic kidney disease. After being diagnosed with ESRD, it is important to decide what treatment option you will use, such as home dialysis, incenter hemodialysis, transplantation, or palliative care.

Related Information

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Learn More About Kidney Disease

What Is Kidney Disease?

Symptoms of Kidney Disease

Stages of Kidney Disease

Causes of Kidney Disease

Diagnosis of Kidney Disease

Pediatric Kidney Disease