What causes kidney disease?

Kidney disease can be caused by a wide variety of underlying diseases, disorders or conditions that lead to kidney damage, such as obstruction, infection, malignancy, inflammation, deformity, toxic ingestion, or a reduced blood supply to the kidneys. Underlying causes include:

  • Diabetes, which can damage the kidneys over time
  • Diseases that cause inflammation and damage to the kidney, such as nephritis and glomerulonephritis
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Infections, such as repeated bladder infections, pyelonephritis (kidney infection), or septicemia (blood infection)
  • Intravenous (IV) drug abuse
  • Kidney cancer
  • Overdose of certain drugs, or long-term use of certain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Examples of NSAIDS include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn).
  • Polycystic kidney disease (inherited disease that causes formation of large cysts in the kidneys that damage kidney tissue)
  • Reduced blood flow to the kidneys due to shock or renal artery stenosis (narrowing of the renal arteries)
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (disorder in which the body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues) and other autoimmune diseases that can attack the kidneys
  • Toxic exposure to poisonous substances
  • Trauma or injury to the kidney or arteries that supply blood to the kidneys
  • Urinary tract obstruction, which can be caused by a kidney stone, tumor, congenital deformity, or enlarged prostate gland

What are the risk factors for kidney disease?

Kidney disease can affect people of any age and any race or cultural background. However, a number of factors increase the risk of developing kidney disease. Risk factors include:

  • Age older than 65 years
  • African American, Native American, Hispanic American, Asian, or Pacific Islander ethnicity
  • Diabetes
  • Exposure to radiographic contrast material
  • Family history of kidney disease
  • High cholesterol, atherosclerosis (buildup of plaque on the walls of the arteries), and peripheral artery disease (PAD)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Intravenous (IV) drug abuse
  • Long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn)
  • Obesity
  • Recent major surgery or serious or life-threatening illnesses, such as shock and septicemia (blood infection)
  • Smoking

    Reducing your risk of kidney disease

    Not all people who are at risk of kidney disease will develop the condition. However, you can lower your risk of developing kidney disease by:

    • Following your physician’s recommendation for using medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

    • Maintaining a healthy weight

    • Not smoking

    • Not using recreational and IV drugs

    • Seeking regular medical care and following your treatment plan for chronic diseases and conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, high cholesterol, and heart disease


    What is kidney disease?

    Kidney disease is a general term that includes any disease, disorder or condition of the kidneys. The kidneys are vital internal organs located in the upper abdomen. Normally people have two bean-shaped kidneys, which form a part of the urinary tract in the genitourinary system.

    Healthy kidneys function continuously, and the body’s total blood supply passes through the kidneys sev... Read more about kidney diseaseintroduction


    What are the symptoms of kidney disease?

    Symptoms of kidney disease vary according to the underlying causes. General symptoms can include:

    • Cloudy or discolored urine

    • Difficulty urinating

    • Dizziness upon attempted standing

    How is kidney disease treated?

    Treatment of kidney disease varies depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. The goals of treatment are to cure the underlying condition, prevent excessive fluid and waste from accumulating in the body, and stop or slow the progression of damage to the kidneys. Treatment also aims to minimize complications of kidney disease.

    General treatment of kidney diseas... Read more about kidney diseasetreatments

    Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

    This Article is Filed Under: Kidneys and the Urinary System

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