Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a health condition of the kidneys in which they gradually lose their function over months, years, or even decades, depending on individual factors.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 15% of the adult US population has CKD.
Now, the worst thing about this? 9 out of 10 adults with CKD are not aware they have it in the first place. That’s why CKD is so dangerous: you could have it for years without knowing, and this means years without proper lifestyle changes and treatment!
Here’s what you should know about the stages of CKD to diagnose it as soon as possible.
The 5 Stages of CKD
The classification of CKD stages is based on a parameter known as the glomerular filtration rate (GFR). GFR is the rate at which your kidneys filter the plasma that passes through them, essentially being a reflection of how well your kidneys work.
The normal range for GFR is 90 to 120 ml/min/1.73 m2
Stage 1 CKD, GFR > 90
At this stage, kidney function is normal or close to normal, and no symptoms of the disease are seen whatsoever. However, the damage can be noted through lab tests (e.g., finding protein in the urine). If you find and abnormal changes in your urine tests or have a family history of kidney disease, it’s recommended to visit a nephrologist and discuss the matter in detail.
Stage 2 CKD (Mild), GFR 60-89
Just like stage 1, stage 2 CKD usually doesn’t have any symptoms, but it means that the disease is likely to get worse in the future. Seeing a nephrologist is essential to come up with a strategy of how you can slow down the condition and prevent it from developing into renal failure.
Stage 3 CKD (Moderate), GFR of 30-59
At this point, some people start experiencing the first symptoms of the disease like back pain, changes in urination habits, or swollen hands and feet. On this stage, waste products start slowly building up in the body, and this may cause complications in the future. Consider visiting a nephrologist at least 2-3 times per year to make sure your kidneys’ function is under control.
Stage 4 CKD (Severe), GFR 15-29
Complications like arterial hypertension, anemia, and bone disease are common at this stage of the disease. The most important goal at this point is to discuss with your nephrologist your future dialysis strategy or kidney transplant surgery. It’s recommended to see a nephrologist at least 4 times per year to control the disease.
Stage 5 CKD (End-stage), GFR < 15
Also known as end-stage renal disease (ESRD), this stage is characterized by complete renal failure. The patient can no longer live without regular dialysis procedures or kidney transplantation, as waste products get accumulated extremely fast in the body. A nephrologist should be seen every month (or even more frequently) to manage the condition effectively.
Although chronic kidney disease is a terrible condition, it’s actually possible to live with it for decades without compromising your quality of life if you get diagnosed at the early stages of the process.
In this case, your nephrologist will give you a detailed set of recommendations including dietary and lifestyle changes that may effectively slow down the disease.
Don't hesitate, visit a nephrologist as soon as possible to make sure your kidneys are in good health!
By the way, we created a handy 5 stages of CKD PDF to help you keep track of your condition. Download it HERE for free!