ESRD is the last stage of chronic kidney disease (CKD). CKD is a condition in which the kidneys are not working as they should. CKD slowly worsens over time and can progress to ESRD. ESRD means the kidneys only work less than 15% of what is normal.

The kidneys are 2 bean-shaped organs in the lower back on each side of the spine. Each one is about the size of a fist. The kidneys have tiny filters that pull wastes from the blood to make urine. They also catch proteins the body needs and keeps them in the blood so they can be used. The kidneys also balance acids, fluids, and blood pressure.

Anatomy of the Kidney
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Wastes build up in the blood when the filters are not working as they should. The filters also let proteins leak into the urine. Damage to these structures can happen quickly after injury or poisoning. But, most kidney diseases take many years to cause damage that is noticed.

There are 2 main causes of ESRD:

  • Diabetes—The filters are damaged by high blood glucose in diabetes that is not well-controlled.
  • High blood pressure—Causes damage to the kidney's blood vessels.

ESRD can lead to pain, anemia, high blood pressure, bone problems, heart disease, and fluid buildup in the body. ESRD is treated with dialysis or a kidney transplant.

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Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrienne Carmack, MD
  • Review Date: 07/2019 -
  • Update Date: 07/19/2019 -