CKD-Related Health Problems

PAGE 4 of 5

View Table of Contents

As CKD worsens over time, related health problems become more likely. However, CKD-related health problems can improve with treatment.

Heart Disease and Stroke

  • Having CKD increases the chances of having heart disease and stroke.
  • Managing high blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels–all factors that increase the risk for heart disease and stroke–is very important for people with CKD.

Early Death

Adults with CKD are at a higher risk of dying earlier than adults of similar age without CKD.

Health Problems Due to Low Kidney Function

  • Anemia or low red blood cell count, which can cause fatigue and weakness.
  • Extra fluid in the body, which can cause high blood pressure, swelling in the legs, or shortness of breath.
  • A weakened immune system, which makes it easier to develop infections.
  • Loss of appetite or nausea.
  • Decreased sexual response.
  • Confusion, problems with memory and thinking, or depression.
  • Low calcium levels and high phosphorus levels in the blood, which can cause bone disease and heart disease.
  • High potassium levels in the blood, which can cause an irregular or abnormal heartbeat and lead to death.

Kidney Failure

Kidney failure happens when kidney damage is severe and kidney function is very low. Dialysis or a kidney transplant is then needed for survival. Kidney failure treated with dialysis or a kidney transplant is called end-stage kidney disease (ESKD). CKD is more likely to lead to kidney failure, especially in older adults, if the kidneys are damaged due to unmanaged risk factors, repeated kidney infections, or drugs or toxins that are harmful to the kidneys. Social factors, such as lower income and related factors of food insecurity and poorer access to quality health care, are also associated with worsening CKD. However, not everyone with CKD develops kidney failure. If CKD is detected early, treatment may slow the decline in kidney function and delay kidney failure. In some cases, though, kidney failure develops even with treatment.

Facts About ESKD

In 2020:

  • About 130,522 people in the United States started treatment for ESKD.
  • Nearly 808,000 people in the United States, or 2 in every 1,000 people, were living with ESKD: 69% were on dialysis and 31% were living with a kidney transplant.
  • Incidence rate of ESKD among men is 60% higher than among women.
  • Non-Hispanic Black persons have 4 times the incidence rate of ESKD than non-Hispanic White persons.
  • Hispanic persons have twice the incidence rate of ESKD than non-Hispanic White persons.
  • Among adults aged 18 years and older in the United States, diabetes and high blood pressure remain the main causes of ESKD.
  • Among children and adolescents younger than 18 years in the United States, polycystic kidney disease and glomerulonephritis (inflammation of the kidneys) are the main causes of ESKD.

People with diabetes, high blood pressure, or CKD need to talk to their doctor about how to protect their kidneys.

Reported Causes of End-Stage Kidney Disease in the United States