5 Stages of Kidney Disease
Kidney disease can be classified in five stages, depending on severity. Those stages are usually measured by your glomerular filtration rate (GFR), which is the filtration rate of liquid through your kidneys. As this rate continues to drop, the severity of your condition increases.
Stage 1 patients will show a relatively high GFR, with only some abnormalities showing up in their blood and urine work. These abnormalities can usually be spotted by a lack of protein being processed through the body, which results in a lower amount of protein in your urine.
Stage 2 is recognized by your body processing less than 90mL per minute through your kidneys. At this stage, things are becoming more serious, but the main indicator is still a test of the blood and urine. Hypertension and fatigue might be apparent by this time.
Stage 3 is shown by the body processing less than 60mL per minute. At this point, you may need some outside assistance. Keep in mind; this is not kidney failure yet, but the longer you let your kidney disease go, the harder it will be for the body to repair itself.
Stage 4 is considered a severe reduction in GFR to less than 30mL per minute. Patients that are caught at this stage may be recommended for dialysis and kidney transplants before their kidneys completely fail.
Stage 5 is a GFR of less than 15mL a minute. At this point, your kidneys are classified as failed, and a kidney replacement will be necessary. At this level, the human body can build up toxins to a lethal level in a matter of hours.
While these stages may be easy for doctors to measure with protein tests, their causes can vary. Some doctors will recommend an ultrasound or a CT scan on your kidneys to look for swelling, tumors or cancers, kidney stones or any type of urinary tract infection or blockage that might lead to a buildup of toxins.
A kidney biopsy may also be needed. This is when doctors will cut out a tiny part of your kidney for closer examination. This is generally done to help determine what disease is causing your infection and to help construct a treatment.
What Causes Kidney Disease?
So what can cause Chronic Kidney Disease? For starters, a severe injury to the kidneys can cause irregular functioning and even the shutdown of the kidneys. The kidneys might stop working if the body is infected with an immune system disease like hepatitis or lupus (lupus works by attacking body tissues, and the kidneys are no exception).
If there is a severe enough infection of strep, the after effect can be the swelling of the filters in the kidneys. Also, the kidney-based infection pyelonephritis can lead to kidney disease, if left untreated. On top of this, you might see polycystic kidney disease, where cysts form within the kidneys, or maybe you’re a heavy drinker and you’ve taken in so many foreign toxins that your kidneys can’t keep up with the cleaning process. You might even be born with a repairable congenital defect that causes a urinary tract obstruction. Whatever the reason, the end result for most of these is the same; the progressive damage to the kidneys will, over time, lead to Chronic Kidney Disease.
While all of these factors can potentially lead to Chronic Kidney Disease, most doctors will tell you there are two main culprits: diabetes and high blood pressure. When blood sugar is too high, it can damage organs in the body, and the kidneys are usually the first to feel the effect. Also, the kidneys help regulate blood flow, and increased pressure of blood on the organ can lead to damage and disease over time. As a result, doctors often warn of kidney disease when treating patients for blood and heart conditions.
People with diabetes are often times prone to kidney disease. Diabetes can cause the kidneys to process too much blood, leading to an overtaxing of the kidneys filters and eventually causing damage and shut down. This is a common side effect of diabetes, and is usually closely monitored in patients of both type 1 and 2 diabetes.
Many of the people who suffer from Chronic Kidney Disease are older, and their bodies have a harder time regulating than they used to. Others may inherit their kidney problems, in which case they may spend their whole lives monitoring themselves to make sure their kidneys stay in working order.
Whatever the reason it happens, once you have kidney disease, it can be extremely difficult for the body to repair itself. Sometimes the kidneys will shut down on their own in an effort to repair themselves, and sometimes they simply shut down because of heavy damage and don’t start up again. If this happens, a kidney transplant may be needed to lead a normal life, otherwise you would need regular dialysis treatments, or external machines to clean and regulate your blood, for the rest of your life.