Kidney disease usually affects both kidneys. If the kidneys' ability to remove and regulate water and chemicals is seriously damaged by disease, waste products and excess fluid buildup occur, causing severe swelling and symptoms of uremia (kidney failure).

There are many different types and causes of kidney disease. These can be characterized as hereditary, congenital or acquired.

Hereditary Disorders

These can be transmitted to both males and females, and generally produce clinical symptoms from teenage years to adulthood. The most prevalent hereditary kidney condition is polycystic kidney disease. Other hereditary conditions include Alport's syndrome, hereditary nephritis, primary hyperoxaluria and cystinuria.

Congenital Disease

This usually involves some malformation of the genitourinary tract, usually leading to some type of obstruction which subsequently produces infection and/or destruction of kidney tissue. The destruction can eventually progress to chronic kidney failure.

Acquired Kidney Disease

These diseases are numerous, the general term being nephritis (meaning inflammation of the kidney). The most common type of nephritis is glomerulonephritis, and again, this has many causes.

Kidney Stones

These are very common, and when they pass, the pain can be extremely severe in the side and back. Stone formation can be an inherited disorder, secondary to a malformation and/or infection in the kidney, or can occur without any prior problem. The pain can appear suddenly and in waves, and then disappear rapidly when the stone is passed.

Nephrotic Syndrome

This refers to a large protein loss in the urine [frequently in association with low blood protein (albumin) levels, an elevated blood cholesterol and severe retention of body fluid, causing swelling (edema)]. This disease can be a primary disorder of the kidney or secondary to an illness, affecting many parts of the body (for example diabetes mellitus).

Long-standing High Blood Pressure (hypertension)

This can cause kidney disease itself or can be a result of a kidney disorder. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can accelerate the natural course of any underlying kidney disease.

Diabetes

Long standing diabetes can lead to kidney failure. However, tight control of blood glucose levels over the years may reduce those complications.

Drugs and Toxins

Certain medications, toxins, pesticides and "street" drugs (i.e., heroin) can also produce kidney damage.

Causes

Unfortunately, the cause of many kidney diseases is still unknown, but controlling high blood pressure and diabetes can reduce the risk of many kidney diseases.

Symptoms

Although many forms of kidney disease do not produce symptoms until late in the course of the disease, there are at least six warning signs that may indicate kidney disease: 1. Burning or difficulty during urination 2. An increase in the frequency of urination 3. Passage of blood in the urine 4. Puffiness around the eyes, swelling of the hands and feet 5. Pain in the small of the back just below the ribs 6. High blood pressure

Diagnosis

Your doctor will obtain a complete medical history and perform a physical exam. He or she may recommend blood tests and certain urine tests, which can provide much information about your kidney function.

Treatment

Some kidney diseases can be successfully treated and others progress to advanced kidney failure, requiring dialysis and/or transplantation. For example, kidney infections and kidney stones can often be successfully treated. Chronic inflammation of the glomerulus (glomerulonephritis) is the most common kidney disease, which slowly progresses to kidney failure. Your doctor may recommend certain medications or suggest a specific diet for you.