What to Expect 
After a CKD 
Diagnosis

When you’re diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD), it’s only natural to have questions. One of the best steps you can take is to learn as much as you can about CKD—including how kidneys work, the stages of CKD, and what glomerular filtration rate (GFR) means. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to participate in your treatment and make choices that are right for you.

Remember, you are the person who can have the biggest impact on your health. Put yourself first, commit to your health goals, and work with your doctor to plan CKD treatment around your life—not the other way around.

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3 things to understand about CKD

CKD affects the way your kidneys work
The main function of your kidneys is to maintain a chemical balance in your body. Healthy kidneys filter waste, toxins, and excess fluid from your blood. With CKD, your kidneys may not work as well as they should to clean your blood, so it’s important to follow your doctor’s exact instructions to help slow CKD progression and stay your healthiest.
CKD is a progressive condition that’s divided into 5 stages
The 5 CKD stages are based on your level of kidney function. While some people experience progression—a decline in kidney function over time—a CKD diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll progress to the later stages. And there are things you can do at every stage of CKD to help slow progression and keep your kidneys working as long as possible.
Your GFR is a number to know
Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is a measurement of how well your kidneys are working to clean your blood. Your doctor will calculate your estimated GFR (eGFR) to help determine which stage of kidney disease you’re in. Knowing your eGFR is key to managing your kidney health and feeling your best. After a CKD diagnosis, your doctor will request regular lab work to monitor your kidney function.

Coping with stress and managing emotions

It can take time to get used to a CKD diagnosis—and the mix of emotions that may come with it. Grief, fear, denial, anger, depression, and feeling overwhelmed are all perfectly normal reactions after an unwanted diagnosis. If you’re unsure about what to do immediately after your CKD diagnosis, consider these first steps.

  • Find a strong support network—In addition to your family and friends, there are also resources and communities available that can help you through each step of the diagnosis and treatment process.
  • Understand & manage your emotions—Talk to your doctor or care team about how to cope with the stress of a CKD diagnosis. They may even be able to refer you to a counselor or therapist for more specialized support.
  • Play an active role in your treatment—Make sure you ask questions, join the CKD community, and reach out when you need a little extra encouragement. Being an active participant in your CKD journey will help you stay healthy and feel your best.

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Developing your chronic kidney disease Care Plan

Your doctor will work with you to develop a CKD Care Plan to help you slow progression and reach your health goals. Following your Care Plan can help you take the best care and control of your health. Depending on your CKD stage, you may be working with a primary care doctor or a nephrologist (kidney doctor). The best time to start seeing a nephrologist is at CKD stage 3 or eGFR 30-44.

Your CKD Care Plan may include:

  • Following a healthy diet—what you eat and drink can affect your overall health and may affect your kidneys. Your doctor may recommend that you work with a dietitian in order to eat well and find healthy food options that still taste great.
  • Managing other health conditions—such as high blood pressure or diabetes to help you stay your healthiest.
  • Making healthy lifestyle choices—including exercising (as recommended), quitting smoking, and getting enough sleep.
  • Taking all medications as directed—and talking to your doctor before taking any new medications, vitamins, or supplements.
  • Learning about treatment options—if you’re at CKD stage 4 or CKD stage 5, with an eGFR of 29 or less, it’s important to learn about treatment options for kidney failure so you can make informed choices, as necessary.
  • Prioritizing your mental well-being—it’s equally important to look after your emotional health, so free yourself of excess stress where you can and reach out for support when you need it.

Communication with your doctor is key

Talking with your doctor is an important part of managing CKD. Your doctor will want to know how you’re feeling, if you have any new symptoms, and what questions you need answered. The more you share with your doctor, the more personalized your CKD Care Plan can be. To get the most out of your doctor appointments, keep a list of the things you want to discuss during your next visit.

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT CKD

Use this list of questions to start conversations with your doctor or nephrologist about CKD and your Care Plan.
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WHY YOU NEED A KIDNEY DOCTOR

A nephrologist, also known as a kidney doctor, is the most qualified doctor to help you manage kidney disease. Ask your doctor for a referral to a nephrologist if you begin to show signs of severe kidney damage.
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