What is CKD?

CKD stands for Chronic Kidney Disease. With chronic kidney disease, the kidneys do not usually fail all at once. Instead, kidney disease often progresses slowly over a period of years. This is good news because if CKD is caught early, medicine and lifestyle changes may help slow its declination and keep you feeling your best for as long as possible.


What are the symptoms of chronic kidney disease?

Knowing the symptoms of kidney disease can help people detect it early enough to get treatment. Symptoms can include:

  • Swelling of the feet, ankles, hands, or face — excess fluid that the kidneys cannot remove may stay in the tissues.
  • Changes in urination — excreting more or less urine than usual, feeling pressure when urinating, changes in the color of urine, foamy or bubbly urine, or having to get up at night to urinate.
  • Ammonia breath or an ammonia or metal taste in the mouth — waste build-up in the body can cause bad breath, changes in taste, or an aversion to protein food like meat.
  • Shortness of breath — kidney failure is sometimes confused with asthma or heart failure, because fluid can build up in the lungs.
  • Fatigue or weakness — a build-up of wastes or a shortage of red blood cells (anemia) can cause these problems when the kidneys begin to fail.
  • Itching — waste build-up in the body can cause severe itching, especially of the legs.
  • Back or flank pain — the kidneys are located on either side of the spine in the back.
  • Loss of appetite
  • More hypoglycemic episodes, if you have diabetes

If you believe you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor about your concerns. This is especially important if you have a close family member who has kidney disease, or if you have diabetes or high blood pressure, which are the main causes of kidney failure.


Five stages of chronic kidney disease

To help improve the quality of care for people with kidney disease, the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) set up a guideline to help doctors identify each level of kidney disease. The NKF classified kidney disease into five stages. When the doctor knows what stage of kidney disease a person has they can provide the best care as each stage calls for different tests and treatment.


Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR)

Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is the best measure of kidney function. The GFR is the number used to figure out a person’s stage of kidney disease. A math formula using the person’s age, race, gender and their serum creatinine is used to calculate a GFR. A doctor will order a blood test to measure the serum creatinine level. Creatinine is a waste product that comes from muscle activity. When kidneys are working well they remove creatinine from the blood. As kidney function deteriorates, blood levels of creatinine rise.

Below shows the five stages of CKD and GFR for each stage:

  • Stage 1 with normal or high GFR (GFR > 90 ml/min)
  • Stage 2 - Mild CKD (GFR = 60-89 ml/min)
  • Stage 3 - Moderate CKD (GFR = 30-59 ml/min)
  • Stage 4 - Severe CKD (GFR = 15-29 ml/min)
  • Stage 5 - End Stage CKD (GFR <15 ml/min)