Kidney disease

The kidneys clean waste products from our blood

The kidneys filter toxins from our blood, and help to regulate blood flow around our bodies. In kidney disease, damage to the kidneys means they don't perform these functions properly.  This causes a wide range of symptoms.

Chronic kidney disease is thought to affect between one and four people out of every 1,000 in the UK.  But there's a lot you can do to minimise your risk by making small and long-lasting changes to your lifestyle.

At your NHS Health Check, your risk of developing kidney disease will be assessed, and you'll be given personalised advice and support to help you reduce that risk.

What happens in kidney disease?
The kidneys contain millions of tiny filters called nephrons.  They clean toxins and waste products from our blood.

In kidney disease, the kidneys become damaged and no longer work properly.  Toxins and waste products build up in our blood, causing a range of symptoms.

The most common causes are other long-term conditions that cause damage to the kidneys, particularly diabetes and high blood pressure.

Symptoms of kidney disease

Kidney disease usually doesn't cause any symptoms until the damage to the kidneys has become severe.  This means it can take many years for kidney disease to become apparent.  By this time, damage to the kidney is usually serious and irreversible.

When symptoms do occur, they include:

Avoiding kidney disease
Because kidney disease is most often caused by other conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, the best way to avoid kidney disease is to avoid these conditions.

There’s lots you can do to help avoid high blood pressure and diabetes.  They include:

If you already have diabetes or high blood pressure, be sure to follow the treatments that will help to keep them under control, so that their impact on your health is reduced.

To read more about high blood pressure and diabetes, see Related articles (top right).

Take action
At your NHS Health Check you will have a discussion with your GP (or health professional).  This will include a discussion of the test results that are relevant to your risk of kidney disease, such as blood pressure.

Whatever your results, your GP will then give you information and advice on lifestyle changes that will help to minimise your risk of kidney disease and other vascular diseases.  If you're at higher risk, this advice may be combined with treatments that will help, such as medicines to lower blood pressure.  You may also be offered support (free on the NHS) to help you stop smoking or lose weight.

For practical advice and information on reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, a good diet and physical activity, see NHS Choices links (right).

Kidney disease: the five stages

There are five stages of chronic kidney disease. The higher

the stage, the more severe the condition.  Kidney specialist

nurse Nicola Thomas talks about each stage of the condition,

and the treatments available.

Related articles

Heart disease



NHS Choices links

NHS Guide: kidney disease

NHS Guide: diabetes

Health A-Z: high blood pressure

Health A-Z: cholesterol

Other links

The British Renal Society

Kidney Care Matters

Kidney Research UK


Go Smokefree


Check for symptoms of kidney disease

Check your weight

Get daily fitness tips on your desktop

Plan healthy 5 A DAY meals

Assess your drinking

The links below will take you to an external website


The Check

Your Results

Take Action