What causes kidney disease?
The cause of chronic kidney disease (CKD) is not always known. But doctors do know that the conditions that damage blood vessels or other parts of the kidneys may lead to kidney disease. For example, diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure) commonly cause damage to the kidneys. Diseases or illnesses that damage the kidneys gradually over time are the most common causes of chronic renal failure. Painkilling medications can also damage the kidneys, causing chronic renal failure over time. Some common causes of kidney disease include:
Cancer - Cancers can also impact the kidneys. Kidney cancer and cancers of the bladder (more commonly diagnosed) may cause kidney failure.
Diabetes – This disease results from insufficient production of insulin or the body's inability to use insulin properly. Diabetes is characterized by high levels of blood sugar (also known as blood glucose).
High blood pressure - High blood pressure damages small blood vessels in the kidneys. These vessels fail to filter wastes from the blood as they should.
Infection - Cystitis (an infection of the bladder) or urinary tract infections, can lead to more serious infections further up the urinary tract. Infections elsewhere in the body, like streptococcal (strep) infections, the skin infection impetigo, or bacterial heart infections can be carried through the bloodstream to the kidneys and cause problems.
Injury - Direct and forceful trauma to the kidneys, can lead to disease. In situations of severe blood loss or reduced blood flow, the kidneys may be prevented from working correctly.
Medications – Kidney damage can result from certain chemotherapy drugs and biological therapies. Renal dysfunction occurs when chemotherapy damages blood vessels and structures in the kidneys. Also, painkillers can act as poison to the kidneys if taken regularly over long periods of time. Finally, medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS such as over-the-counter ibuprofen and various prescription drugs), x-ray dye, ACE inhibitors, and certain antibiotics can damage kidneys.
Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) – PKD is the most common cause of kidney failure. This disease produces fluid-filled cysts in the kidneys and other organs that eventually cause failure.
Other causes - Sudden kidney problems can result from severe dehydration, aortic/heart surgeries, severe infections in the blood or heart, and heart failure. Acute (sudden) kidney failure can result, requiring emergency medical treatment to prevent death.
Anyone can develop CKD. However, some people are more likely to develop CKD than others. These groups of people may be linked by risk factors. Risk factors may not be a direct cause of a particular disease, but seem to be associated with its development in some way. The following factors may increase the risk of kidney disease:
Ethnicity - African Americans are approximately four times as likely to experience kidney failure as Caucasians, American Indians manage approximately three times the risk and Hispanic Americans have almost twice the risk of whites.
Family history - Those with a family history of kidney problems are at increased risk for kidney disease. Instances of immediate family members having had kidney failure should be taken seriously, since CKD is congenital.
Genetics – Three genes with common mutations have been linked to altered kidney disease risk. People who experience mutations in the UMOD gene, the most common protein in the urine of healthy persons, are more at risk of CKD than those who do not.
Obesity - Researchers have identified a strong relationship between obesity and end-stage renal disease, or kidney failure. A study found that obese individuals are at six times greater risk of kidney failure than those with normal weight, indicating that obesity should be considered a risk factor for CKD and that kidney failure another consequence of obesity.
Other medical conditions - HIV infection may also increase the risk for developing CKD. Other leading risk factors for CKD are:
- congenital renal-gu disorders
- focal segmental glomerulosclerosis
Although anyone can develop chronic kidney disease, it’s best to identify signs and symptoms early in life to prevent complications. But do you know what symptoms of kidney disease are most common? Click here to learn more about earliest symptoms of kidney disease.
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