Chronic Kidney Disease

What is chronic kidney disease?

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is also called chronic renal failure or chronic renal insufficiency. CKD is a result of the kidneys no longer being able to clean toxins and waste from your blood and perform other vital functions, such as vitamin D and red blood cell production. The disease progresses slowly over a period of years and you may not have any noticeable symptoms at first. As it worsens, however, and waste products build up in your blood, your kidneys begin to fail.

Who is at risk for chronic kidney disease?

Some people are more likely to get chronic kidney disease than others. For example, certain populations such as African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans are more at risk for the disease, primarily because these groups have a higher prevalence of:

  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure over many years
  • Uncontrolled type 1 or type 2 diabetes

Genetics, as well as social and economic disparities, may play a part in exacerbating these conditions among these groups.

Other things that can lead to chronic kidney disease include:

  • Diseases and infections of the kidney, such as polycystic kidney disease and glomerulonephritis
  • Long-term use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
  • A kidney problem you were born with

Symptoms of chronic kidney disease

Symptoms may not develop until there is very little kidney function left. However, some early-stage symptoms resemble symptoms of other conditions:

  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Unexplained weight loss

As chronic kidney disease progresses, you may experience more pronounced symptoms, such as:

  • Blood in your stool
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent hiccups
  • Frequent urge to urinate (especially at night)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen feet and ankles
  • Vomiting (usually in the morning)

Problems such as anemia and increased levels of phosphates in the blood (phosphates are usually flushed out by the kidneys) also develop as chronic kidney disease progresses.

The best measure of kidney function is glomerular filtration rate (GFR), a number used to figure out how well your kidneys are flushing out waste. The higher the number is, the better your kidney function. As kidney disease progresses, the number gets lower. GFR is also an indicator of your stage of kidney disease.


If you are at risk for, or you're in the early stages of chronic kidney disease, your doctor may work with you on preventive measures such as dietary and lifestyle changes to slow down the progression of the disease. Medication may be prescribed to address symptoms and complications, as well as keep other conditions such as blood pressure and diabetes under control.

If you already have severe kidney damage and are in end-stage renal disease, treatment may include medication along with dialysis (use of a machine to help remove waste products from your blood). Depending on a variety of factors unique to your condition, you may be a candidate for kidney transplant.

At Main Line Health our nephrology team is dedicated to improving your quality of life and providing you with the best possible care for all stages of chronic kidney disease.

Dialysis for Kidney Disease

Many kidney conditions are treated by dialysis to remove toxins, mineral buildup and excess fluid from the body when the kidneys have failed.


Kidney Care (Nephrology)

Our nephrologists, located throughout the Philadelphia suburbs, will medically manage your kidney conditions and develop a treatment plan based on your specific needs.