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Kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a slow and permanent loss of kidney function. With CKD, physical injury or disease damages the kidneys so that they do not remove wastes and extra water from the blood in the way they should. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of CKD.

Early kidney disease has no symptoms. Many people don't know about kidney disease until their kidneys have almost stopped working. This can take months or years. If the kidneys fail, you will need medical help to live. The two ways to treat kidney failure are:

  • Dialysis – Special equipment cleans waste from the blood.
  • Kidney transplant – A donated kidney is put in your body.

CKD has no cure. But medicine and lifestyle changes can prevent further kidney damage and slow down the disease. Living with kidney failure can be stressful and affect quality of life. The need for routine dialysis can interfere with work and family schedules. And waiting for a transplant can be extremely stressful. Sticking with treatment and good support help people with kidney failure maintain good quality life.

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More information on Kidney disease

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  • Financial Help for Treatment of Kidney Failure - This fact sheet briefly describes the federal government's insurance program that covers much of the cost of dialysis treatments and kidney transplantation expenses. It also lists additional sources of financial help and explains the role of the nephrology social worker.
  • Hemodialysis Dose and Adequacy - This publication offers information on the different types of dialysis treatments that are used after kidneys fail.
  • Kidney Failure: Choosing a Treatment That's Right for You - This booklet provides a broad overview of the treatment options for a person with kidney failure. It introduces hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and kidney transplantation with a general description of each method and a list of pros and cons. It concludes with a list of resources for more information.
  • Kidney Failure: Eat Right to Feel Right on Hemodialysis - This publication explains which vitamins to take and which foods to avoid for someone on hemodialysis. It explains hemodialysis-related terms, such as "dry weight," and offers a checklist to use when preparing to speak with a dietitian.
  • Medicare Coverage of Kidney Dialysis and Kidney Transplant Services - This booklet describes the rules that apply to Medicare coverage and payment for maintenance of kidney dialysis and transplant services.
  • Polycystic Kidney Disease - This publication provides some background information on the different types of polycystic kidney disease and possible treatment methods for each.
  • Treatment Methods for Kidney Failure: Peritoneal Dialysis - This booklet describes the procedures and supplies required for peritoneal dialysis (PD). It explains the differences between ambulatory and automated PD and gives instructions on how to avoid problems that can develop.
  • Treatment Methods for Kidney Failure: Transplantation - This booklet gives a step-by-step account of the transplant process from the initial medical evaluation to surgery, recovery, and finally maintenance with antirejection medicines. It also covers issues of organ donation and matching.

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Content last updated: September 22, 2009.

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