October 25, 2014
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Kidney Health

 Health Home >> Kidney Health >> Understanding kidney disease 


Kidney disease: types, causes, and risk factors

Kidney problems can be either acute or chronic.

Acute kidney problems come on quickly but the kidneys often recover after treatment.

Chronic kidney disease is the most common type of kidney disease and occurs when the kidneys are damaged or are not functioning as well for 3 months or longer.

Chronic kidney disease worsens or progresses over time. There are 5 stages of chronic kidney disease, with the most severe being end-stage renal disease (ESRD). With end-stage kidney disease, your kidneys are functioning at less than 15% of what they should be.

Acute kidney problems can be caused by infection, injury, certain medical conditions, and certain medications.

Chronic kidney disease can be caused by:

  • medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease that cause damage to the small blood vessels within the kidneys
  • hereditary kidney disease such as polycystic kidney disease or Alport's syndrome
  • glomerulonephritis (inflammation and damage of the filtering components of the kidney) that is inherited or caused by other medical problems (e.g., lupus, diabetes, amyloidosis)
  • reflux nephropathy, a condition where urine flows from the bladder back to the kidneys, causing damage to the kidneys
  • blockage of the urinary tract as a result of birth defects, prostate problems, kidney stones, or tumours
  • medications that can cause permanent damage to the kidneys (e.g., acetylsalicylic acid [ASA], ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, cisplatin, lithium)

In many cases, the exact cause of kidney disease can't be determined.

Some people are at an increased risk of developing kidney disease. The risk factors for kidney disease include:

  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • having a family member with inherited forms of kidney disease (e.g., polycystic kidney disease)

If you have these risk factors, it doesn't mean that you will get kidney disease for sure, but you should have your kidney function tested regularly. Even if you don't have any risk factors for kidney disease, you can still get it. So be sure to have regular check-ups with your doctor.


Written and reviewed by the MediResource Clinical Team


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