What Causes Kidney Disease?

May 26, 2017

Maybe you had a blood test and your doctor told you there is a problem with your kidneys. It could be an elevated creatinine or blood urea nitrogen level or a reduction in your glomerular filtration rate. Maybe a urinalysis indicated you are spilling protein into your urine. Now, you want to know what causes kidney disease. There are basically two types of kidney disease that are staged at five levels for severity. The first is acute kidney disease, and it comes on suddenly. A heart attack, accident, severe burns, exposure to toxins, and even over-the-counter pain medications and some supplements may cause it. Acute kidney disease may resolve when the underlying problem is fixed. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) worsens over time and is likely associated with an ongoing underlying condition. Here are some examples of the causes of CKD.


When your pancreas does not produce insulin, this is Type 1 diabetes requiring lifelong insulin by injection. Type 2 diabetes has been discovered to have many more nuances than previously thought, but it typically begins with insulin resistance where your body does not make the best use of the insulin your pancreas produces. Oral medications to stimulate insulin production or how your body uses insulin is a standard treatment. Type 2 diabetes may also require insulin and possibly other injectable medications.

The goal of treating all diabetes is to keep your blood glucose levels as near to normal as possible for the longest period of time. The reason is that high blood glucose levels cause damage to blood vessels beginning with the tiniest ones first. Your kidneys are packed with tiny blood vessels that filter large volumes of blood. Elevated glucose damages these blood vessels over time, resulting in loss of kidney function. Diabetes is the number one cause of CKD, but following treatment plans to keep your A1c at your target level can prevent, delay, or slow progression of kidney disease.


High blood pressure is the second leading cause of CKD. Diabetes is responsible for about 44% of kidney disease while high blood pressure is the cause behind approximately 28% of kidney disease diagnoses. Your kidneys have tiny parts called nephrons that filter your blood. They work to help you maintain fluid and electrolyte balance in your body while removing toxins and turning it into urine. These tiny nephrons filter about 15 gallons of blood every hour of every day of your life.

Elevated blood pressure levels stress the blood vessels in and around your kidneys, causing them to not be able to circulate the needed amount of blood to sustain proper kidney function. It does not happen overnight. It is a progression that can take years to reach the point of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) where you need dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive. Also, you may lose up to 90 percent of your kidney function before you even have any symptoms. This is why it is critical to keep your blood pressure at target levels recommended by your doctor, and this requires you to follow the recommended dietary, medication and exercise guidelines of your treatment plan.


Some forms of kidney disease may be inherited. A gene was discovered in 2012 to be responsible for Karyomegalic interstitial nephritis (KIN). Kidney disease is associated with other genetic causes as well. Steroid-resistant nephrotic syndrome, Alport syndrome, Wegener’s granulomatosis, amyloidosis and Goodpasture syndrome are inherited genetically and cause CKD. For many genetic problems that can lead to CKD, there are other issues that lead to a diagnosis. Following recommended treatment plans help treat the genetic disorders and therefore assist in preserving kidney function as long as possible.

You have likely heard of the straw that ends up breaking the camel's back. A camel can carry a heavy load, but there is a point where no more can be carried without failure being imminent. The old adage applies equally as well to kidney disease. Do not add to the burden your kidneys already bear in filtering your blood by being lax in treating diabetes or high blood pressure. Get a blood and urine test to check kidney function. Stop smoking. Exercise as it helps with control of weight and metabolic factors such as blood glucose levels and hypertension. Also, if at all possible, avoid continued use of over-the-counter and prescription painkillers that are processed by your kidneys. Every little bit you do takes some of the load off of your kidneys to help preserve function, even if you have CKD.

Categories: Kidneys