What Is Kidney Disease?

Learn more about the types, symptoms, and risk factors

What Is Kidney Disease?
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Acute kidney injury (AKI) is a sudden, temporary, and sometimes irreversible loss of kidney function.1

In recent years, AKI has gained increasing recognition as a major risk factor for the development of chronic kidney disease (CKD). The clearest example of this relationship comes in cases of severe dialysis requiring AKI where patients fail to recover renal function. Indeed, acute tubular necrosis without recovery is the primary diagnosis for 2 to 3 percent of incident end‐stage renal disease (ESRD) cases annually. Yet this represents a small fraction of the renal disease burden resulting from AKI, as studies have demonstrated significantly increased long‐term risk of CKD and ESRD following AKI, even after initial recovery of renal function. Furthermore, this relationship is bidirectional and CKD patients are at substantially greater risk of suffering an episode of AKI. As a result, AKI is frequently superimposed on CKD and therefore plays a key role in CKD progression.2


There are a variety of symptoms that may include urinary hemorrhage, fever, weakness, fatigue, rash, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, poor appetite, severe vomiting, abdominal pain, back pain, muscle cramps, no urine output or high urine output, pale skin, nosebleeds, swelling of the tissues, inflammation of the eye, and detectable abdominal mass.3 The symptom onset can sometimes be correlated to events like contrast application.

Causes and Risk Factors

Conditions that may lead to acute kidney failure3:

  • Myocardial infarction
  • Rhabdomyolysis (muscle breakdown)
  • Severe dehydration
  • Infection
  • Iodinated contrast agent
  • Administration or ingestion of certain medications that may cause toxicity to the kidneys
  • Renal artery stenosis
  • Conditions that may impair the flow of oxygen and blood to the kidneys, such as cardiac arrest

Diabetes mellitus and pre‐existing CKD are recognized as two major risk factors for AKI.2

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1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ‐ National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health‐information/kidneydisease
2. https://www.usrds.org/2014/view/v1_05.aspx
3. Johns Hopkins Medicine: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/kidney_and_urinary_system_disorders/end_stage_renal_disease_esrd_85,P01474/
4. Chronic Kidney Disease: www.diseaseinfosearch.org/result/3996
5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Centers of Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/pdf/kidney_factsheet.pdf
6. National Health Services UK: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/kidney‐disease/symptoms/
7. Recreated from: http://guidelines.diabetes.ca/App_Themes/CDACPG/images/Ch29_Tbl4_Stages_of_CKD.jpg

8. https://www.ukaachen.de/fileadmin/files/global/user_upload/Autosomal_dominante_polyzystische_Nierenerkrankung.pdf
9. https://www.orpha.net/data/patho/GB/uk‐CNF.pdf
10. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/alport‐syndrome#synonyms
11. https://ercpa.eu/index.php/2017/03/09/discover‐our‐new‐infographic‐on‐ckd/
12. http://www.thelancet.com/campaigns/kidney/
13. National Kidney Foundation (U.S.) Republished with permission.: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/about‐chronic‐kidney‐disease
14. https://www.klinikum.uni‐heidelberg.de/Nierenerkrankungen.119146.0.html

This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.