Helping you live a better life on dialysis

Print Page

Causes of Chronic Kidney Disease

Are you at risk for kidney disease?

Answer 12 simple questions to learn about your risk for kidney disease.

Start Now

Learn about the common causes of chronic kidney disease

There are many causes of chronic kidney disease. The two most common causes are diabetes and high blood pressure (hypertension). These conditions are responsible for two-thirds of all chronic kidney disease cases.

Other conditions that can cause chronic kidney disease include glomerular disease and polycystic kidney disease (PKD).

In addition to common causes for chronic kidney disease, there are also risk factors. Learning about causes and risks may help you recognize possible signs and symptoms. The goal is to seek appropriate treatment. Early detection of these underlying conditions and risks can give you a better chance of keeping your kidneys working longer.

Know your GFR flow
GFR (glomerular filtration rate) is a measure of how well your kidneys are working. It helps your doctor diagnose kidney disease by determining how well your kidneys are cleaning your blood.

Learn About Diagnosis


Diabetes can cause kidney disease

The number one cause of kidney failure is diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, you have too much sugar (glucose) in your blood. People with diabetes have problems converting food to energy. If diabetes is not well-controlled, it can cause many complications, including kidney disease.

Facts about type 2 diabetes (the most common form of diabetes):

  • Almost 26 million people in the US have diabetes.
  • This is almost 8% of the total US population.
  • Yet, nearly one in four people do not know they have it.

Approximately 44% of people starting dialysis have kidney failure caused by diabetes. And this number is likely to increase, as cases of type 2 diabetes are predicted to double in the next 20 years.

Learn about diabetes


High Blood Pressure can cause kidney disease

The second most common cause of kidney failure is high blood pressure (hypertension). High blood pressure accounts for almost 28% of all kidney failure.

High blood pressure is a condition when the force of blood in your blood vessels is higher than normal. this makes your heart work harder. Over time, high blood pressure can damage many organs in the body, including the kidneys.

Facts about high blood pressure:

  • In the US, more than 70 million adults have high blood pressure.
  • Only half of people living with it in the US have it under control.
  • Most people with high blood pressure have no symptoms.
  • More than half of people with chronic kidney disease have high blood pressure.1

Learn about high blood pressure


Glomerular disease can cause kidney disease

Glomerular disease causes damage to clusters of blood vessels used in the kidneys to filter blood and urine. As a result, blood and large amounts of protein build up in the urine. This can result in swelling in parts of the body (face, hands, feet or ankles) and low protein in the blood.

Facts about glomerular disease:

  • It is the third leading cause of kidney failure.2
  • This disease can be the result of an infection or taking a drug that is toxic to the kidneys.
  • It can be the result of a disease like diabetes.

Polycystic Kidney Disease can cause kidney disease

In polycystic kidney disease (PKD), cysts (fluid-filled pouches) build up mostly in the kidneys, although cysts can be found in other organs. These cysts enlarge the kidneys over time, resulting in chronic kidney disease, which can lead to failure. This process usually happens over many years.

Facts about polycystic kidney disease:

  • In the US, about 600,000 people have polycystic kidney disease.
  • It is the fourth leading cause of kidney failure.
  • About half of people with the most common type of polycystic kidney disease progress to kidney failure, also known as end stage renal disease (ESRD).  

What you can do if you have one of these conditions

Having diabetes, high blood pressure, glomerular disease or polycystic disease puts you at greater risk for chronic kidney disease. It's important to understand the signs and symptoms of these diseases and seek diagnosis and treatment for them. You also need to monitor your kidney function.

Ask your doctor for the following tests to assess if you have chronic kidney disease:

A blood test measures:

  • Glomerular filtration rate (GFR), which shows your level of kidney function. Your GFR is an important way you and your doctor monitor chronic kidney disease.
  • A1C hemoglobin, if you have diabetes.

A urine test measures:

  • Protein levels. Extra protein in the urine is a sign of kidney damage.
  • Red and white blood cells. Red blood cells can indicate kidney damage white blood cells can
    show signs of infection or inflammation (swelling).

Download a Helpful Brochure

Living with Chronic Kidney Disease - CKD Brochures

Get important information and helpful tips about living with chronic kidney disease.


Connect with a Healthcare Professional

Attend a Fresenius Medical Care Treatment Options Program (TOPs) in your area to discover resources, information, and support available to you and your family.

Learn More