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Can Kidney Disease Be Reversed?

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Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a serious but manageable health condition. Kidneys are vital organs that filter waste and extra fluids from your blood. When kidneys become damaged, they no longer filter waste and fluids as they should. If you have recently been diagnosed with CKD or are undergoing testing for it, you may ask yourself, “Can kidney disease be reversed?” Many people with CKD can slow its progression through medication, treatment, and lifestyle changes.

What Is Kidney Disease?

Kidney disease is a condition that occurs when your kidneys don’t work as well as they should to filter waste, toxins, and excess fluids from your body. Many times, referred to as chronic kidney disease (CKD) and the word "chronic" means that the condition is ongoing and will require long-term medical care to look after your health. The two leading causes of CKD are diabetes and high blood pressure. There can be other factors, such as polycystic kidney disease, glomerular disease, or lupus, that can all cause CKD.

CKD falls into five different stages. In the early CKD stages 1–3, symptoms may be managed with lifestyle changes and medications. Stage 4 is more advanced kidney disease where there is severe loss of kidney function. Stage 5 is end stage renal disease (ESRD). People with ESRD require ongoing dialysis or a kidney transplant. Although kidney disease cannot be reversed, identifying CKD early is key to slowing the progression to delay or, in some cases, prevent dialysis. People with CKD stages 1–4 can potentially manage symptoms with medical supervision.

Testing for CKD

Identifying and treating CKD early can help slow the progression. There are symptoms of CKD that can help lead to early detection, but they are often mild, which is why it’s important to get regular health checkups.

To determine if you have CKD and your current stage, your doctor will usually order blood and urine tests. A blood test will determine your glomerular filtration rate (GFR), which indicates how well your kidneys are functioning. A normal GFR is above 90. A GFR between 60 and 90 could indicate early CKD. As CKD progresses, your GFR will get lower.

Tips to Preserve Kidney Function

Even though kidney disease cannot be reversed, there are ways to help preserve your current kidney function and slow the progression.

Eat right

Eating a kidney-friendly diet can help improve your overall health and slow the progression of CKD. Your specific dietary needs are determined by your current stage of CKD, as well as any other medical conditions you may have, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and medications. Be sure to discuss your dietary choices with your doctor and dietitian. In general, people living with CKD should eat a low-sodium diet and limit phosphorus and potassium. Talk to your doctor and dietitian for insights on what’s best for you.

Take your medications

Make sure to take any medications as directed by your doctor and see a nephrologist, or kidney doctor, when your primary doctor recommends.

Get regular checkups

Be sure to see your primary doctor regularly to assess your overall health. If you are concerned about kidney health, ask your doctor to check your blood and urine.

Thriving with CKD

While kidney disease cannot be reversed, there are effective treatments and lifestyle practices that can slow disease progression. Talk to your doctor to learn more about your current kidney health and what steps you can take to keep your kidneys functioning. Regardless of your current condition, there are treatments available to help you thrive.

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