Chronic renal disease, more commonly known as chronic kidney disease, affects about 1 in every 500 people in the U.S. This disease slowly progresses and causes the loss of kidney function over time, usually years. Kidneys are the body’s way to remove excess water and waste from the body and the effects of chronic renal disease are tremendous.
Chronic kidney disease, or CRD, gets worse as time goes on. In the beginning stages there are often no symptoms at all, making an early diagnosis difficult. For some, kidney function loss can take months or even years. In some cases the disease is so slow and symptoms take so long to appear that kidney function is less than 10% of normal.
Unfortunately, in early stages symptoms resemble many other illnesses. These early signs of chronic renal failure include headaches, fatigue, a loss of appetite, nausea, dry skin and itchiness, along with unintended weight loss. As the disease progresses, symptoms include a change in skin color, bone pain, bad breath, easy bruising or bleeding, excessive thirst, impotence, a stop in menstrual periods, shortness of breath and brain/nervous system symptoms like problems concentrating, numbness and muscle twitching.
In the final stage of CRD, also referred to as end-stage renal disease (ESRD), the kidneys can no longer function properly. This means waste and fluid removal from the body is severely hampered. At this point treatments like dialysis or a kidney transplant are needed.
One way to slow the progression of the disease is by controlling blood pressure. ACE inhibitors or ARBs are often prescribed for patients with chronic renal disease. Keeping blood pressure at or below 130/80 mmHg seems to be effective.
Still, the most effective treatment for chronic kidney disease is dialysis. Dialysis is meant to take the place of your kidneys by removing the waste and built-up fluids from your body. Dialysis is performed using a fluid called dialysate. This mixture of chemicals and water pulls waste from the body without removing beneficial particles. A membrane keeps blood away from the dialysate while allowing the waste and fluid flow through. Dialysis remains the best way to keep someone in end-stage renal disease alive, although a kidney transplant is the only permanent option.