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HealthInfo Canterbury

What is chronic kidney disease?

If you have chronic kidney disease (CKD), it means your kidneys aren't working properly, and are unlikely to get better. It is sometimes called chronic renal failure. In medicine, the word chronic means long-lasting, and renal is the medical word for kidney.

Your kidneys play an important role in filtering waste and removing excess fluid from your blood, turning it into urine. If your kidneys aren't working properly, they can't do this. Over time, this is harmful.

Chronic kidney disease often happens gradually. It might be mild and never get any worse. In this case, you won't need hospital care, but your GP will regularly check how your kidneys are working.

However, if your CKD becomes more serious you will need to be cared for by hospital kidney specialists.

What causes CKD?

glomerulonephritisChronic kidney disease happens because your kidneys are damaged. This can happen for several reasons, and there may be more than one cause. The most common causes of CKD are:

Less common causes include:

  • Alport syndrome
  • crescentic nephritis
  • focal and segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS)
  • Goodpasture syndrome
  • Henoch-Schonlein purpura
  • IgA nephropathy
  • membranoproliferative GN
  • membranous nephropathy
  • Minimal change disease
  • vasculitis

Who is at risk of CKD?

Some things increase your risk of having CKD. These include:

  • heart disease
  • being 60 or older
  • being Māori or a Pasifika person
  • a family history of kidney disease.

What are the symptoms of CKD?

If CKD develops slowly, you may not notice any symptoms, particularly in the early stages. The symptoms can often be quite vague. However, as it gets worse, you might notice:

On the next page: How is chronic kidney disease diagnosed?

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical director, Nephrology Department, Canterbury DHB. Page created August 2016.

See also:

Videos about kidney disease

Specialists recommend

These links contain clinically complex information, which some people may find useful:

Alport syndrome

Crescentic nephritis

Focal and segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS)

Goodpasture syndrome

Henoch-Schonlein purpura

IgA nephropathy

Membranoproliferative GN

Membranous nephropathy

Minimal change disease



Page reference: 202909

Review key: HICKD-117713