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Overview of Renal Disease: Symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment

Dr. Rashmi ByakodiSept 14, 2023

The kidneys are the main organs in your renal system. They are bean-shaped organs located underneath the rib cage. Kidneys filter blood and remove waste products, scum, toxins, and excess water through urination. Additionally, your kidneys perform many other vital roles, such as maintaining the fluid balance in the body and producing hormones that regulate blood pressure and stimulate bone strength.

However, for a variety of causes, kidneys might become dysfunctional and develop Renal Disease. As a result, the body gets overloaded with toxic materials and excess fluid. If left untreated, it can lead to a life-threatening condition known as Renal Failure. This article will help you understand Renal Disease and related causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. 

Renal Disease



What is a Renal Disease?

Renal Disease is a condition in which the kidneys lose their ability to carry out an excretory function or maintain chemical balance in the body, which may lead to the retention of water and waste products in blood. Renal disease can have an impact on red blood cell formation as well as vitamin D metabolism. Moreover, if Renal Disease is left without treatment, it may lead to a fatal condition called a Renal Failure or Kidney Failure. 

What causes Renal Disease?

The primary causes of Renal Disease are diabetes and high blood pressure. 

  • Diabetes: Uncontrollable diabetes can lead to too much glucose in your bloodstream. Consistently high levels of blood sugar (hyperglycemia) may damage the filters of your kidney. Gradually, the kidneys become completely damaged and lead to Renal Failure, where they are no longer capable of filtering the waste products and excess fluid.

  • High blood pressure: In high blood pressure, the force of blood on the blood vessels increases extensively. It can constrict the blood vessels, reduce the blood flow and eventually weaken and damage the blood vessels across the body, including in the kidneys.

Other causes of Renal Disease may include the following. 

  • Growing cysts in the kidneys (Polycystic kidney disease)

  • Crystallisation of minerals and other substances in the blood leading to kidney stones

  • E. Coli bacteria and fungi cause urinary tract infections

  • Drugs that are toxic to kidneys

  • Lupus nephritis (kidney disease that is caused by lupus)

  • Glomerulonephritis

  • IgA nephropathy

  • Infection

  • IgA vasculitis

  • Renal artery stenosis

  • Family history

  • Prolonged use of NSAIDs

Types of Renal Disease

The major type of Renal Diseases includes the following.  

1. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

Chronic Kidney Disease can affect your whole body and the way it functions. It damages the kidneys, making it difficult to filter your blood and remove waste products. With damaged kidneys, you may have high blood pressure or fluid retention and get sick. CKD can also cause other health problems, such as anaemia, increased infections, low calcium levels, high potassium and phosphorus levels in the blood, and loss of appetite.

2. Glomerulonephritis

Glomeruli are tiny filters inside the kidneys which filter the blood. When these filters get inflamed and damaged, they fail to filter the waste and extra fluid from the blood. This condition is known as glomerulonephritis. If not treated in time, glomerulonephritis can lead to kidney failure. Many health problems, such as lupus, good-pasture syndrome, and heavy use of NSAIDs, may cause glomerulonephritis, but it can be treated depending on the cause.

3. Kidney stones 

When the urine contains high amounts of calcium, oxalate, and phosphate, it becomes too concentrated and forms crystals. These crystals bind with each other, they form small masses known as kidney stones. If a kidney stone gets stuck to the ureters, it might obstruct the urine flow and cause the kidney and ureter to swell, along with a sharp, throbbing pain in the side and back below the ribs.

4. Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)

PKD is a genetic condition in which numerous cysts start to form in the kidneys. These cysts inhibit the ability of your kidneys to filter wastes and extra fluid from the blood. Gradually it can lead to kidney failure. Although there is no cure for PKD, treatments may decelerate the growth of the cysts.

5. Lupus nephritis

It is a type of kidney disease caused by lupus which is an autoimmune disorder that damages the body’s own cells and organs. Lupus nephritis may gradually get worse and lead to kidney failure. 

6. Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)

These are bacterial infections in any part of the urinary system. Urinary bladder and urethra infections are the most common. UTIs can be easily treatable. However, if left untreated, they can lead to kidney failure. 

Symptoms of Renal Disease

Renal Disease may show few or no symptoms until they get advanced. However, some early symptoms may include the following. 

  • Extreme tiredness and fatigue

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Loss of appetite

  • Muscle cramps

  • Swelling in the ankles and feet

  • Puffiness in eyes in the morning

  • Difficulty in concentration

  • Dry, scaly skin

  • Frequent urination, especially at night

Symptoms of chronic Renal Disease may look like these.

  • High blood pressure

  • Anaemia

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Loss of appetite

  • Breathlessness if fluid builds up in the lungs

  • Edema in hands, feet, and ankles

  • Water retention in body

  • Reduced urine output

  • Blood in urine

  • Frothy urine

  • Impaired mental alertness

  • Continuous itching in skin

  • Decreased libido

  • Hyperkalaemia

How are Renal Disease diagnosed?

The doctor may perform several kidney function tests to evaluate the condition of the kidneys. If the doctor suspects a risk of kidney failure, they might recommend tests that include the following.

  • Urine analysis: This test evaluates abnormal protein or sugar spills in urine, urinary sediment evaluation to examine RBCs and WBCs, bacteria, and cellular casts.

  • Urine volume measurement: This test measures urine output and helps diagnose kidney failure. Low urine output may indicate kidney disease.

  • Blood tests: Blood tests are done to measure substances filtered by the kidneys such as urea, creatinine, and nitrogen. An abrupt rise in these levels may signify acute kidney failure.

  • Glomerular filtration rate test: It is a test that examines how well the kidneys are functioning. Precisely it evaluates the amount of blood that passes through the glomeruli every minute.

  • Biopsy of kidneys: Tissue samples from kidneys are taken and examined for any abnormal growth, deposits, infectious organisms, or scarring.

  • CT scan, MRI scan, and ultrasound: The scanned images provide the image of the kidneys and urinary tract to detect any disorder.

Treatment options for Renal Disease

Various treatment options are available for Renal Disease. Treatment options depend on the type, cause, and stage of Renal Disease.

1. Medications

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin-II receptor blockers help your kidneys get rid of extra water and lower the levels of hormones that raise blood pressure. And diuretics make you pee more, which helps your kidneys get rid of extra salt and water that can cause high blood pressure.

2. Dietary changes

The dietary guidelines depend on the stage of Renal Disease. People with Renal Disease should follow a diet that includes the following.

  • Limiting sodium and potassium intake to less than 2 grams per day

  • Limiting phosphorus intake below 1 gram per day

  • Limiting protein intake may help slow down the condition

  • Avoid foods that are rich in cholesterol

  • Complete elimination of alcohol from the diet 

3. Dialysis

Dialysis helps filter and purify the blood. There are two types of dialysis.

  • Hemodialysis: This is a procedure in which a dialyzer is attached to the patient’s body that performs the functions of the kidneys. It continuously cleans the blood.

  • Peritoneal dialysis: A catheter bag containing dialysis solution is attached to the patient’s abdominal lining. The dialysis solution flows into the abdominal lining, absorbs wastes and excess fluid, and drains back to the catheter again.

4. Kidney transplant

This is the end-stage treatment and this procedure includes replacing damaged kidneys with a healthy kidney from one of the donors (may be living or deceased). Immunosuppressant drugs are administered to the patient for the rest of their life to ensure that the body does not reject the transplant.

Prevention from Renal Disease

The best way to prevent Renal Disease is to embrace changes in dietary habits and lifestyle. Some of them are mentioned below. 

  • Eating a balanced diet

  • Maintain body weight

  • Reduce intake of salt, sugar, and saturated fat

  • Avoid foods high in sodium, potassium, phosphorus, and protein

  • Include more fruits and vegetables in diet

  • Avoid or limit alcohol consumption

  • Avoid processed or refined foods

  • Exercise regularly

  • Manage stress

  • Stay hydrated

  • Get enough sleep

  • Avoid sitting for a long time

Frequently Asked Questions

Here’s a list of common questions and answers related to Renal Disease


What are the warning signs of Renal Disease?

Some of the warning signs of Renal Disease are extreme fatigue, loss of appetite, high blood pressure, changes in urine output, bloody or frothy urine, anaemia, persistent itching, and swelling in the hands, feet, and face.

What are the main causes of Renal Disease?

The primary causes of Renal Disease are hypertension, diabetes, and prolonged use of NSAIDs.

How can I prevent myself from the risk of Renal Disease?

To lower your risk of developing kidney disease, you should adopt some lifestyle and dietary changes. These include eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly to maintain a healthy weight, and avoiding foods high in sodium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, and saturated fat. You should also limit alcohol consumption, manage stress, and get enough sleep.


Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.

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