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Stages of Chronic Kidney Disease: What every patient needs to know

What is Chronic Kidney Disease?

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a progressive kidney disease that results in gradual loss of kidney function over time. It can result from any underlying condition that directly affects the kidneys. A few of these include high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure—which are responsible for two-thirds of CKD cases.

There are six stages of CKD, and they’re classified based on the level of kidney function—assessed using various parameters. Let’s understand what they are.

Stages of Chronic Kidney Disease

CKD is primarily classified based on the estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate (eGFR)—an indicator of how well the kidneys filter waste from your blood.

Stages of Chronic Kidney Disease

Stage 1 CKD: normal eGFR of 90 mL/min or more

In Stage 1 CKD, your kidneys function well, and you may not observe any visible symptoms. However, you may have early signs of mild kidney damage like blood or protein in your urine.

Stage 2 Mild CKD: eGFR between 60 and 89 mL/min

In this stage, there is a mild loss of kidney function, and you may observe symptoms like high blood pressure, swelling in the legs, and urinary tract infections.

Stage 3A Moderate CKD: eGFR between 45 and 59 mL/min

Here, you will have mild to moderate loss of kidney function. You may also feel weak and have back pain, muscle cramps, urination changes, and dry or itchy skin.

Stage 3B Moderate CKD: eGFR between 30 and 44 mL/min

While symptoms remain similar to Stage 3A, progression to Stage 3B indicates moderate to severe loss in kidney function. Your doctor will refer you to a nephrologist for further treatment.

You cannot undo the damage caused but can delay CKD progression with medication and lifestyle changes. With medical intervention, it may take over ten years to progress from Stage 3 to Stage 4.

Stage 4 Severe CKD: eGFR between 15 to 29 mL/min

In Stage 4 CKD, there is severe loss of kidney function. Your kidneys cannot filter out waste, leading to other health issues—anemia, bone disease, cardiovascular issues, abnormal mineral levels, etc.

Stage 5 End Stage CKD: eGFR less 15 mL/min

This stage indicates you’re facing kidney failure and are in end stage renal disease. You will feel shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, abnormal thyroid levels, and lower back pain. You may also see changes in skin color and swelling in various parts of the body.

At this stage, dialysis is inevitable. Your nephrologist will help you explore the options of home dialysis and kidney transplant.

How does your doctor know you have CKD?

Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms and clinical/ family history to understand your health issues. Then, they might recommend a few tests to gauge the current state of your kidney function.

How do you diagnose CKD?

CKD can be diagnosed based on:

  1. Glomerular filtration rate (GFR): It indicates how well your kidneys filter waste from your body. It’s calculated based on your blood test results, age, and gender.

  1. Creatinine levels: Kidneys maintain blood creatinine in the normal range. Therefore, elevated creatinine levels in your blood test reports are a reliable indicator of kidney disease.

  1. Albumin levels: Healthy kidneys don't let albumin pass into the urine. If your urine test results detect albumin, it indicates kidney disease. The amount of albumin in urine also helps identify the progression of your condition.

How can you manage CKD?

CKD tends to progress over the years. However, just because you're in the early stages doesn't necessarily mean you'll progress to the later ones. You can manage, slow down, or even prevent CKD progression with adequate medications and lifestyle changes.

Here are a few ways you can manage it:

  1. Dialysis: It helps to remove the waste, excess salt, and water that piles up in your blood due to reduced kidney function. You can opt for in-center or in-home dialysis.

  1. Exercise: Regular exercise can help you stay active, maintain muscle mass and manage CKD symptoms. We have a structured 30-minute exercise plan to help you get started.

  1. Nutrition: Following a kidney-friendly diet—low in sodium, protein, fluids, and other minerals will help you manage CKD.

  1. Mental health: The stress of living with CKD may lead to anxiety, depression, and cognitive impairment. You can keep your mental health in check by following simple techniques—meditation, journaling, etc.—and asking for help when required.

Reach out to a nephrologist

Chronic Kidney Disease doesn't happen in a day. If you've been diagnosed with it, reach out to a nephrologist and ask them how you can treat and manage your symptoms.

Contact us today if you're looking for a nephrologist to help you with your diagnosis or treatment plan.

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