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June 2023

Don’t Let Kidney Disease Sneak Up on You

Every day, your kidneys have a major job: to filter about 200 quarts of blood to make about 2 quarts of urine.

Your kidneys also balance sodium, calcium, potassium, and phosphorous in your blood and prevent waste and fluid from building up in your body. In addition, your kidneys make hormones that control your blood pressure, produce red blood cells, and keep your bones strong.

Unknown damage

Still, if you’re among the 37 million Americans with chronic kidney disease (CKD)—kidney damage that happens gradually—you might not know it. According to the CDC, as many as 90% of people with CKD aren’t aware of it.

That’s because your kidneys can stay on task while CKD takes hold. As the situation gets worse, however, you may notice swelling in your legs, feet, ankles, hands, or face. You might also experience the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue and sleep problems

  • Chest pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Nausea

  • Muscle cramps

  • Headaches

  • Itching

  • Vomiting

  • Weight loss

If untreated, CKD can also lead to kidney failure, heart disease, and stroke.

Kidney check

CKD often gets worse over time, but you can take steps to protect your kidneys. Fortunately, two simple tests can help you and your health care provider track your kidney function:

  • Glomerular filtration rate (GFR). This blood test measures creatinine, which is normally given off when your muscles naturally break down. A GFR of 60 or higher is normal. A GFR of less than 60 may mean you have kidney disease. A GFR of 15 or less may signal kidney failure.

  • Albumin. This urine test checks for albumin, a protein that can pass into urine with kidney damage.

Detecting CKD early can help keep your kidneys as healthy as possible.

Are you at risk for kidney disease?

Take a quiz to find out.


Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2023
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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