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Kidney disease affects people of all ages and races. More than 20 million Americans have kidney disease and because of the rise in diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, many more are at risk. Kidney disease, also known as renal failure, can cause the kidneys to lose their ability to filter the blood of toxins and excess fluid. If left untreated, kidney disease can lead to death.
There are several kinds of kidney disease:
- chronic kidney disease happens slowly over time
- acute kidney failure occurs rapidly over a span of days or weeks
- glomerular disease includes autoimmune and infection-related diseases
- genetic conditions
Kidney disease can be diagnosed through urine and blood tests, and also by using an ultrasound to examine the kidneys.
Chronic kidney disease
Chronic kidney disease affects one in 10 adults in the United States. Most people do not experience symptoms for quite some time and therefore do not get diagnosed until the disease has reached advanced stages. In fact, kidney function can decline as much as 30-40 percent without noticeable symptoms. There are five stages associated with chronic kidney disease, ranging from a slight decrease in function to end-stage kidney failure.
Although often there are no symptoms, people with kidney disease may experience frequent urination, shortness of breath, chest pain, weakness and fatigue, high blood pressure, headaches, nausea, excessive thirst, and weight loss. People with diabetes or high blood pressure, and people who have a family history of kidney disease are at high risk and should be regularly tested for kidney function.
Acute kidney disease
Acute kidney disease is most commonly caused by an injury, disorder, or poisoning. If the kidneys are not seriously damaged, acute kidney disease may be reversible.
The kidneys have tiny blood vessels, called glomeruli, which filter the blood. When these glomeruli are damaged, the toxins that are meant to be filtered may stay in the blood while protein and red blood cells get passed out of the body through urine. The cause of this type of kidney disease is often unknown, but may be caused by an autoimmune disorder.
Genetic conditions of the kidneys
Some kidney diseases are hereditary. One of the most common examples is polycystic kidney disease, where cysts slowly grow in the kidneys and can eventually lead to kidney failure.
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