CKD Causes and Symptoms


Diabetes and high blood pressure together are the primary causes for more than two-thirds of cases of CKD in the U.S. These two conditions, especially if uncontrolled, cause damage to blood vessels and kidneys. At first, this damage happens slowly over time, which makes noticing symptoms difficult.

Early detection and a kidney-friendly lifestyle can help keep your kidneys working well and give you the best chance for a longer and healthier life.

Other causes of CKD include sudden injury to kidneys from a severe illness or reaction to certain drugs or chemicals. It’s also possible for CKD to result from a birth defect, inherited disease, autoimmune disease or other conditions.


Symptoms of CKD

  • Swelling of ankles, feet, face or hands
  • Fatigue 
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Decreased appetite 
  • Metallic taste 
  • Nausea
  • Itching 
  • Blood or protein in the urine

Common risk factors for CKD

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • High blood pressure or hypertension
  • Chronic kidney infections 
  • A family history of CKD
  • Older age
  • Prostate obstruction
  • Birth defects or inherited disease
  • Certain drugs
  • Injury to the kidney or kidney stones
  • Lupus or other autoimmune diseases
 keeping kidneys healthy

A kidney-healthy lifestyle

  • If you have diabetes, control your blood sugar  
  • Control your blood pressure
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet
  • Don’t smoke or use tobacco
  • Be active at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week
  • Stay at a healthy weight
  • Ask your doctor about medications to protect your kidneys

risk of CKD

Who is at highest risk for CKD?

  • People with diabetes mellitus
  • People with heart or blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease, especially hypertension or high blood pressure
  • People who have obesity 
  • People who smoke or use tobacco
  • People who are African-American, Hispanic or Native American 
  • People with a family history of kidney disease
  • People who are older in age

What is YOUR GFR?

This is an important question to ask your doctor. Your GFR tells you how well your kidneys are working. A GFR over 60 means your kidneys are filtering well. Under 60? Talk to your doctor. A combination of good healthcare and a commitment to a kidney-friendly lifestyle can prolong your kidney function.

Learn more about keeping kidneys healthy
Satellite CKD GFR

Additional resources

Knowledge is power. Learn all you can about CKD for a better, longer life.

The Kidney School

A series of online learning presentations helps you build your understanding of CKD.

Visit their library of topics in English

Visit their library of topics in Spanish

Free eBook in more than 32 languages

“Save Your Kidneys” is a complete, compact and practical guide on all major kidney problems written by a nephrologist with many years of experience. It includes basic information about early diagnosis, care and treatment of common kidney diseases.

Podcasts about kidney disease

KidneyTalk is a long-running audio program that covers a wide range of topics with a series of podcasts designed for people who are newly diagnosed with CKD.