Early stages of chronic kidney disease

When you are diagnosed with early stage chronic kidney disease (CKD), it is important for you to realize that there are things you can do to help support your health. Becoming knowledgeable about your kidney disease is the first step toward treating it. 

Because kidneys do not fail all at once, chronic kidney disease typically progresses through 5 stages. When you are first diagnosed, your kidney health care team will determine which stage of the disease you are in. This is done by computing your glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and comparing it to guidelines from the National Kidney Foundation (NKF). Your nephrologist will use a special formula to determine your glomerular filtration rate, which indicates how well your kidneys are cleaning your blood. In the future, your health care team will continue to check your GFR level to monitor your stage of chronic kidney disease and how the disease is progressing. 

Stages 1 & 2 of chronic kidney disease

If you have kidney damage and a normal or high glomerular filtration rate (> 90 ml/min.), you are considered to be in Stage 1 of chronic kidney disease. If you have kidney damage and a mild decrease in your glomerular filtration rate (60-89 ml/min.), you are considered to be in Stage 2 of chronic kidney disease. 

In the early stages of chronic kidney disease, you may not have any symptoms that show your kidneys are not functioning properly. The reason for this is that kidneys can continue to remove excess water and wastes from your body even though they’re not working 100%. People with diabetes and/or high blood pressure, the two leading causes of kidney disease are sometimes diagnosed in these early CKD stages.

There are other indications that a person may be in the early stages of chronic kidney disease. For example, you may be in Stage 1 or 2 if you have: 

  • Blood or protein in your urine
  • Higher than normal levels of creatinine or urea in your blood
  • Evidence of kidney damage that shows up in an MRI, CT scan, ultrasound or contrast X-ray
  • A family history of polycystic kidney disease (PKD)

If you have been diagnosed with kidney disease, your kidney health care team will regularly test you to determine the levels of protein in your urine and serum creatinine in your blood. The test results will help show if kidney damage has advanced. 

What you can do when you’re diagnosed with early stage kidney disease

If you’re told that you are in Stage 1 or Stage 2 of chronic kidney disease, there are things you can do right now to help slow progression of the disease. Here are some recommendations to help sustain and protect your kidney health: 

  • Stop smoking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Set a healthy weight goal (talk to your kidney doctor and dietitian)
  • Eat healthy:
    • Include a variety of fruits and vegetables
    • Follow a meal plan that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and moderate in total fats
    • Limit the amount of refined and processed foods high in sugar and sodium that you consume
    • Use less sodium when preparing your food and avoid packaged items that have high sodium ingredients
  • Reduce your protein consumption to the recommended daily intake (0.8grams/kg body weight)
  • Consume adequate calories to maintain or attain a healthy weight
  • Maintain blood pressure at a healthy level
  • If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar under control
  • Have regular checkups with your kidney doctor and have your glomerular filtration rate monitored
  • Take medicines as prescribed by your doctor

Summary

When you are diagnosed with early stage chronic kidney disease (Stage 1 or 2), there are steps you can take to slow the progression of the disease. Your kidney doctor can determine what stage of kidney disease you are in by checking your glomerular filtration rate (GFR).You can make a commitment to live a healthier lifestyle by not smoking, exercising regularly, eating a healthy kidney diet and taking your prescribed medicines. No matter what stage of chronic kidney disease you are in, continue working with your kidney health care team to stay as healthy as possible.

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