Learn More About Kidney Disease

The Basics of Kidney Disease

Kidneys are vital organs. They filter fluid and waste to make urine. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is the gradual loss of kidney function over time, and it includes conditions that damage your kidneys and decrease their ability to keep you healthy.

As kidney disease progresses, waste can build to high levels in your blood and make you feel sick. You may develop complications like high blood pressure, anemia (low blood count), weak bones, poor nutritional health and nerve damage. Kidney disease increases your risk of having heart and blood vessel disease. When kidney disease progresses, it may eventually lead to kidney failure, which requires dialysis or a kidney transplant to maintain life.

Healthy-vs-Damaged-Kidney-Animation

Chronic kidney disease affects 10% of the adult population worldwide, with an estimated 3 million patients being treated for End Stage Kidney Disease annually.*

* USRDS 2020 Estimates

CKD Progression

The final stage of CKD, Stage 5, is also known as End Stage Kidney Disease, or ESKD. At this stage of CKD, a kidney transplant or dialysis is necessary to sustain life.

Stages of Chronic Kidney Disease GFR* % of Kidney Function
Stage 1 Kidney damage with normal kidney function 90 or higher 90-100%
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Stage 2 Kidney damage with mild loss of kidney function 89 to 60 89-60%
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Stage 3a Mild to moderate loss of kidney function 59-45 59-45%
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Stage 3b Moderate to severe loss of kidney function 44 to 30 44-30%
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Stage 4 Severe loss of kidney function 29-15 29-15%
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Stage 5 Kidney failure Less than 15 Less than 15%
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* Your GFR number tells you how much kidney function you have. As kidney disease gets worse, the GFR number goes down. GFR stands for "glomerular filtration rate."

Getting Diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease video thumbnail
Getting Diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease video thumbnail

Kidney Transplant

For many ESKD patients, the goal is to get a kidney transplant. However, if you need a new kidney and one is not available right away, you will have to start dialysis. Learn more about dialysis by visiting this page.

When you receive a kidney transplant, your failed kidney is replaced with new one. Kidneys can be donated by deceased donors through organ donation programs. In addition, since people only need one kidney to be completely healthy, a kidney can also be donated by a living person.

Kidneys are sometimes donated by close friends or relatives, but can also be donated by complete strangers as part of kidney chains, where somebody who wants to donate a kidney to a close friend or relative but doesn't share the same blood type instead donates their kidney to a complete stranger. Kidney chains effectively and efficiently benefit dozens of individuals who need kidneys.

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