Kidney health overview

What are the symptoms of chronic kidney disease?
In the early stages of chronic kidney disease, there are no symptoms. Over months or years, however, symptoms such as increased urination, reduced appetite, tiredness, itching, and high blood pressure can occur. In the later stages of kidney disease, you may have swelling of the legs, feet, or ankles. For more information, see our article on kidney failure symptoms.

What is end-stage renal disease?
End-stage renal disease (ESRD) occurs when your kidneys are functioning at less than 15% of normal and are no longer able to work well enough to keep you alive. At this point, you will need dialysis or kidney transplant.

How long does hemodialysis take?
Most people need 3 treatments a week that last 4 to 5 hours each. Some people need more frequent treatments, while others need shorter treatments. Read our article on hemodialysis for more information.

What is kidney transplant rejection?
Rejection occurs when your immune symptom sees the transplanted kidney as foreign. When this happens, your body's immune system attacks the transplanted kidney. Fortunately, taking immunosuppressive medications can reduce the risk of rejection. Your transplant team will determine the best medications for you. See our article on kidney transplants for more information.

How common is transplant rejection?
With a kidney transplant, about 20 out of every 100 people will have at least one rejection episode within the first year. This is despite the use of immunosuppressive medications that help to reduce the risk of rejection. Fortunately, most rejection episodes can be successfully managed.

Why is it so hard to find a kidney for a transplant?
Although we have made significant improvements in organ donation awareness, there is still more demand than there is supply of most organs, including kidneys. Even when a kidney is available, testing must show that the kidney is a good match. Also, there is a long waiting list for a kidney transplant, and people who are sicker will get a transplant before someone who is not as ill.

What is peritoneal dialysis?
Peritoneal dialysis is a type of dialysis where a dialysis solution is put into your peritoneal cavity (space in your abdomen around your intestines and other organs). The solution is left in the peritoneal cavity for a certain period of time to allow excess water and waste to pass from the blood into the peritoneal cavity. The fluid is then removed and replaced. Read our article on peritoneal dialysis for more information.

What can I do to prevent kidney stones?
To help prevent kidney stones, drink plenty of water (at least 2 litres daily), do not consume more than the recommended daily amount of calcium, and eat a diet that is low in salt and animal protein. If you've already had kidney stones, your doctor may recommend that you avoid foods such as organ meats, tea, and chocolate.

Why do I need to eat a special diet for kidney problems?
Your doctor may ask you to modify your diet because your kidneys are not working well enough to remove excess water, salt, other minerals, and waste from your blood. You may be asked to reduce your protein intake, eat less salt, and reduce foods that contain potassium or phosphorus. You may also need to restrict your fluid intake. For more information, read our article about the nutritional management of kidney disease.

What increases your risk of kidney disease?
Your risk of kidney disease is higher if you have diabetes or high blood pressure. You are also at an increased risk if you have a family member with an inherited type of kidney disease (e.g., polycystic kidney disease). The risk of kidney disease also increases with age.