Chronic kidney disease


The kidneys have several functions:

  • to regulate the amount of salt, water and other chemicals in the body;
  • to remove waste products and excess water from the body; and
  • to make hormones which regulate blood pressure, red blood cell production and calcium absorption.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is said to be present when kidney function is reduced or there are signs of kidney damage for more than 3 months. About one in 9 adult Australians has at least one sign of CKD.

The major problems associated with CKD are progression to kidney failure and increased risk of cardiovascular disease (such as heart attack and stroke).

What causes chronic kidney disease?

The most common causes of CKD in Australia are diabetes, glomerulonephritis (inflammation of the kidneys) and high blood pressure.

Other causes include polycystic kidney disease (an inherited condition) and reflux nephropathy (damage to the kidneys due to backflow of urine from the bladder).

What are the symptoms of chronic kidney disease?

Most people with early CKD will not notice any symptoms. If early symptoms do occur, they may include blood in the urine, pain in the kidney area, pain on passing urine, changes in the frequency and amount of urine passed, puffiness around the ankles and eyes, and tiredness. Other symptoms may develop as the disease becomes more advanced.

What are the risk factors for chronic kidney disease?

One in 3 Australians is at increased risk of developing CKD. People at increased risk include those:

  • older than 60 years;
  • with diabetes;
  • with high blood pressure;
  • who are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent;
  • who have a family history of kidney failure;
  • who are smokers; and
  • who are obese.

How is chronic kidney disease detected?

A simple way of picking up CKD is to do a kidney health check, which includes:

  • a blood pressure check;
  • a urine test for protein; and
  • a blood test for kidney function.

People at increased risk of CKD are recommended to have a kidney health check every year.

What is the treatment for chronic kidney disease?

Treatment will depend on the cause and severity of the CKD.

It may involve lifestyle changes such as stopping smoking and maintenance of a healthy body weight; reducing blood pressure; control of diabetes; treatment of anaemia; and treatment of calcium and phosphate disturbance.

If end-stage kidney failure develops, dialysis or a kidney transplant will be required. However, if CKD is detected early, appropriate management can prevent or delay progression to kidney failure.

Last Reviewed: 1 August 2012


1. Kidney Health Australia. Fast facts on CKD in Australia (updated 27 June 2012). (accessed Aug 2012).
2. Kidney Health Australia. Detecting chronic kidney disease (CKD). (accessed Aug 2012).
3. Kidney Health Australia. All about chronic kidney disease (updated March 2012). (accessed Aug 2012).
4. Chronic kidney failure (updated 16 May 2012). (accessed Aug 2012).


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