Causes of Kidney Disease

Diabetes and high blood pressure cause 75% of kidney failure in the United States.

Diabetes

Diabetes occurs when your body does not make enough insulin, or your body’s cells do not use insulin normally.

Insulin helps the body use or store glucose from food. Often, patients with diabetes have high blood sugar levels. These high blood sugar levels cause damage to many organs and muscles in your body, including your kidneys. Diabetes causes damage to the blood vessels in the kidneys. The vessels become both stiff and leaky.

As the damage from diabetes gets worse, many of the waste products that the kidneys usually remove from the body stay in the blood. At the same time, some of the protein and nutrients that should stay in the blood are lost in the urine. A simple urine test can check for protein in the urine. Protein in the urine indicates there has been damage done to the kidneys.

Even people with controlled diabetes are at higher risk for kidney disease, than others. Medical scientists are still unsure of the relationship between diabetes and kidney disease, whether it is due to heredity, diet or other medical conditions, but certain ethnic heritages have higher rates of kidney disease. African Americans, American Indians and Hispanics/Latinos develop diabetes, chronic kidney disease (CKD) and kidney failure at rates higher than Asians or Caucasians.

People with diabetes who also have hypertension are at increased risk for kidney damage and disease. Early detection and treatment of even mild hypertension are essential for people with diabetes.

Hypertension

Hypertension means high blood pressure. Hypertension occurs when the force of your blood against the walls of your blood vessels increase. High blood pressure causes heart attacks, strokes and chronic kidney disease (CKD) if not well controlled. High blood pressure causes damage to the kidneys by injuring the tiny blood vessels that filter the blood.

Both a family history of hypertension and the presence of hypertension appear to increase chances of developing kidney disease. Hypertension also accelerates the progress of kidney disease when it already exists.

Blood pressure medicines that lower blood pressure can slow the progression of kidney disease significantly. Your doctor may prescribe angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), among others. Many people require two or more drugs to control their blood pressure. The goal is to help achieve a blood pressure target of 130/80 or lower provides benefits.

Other causes of kidney damage

  • Glomerulonephritis: A group of diseases that can cause inflammation and damage to the tiny filtering blood vessels in the kidney. These various diseases are the third most common type of kidney disease.
  • Inherited diseases: The most common is polycystic kidney disease (PKD), where growing cysts damage normal kidney tissue over many years. Other inherited diseases include Alport’s syndrome, hereditary nephritis and Fabrey’s disease.
  • Toxicities from drugs: Pain killers such as ibuprofen or naproxen (Advil or Aleve), chemotherapy or antibiotics may result in kidney toxicity.
  • Frequent kidney infections: Infections scar normal kidney tissue.
  • Obstruction of the kidneys: Where urine is blocked from exiting the kidney, the pressure permanently damages the kidney.
  • Removal of the kidneys: From kidney cancer.