About Kidney Disease

Kidney disease can begin with few obvious symptoms. There are many things that can be done to slow or even stop the progression of the disease.

Kidneys are essential to normal body functioning. They work around the clock to filter out waste and regulate fluid and chemical levels in the body. Kidneys also contribute to other functions, such as blood pressure, calcium absorption and hemoglobin levels.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is defined as the presence of kidney damage or decreased kidney function for a period of three months or more. Kidney disease can occur suddenly due to a serious injury or illness, but it’s more commonly caused by a chronic health condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure. An estimated 145,000 people in British Columbia have some level of chronic kidney disease.

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Disease progression

Kidney disease is progressive, meaning that it usually gets worse over time. However, with early diagnosis, the progression of the disease can often be slowed and sometimes even stopped through lifestyle, diet and medication changes.

Kidney disease can worsen to the point that the kidneys have very little function. This is called kidney failure, or end-stage kidney disease. Kidney failure is fatal unless a patient undergoes lifelong dialysis or receives a new donor kidney through transplant. Every effort should be made to prevent or delay end-stage kidney disease because the outcomes for patients on dialysis are poor and the wait for transplant can be long.

Because the symptoms of early stage kidney disease are easily misunderstood or ignored, many people with the disease are unaware of it. This is why early diagnosis and early treatment are so important.

Risk Factors

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of kidney disease
  • Individuals from specific high-risk ethnic groups (including First Nations, Asians, African Americans and Pacific Islanders).


Many people show no symptoms in the early stage of kidney disease. However, early symptoms may include:

  • Foamy or bloody urine
  • Headaches
  • Frequent need to urinate at night
  • Puffy eyes or ankles

As the disease progresses, symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Puffy eyes or ankles
  • Restless legs
  • Anorexia
  • Urinating more frequently/ urinating large volumes (polyuria)
  • Itching


BC Renal Agency
The Kidney Foundation of Canada BC Branch
BC Transplant
BC Ministry of Health Services Chronic Disease Management