Steps to Better Health Toolkit: Kidney Health

What to know

This Steps to Better Health fact sheet provides easy-to-read information for people with sickle cell disease (SCD) about kidney health.

Illustration showing kidneys with damage.


People with sickle cell disease (SCD) are at greater risk than the general population for kidney complications. Share your medical history with your healthcare team so it can properly identify and treat any complications of SCD you currently have or may develop. Your healthcare team may include your primary care provider, SCD provider, and any other healthcare specialists. Below are common kidney complications and steps you can take for better kidney health.

People with SCD often have albuminuria, or too much protein in the urine (possibly an early sign of kidney disease). Remind your provider to check your urine every year. A simple urine test done every year will help your provider monitor the amount of protein in your urine. Your provider may prescribe medicines that lower the amount of protein in your urine to help protect your kidneys.

Chronic kidney disease is a condition in which the ability of the kidneys to make urine properly decreases over time. In people with SCD, chronic kidney disease can cause worsening anemia, a condition in which the body does not make enough red blood cells. Share with your provider if you have any of the following symptoms of anemia:

Illustration of a man feeling fatigued.
Worsening fatigue (feeling tired and worn out)
Illustration of a man with shoulder weakness.
Generalized weakness (muscle movement difficulties)
Illustration of a man with pale skin.
Pale skin
Illustration of cold hands and feet.
Cold hands and feet
Illustration of a man feeling dizzy.
Illustration of a man feeling shortness of breath.
Shortness of breath

Your provider will likely prescribe medicines that help treat anemia caused by chronic kidney disease.

Learn more about the safe use of medicines.

Chronic kidney disease can progress into end-stage kidney disease, a possibly fatal condition in which your kidneys stop working. In later stages of kidney disease, ask your provider if a kidney transplant (a surgery in which a damaged kidney is replaced with a healthy kidney from someone else) is an option for you.

Illustration of a kidney donor and recipient.
Illustration of a kidney donor and recipient.

Learn more about kidney disease.

This information is based on ASH SCD Guidelines: Cardiopulmonary and Kidney Disease.

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