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Love Kidneys

The effects
of kidney disease


Kidneys perform many jobs that keep you healthy. Your kidneys:

  • Clean your blood and remove extra fluid and waste products.
  • Help control your blood pressure.
  • Make red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout your body and take carbon dioxide back to your lungs so it can be exhaled.
  • Help your body use vitamin D to keep your bones strong.
  • Balance your electrolytes and minerals so that your muscles, heart, and organs work properly.

When your kidneys are damaged, they cannot perform these important functions. The good news is that kidney disease can be prevented and treated to keep from getting worse.

Select a body system from the menu or roll over the body to learn about the effects of kidney disease.

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Heart and Blood Vessels

Kidney disease increases your risk of heart and blood vessel problems such as high blood pressure, heart attack, congestive heart failure, blood vessel disease, stroke, and swelling and extra fluid around the heart. Heart attacks are the most common cause of hospitalization and death for people with kidney disease, especially those on dialysis.

Heart disease also affects the kidneys. Heart failure reduces blood flow to the kidneys and can lead to kidney failure.

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Kidney disease increases your risk of nerve damage and seizures.

Uremic encephalopathy (disorder of the brain) happens when toxins that are normally removed by the kidneys build up in the brain. This can cause neurological problems like confusion, loss of concentration, lethargy, subtle personality changes, and other mental problems.

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Bones and Joints

Kidney disease causes an imbalance of minerals in the blood and prevents your body from using vitamin D to keep bones strong. Bones become weaker, thinner, and more likely to break.

Kidney disease can also cause pain, stiffness, and extra fluid in the joints where bones connect.

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Body Fluids

When the kidneys don’t work properly, extra fluid and toxins build up in the body. This can cause edema (swelling) in your legs, arms, eyes, and around your lungs and heart.

Kidney disease also can cause an imbalance of electrolytes (sodium, potassium, phosphates) and lead to irregular heartbeat, muscle weakness, edema, and uremia (blood in the urine). Uremia can have serious effects, including loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fluid buildup around the heart, nerve problems, confusion, and changes in mental status. Left untreated, uremia can result in seizures, coma, cardiac arrest, and death.

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Kidney disease decreases your ability to make red blood cells. This leads to anemia, which causes extreme fatigue and can make heart problems worse.

Hemolytic uremic syndrome happens when red blood cells die and block the blood vessels around the kidneys. Damage to these blood vessels can lead to excessive bleeding and other problems.

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Immune System

Kidney disease weakens your immune system and makes it harder to fight off illness and infection.

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Kidney disease gets worse over time and affects many organs and body systems.

When left untreated, kidney disease can progress to end-stage renal disease, when the only treatments available to prevent kidney failure are dialysis or transplant.

Early detection and treatment of kidney disease can prevent or delay poor outcomes. Ask your doctor to check your kidneys.

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