Conditions That Affect Your Kidneys

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

When health problems (like diabetes) affect your kidneys, they can cause chronic kidney disease. This is permanent damage that may get worse over time. If they’re so damaged that they stop working, it’s called kidney failure, or end-stage renal disease (ESRD). The treatment is usually either dialysis – when a machine does the work your kidneys normally do – or a transplant – when you receive a healthy kidney from a donor.


Diabetes damages the organs’ small blood vessels and filters. That makes it difficult for them to clean your blood. Your body holds on to more salt and water than it should, and there’s more waste in your system. Nerve damage caused by the disease can make urine back up and harm your kidneys through pressure or infection.

High Blood Pressure

If the force of blood flow through your body is too high, it can stretch and scar -- and weaken -- your blood vessels, including the ones in your kidneys. This can keep them from getting rid of waste the way they should, and the extra fluid in your blood vessels can raise your blood pressure even more, leading to a dangerous cycle. It’s treated with medication and changes to things like your diet, exercise habits, and stress level.


This is a disease that makes your immune system attack certain parts of your body -- when it affects your kidneys, it’s called lupus nephritis. It causes inflammation and scarring of the small blood vessels that filter waste out of your kidneys, and sometimes in your kidneys as well. It’s treated with different medications: Some affect your immune system, while others help control your blood pressure or get rid of swelling and excess fluid.

Anorexia Nervosa

People who have this have an unnatural body image, and they don’t eat enough to stay at a healthy weight (they weigh at least 15% less than they should). That can lead to a lack of water and salt in the body, which can cause chronic kidney disease and, eventually, kidney failure. This is especially true for people who binge-eat and purge (vomit or use laxatives) to get rid of calories.

Multiple Myeloma

This kind of cancer attacks white blood cells (plasma) that help you fight infection. The cancer cells build up in your bone marrow, where they crowd out healthy blood cells and make abnormal proteins that can cause kidney problems. More than half the people with multiple myeloma also end up with kidney problems.

Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome

This happens when damaged red blood cells clog the kidneys’ filtering system -- and that can eventually cause kidney failure. It happens after 5 to 10 days of diarrhea, usually brought on by an infection, like from E. coli bacteria, or certain medications. Most people fully recover if it is treated quickly enough. See your doctor if you have several days of diarrhea, not urinating often, and are very tired. You also may have unexplained bruises or unusual bleeding.

ANCA Vasculitis

This is when your own antibodies -- which usually fight germs -- attack the small blood vessels in your kidneys and other organs. It may lead to blood and protein in your urine and can cause kidney failure. You may have fever, body aches, joint and muscle pain, and brown, tea-colored urine.

Urine Blockage

If you cannot urinate, that can mean urine is backed up, and that can damage your kidneys. It can cause pressure and lead to infection in your kidneys and other parts of your body. An enlarged prostate, prostate cancer, kidney stones, bladder cancer, blood clots in your urinary tract, and colon cancer are some of the conditions that can cause this. See your doctor if you are urinating much less or much more often than usual, or if you see blood in your urine.

Blood Clots

Many conditions can cause blood clots, but one blood disorder -- thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura -- is commonly linked to kidney problems. It causes clots in tiny blood vessels that also can affect your brain and heart. Symptoms include fever, bleeding from your nose or gums, diarrhea, chest pain, confusion, headache, bruising, and feeling very tired. It can be serious if it is not treated quickly, so see your doctor if you have any of these signs.


This is a group of rare diseases that make your skin and connective tissues hard and tight. It can sometimes also harm other things, like blood vessels and organs. If it affects your kidneys and they don’t work the way they should, they can let protein escape through your urine. It also can cause a sudden increase in blood pressure that can lead to rapid kidney failure.

Polycystic Kidney Disease

This causes cysts -- small sores, often filled with fluid -- to grow inside your kidneys. That makes them much larger than they should be and damages their tissue. It’s caused by problem genes you get from one of your parents. If it’s not diagnosed and managed soon enough, it can lead to chronic kidney disease and, eventually, to end-stage renal disease.

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