What Are the Causes of Kidney Disease?

About 20 million adults in the U.S. have kidney disease (also called renal disease) and many don’t know it. Do you know the causes of kidney disease and if you’re at risk? Take the Kidney Disease Risk Quiz and get answers. You can also spread kidney disease awareness by sending your loved ones an inspirational e-card. The more people you send it to, the more chances they’ll have to take control of their kidney health.

So, what exactly are the main causes of kidney disease?

There are several causes of kidney disease, a condition that affects one in 10 adults age 20 or older in the United States. Learning about the root causes of kidney disease can help you get the right treatment and potentially preserve remaining kidney function.

Diabetes is the number one cause of kidney disease, responsible for approximately 44 percent of all kidney failure cases1. High blood pressure (also called hypertension) is the second leading cause, accountable for about 28 percent1. Glomerulonephritis, a general term for many types of kidney inflammation, as well as genetic diseases such as polycystic kidney disease (PKD), autoimmune diseases, birth defects and other problems can also cause kidney disease.

Will my kidneys fail if I have diabetes?

Diabetes is a risk factor for renal disease, but it does not mean your kidneys will fail if you have diabetes. You can care for your kidneys by controlling your blood sugar and getting regular microalbumin urine tests to track the passage of protein. If you develop diabetic kidney disease, you can work with your doctor to keep your kidneys working for as long as possible.

Can I catch kidney disease from someone who has it?

No. Kidney disease is not contagious. Most kidney disease is caused by diabetes or high blood pressure, conditions that can run in families. If you are a family member of someone who has diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney disease, it is a good idea to ask your doctor to check your blood pressure, blood sugar and kidney function at your next checkup.

I have a family member with polycystic kidney disease (PKD). Should I be tested?

According to the PKD Foundation®, polycystic kidney disease (PKD) does not skip generations like other genetic diseases. If you have a family member with PKD, ask your doctor about getting tested. The first test used for PKD is an ultrasound to look at the kidneys and see if there are cysts. Learning more about PKD may help you to take better care of your kidney health. The PKD Foundation has more information that can help you. You can reach them at 1-800-PKD-CURE, or visit PKDCure.org.

1U.S. Renal Data System, USRDS 2013 Annual Data Report: Atlas of Chronic Kidney Disease and End-Stage Renal Disease in the United States, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Bethesda, MD, 2013.

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