How is chronic kidney disease treated?

There is no cure for chronic kidney disease (CKD), but steps may be taken in early CKD to preserve a higher level of kidney function for a longer period of time. If you have reduced kidney function:

  • Make and keep your regular healthcare provider / nephrologist (kidney specialist) visits.
  • Keep your blood sugar under control (for diabetics).
  • Avoid taking painkillers and other medications that may make your kidney disease worse.
  • Keep your blood pressure levels under control.
  • Consult a dietitian regarding useful changes in diet. Dietary changes may include limiting protein, eating foods that reduce blood cholesterol levels, and limiting sodium (salt) and potassium intake.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Treat anemia (if present).
  • Exercise/be active on most days of the week.
  • Stay at a healthy weight.

What medications are prescribed for people with chronic kidney disease?

Depending on the cause of your kidney disease, you may be prescribed one or more medications. Medications your nephrologist may prescribe include:

  • An angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor or an angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB) to lower your blood pressure.
  • A diuretic to help your body eliminate extra fluid.
  • Medications to lower cholesterol levels.
  • Erythropoetin, to build red blood cells if you are anemic.
  • Vitamin D and calcitrol to prevent bone loss.
  • Phosphate binder if your kidneys can’t eliminate phosphate.

What is kidney dialysis?

Because there is no cure for CKD, if you are in late-stage disease, you and your healthcare team must consider additional options. Complete kidney failure, left untreated, will result in death. Options for end stages of CKD include dialysis and kidney transplantation.

Dialysis is a procedure that uses machines to remove waste products from your body when your kidneys are no longer able to perform this function. There are two major types of dialysis.

Hemodialysis: With hemodialysis, your blood is circulated through a machine that removes waste products, excess water and excess salt. The blood is then returned to your body. Hemodialysis requires three to four hours, three times a week and is performed at a clinic, hospital or dialysis center.

Peritoneal dialysis: In peritoneal dialysis, a dialysis solution is run directly into your abdomen. The solution absorbs waste and then is removed via catheter. Fresh solution is added to continue the process of cleaning. You can perform this type of dialysis yourself. There are two types of peritoneal dialysis: continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD), which involves a change in dialysis solution four times a day; and continuous cycling peritoneal dialysis (CCPD). CCPD uses a machine to automatically fill, remove wastes, and refill the fluid during the nighttime.

What is kidney transplantation?

Kidney transplantation involves placing a healthy kidney into your body where it can perform all of the functions that a failing kidney can’t. Kidneys for transplantation come from two sources: living donors and deceased donors. Living donors are usually immediate family members or sometimes spouses. This is possible because a person can live well with one healthy kidney.

Deceased donor kidneys usually come from people who have willed their kidneys before their death by signing organ donor cards. All donors are carefully screened to make sure there is a suitable match and to prevent any transmissible diseases or other complications.

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