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Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin

Key facts

What is kidney disease?

Kidney disease affects the urinary system, which is made up of the kidneys, urinary tract and bladder. The kidneys and other parts of the urinary system filter and discard blood-borne waste and excess fluid from the human body.

How do people get kidney disease?

People get kidney disease because they have one or more risk factors. Not everyone who has risk factors will get kidney disease, but most people with kidney disease have several risk factors.

There are risk factors that can be changed and those that cannot (see lists below). And there are contributing factors, such as poverty, which can be changed, but not easily.

Risk factors that can be changed:

Risk factors that cannot be changed:

What are the different types of kidney disease?

There are a number of different diseases affecting the kidneys, urinary tract and bladder, including urinary tract infection. Of particular concern is chronic (long-standing) kidney disease, which generally results from the impact of another long-term health condition, such as diabetes (diabetic nephropathy), high blood pressure (hypertensive renal disease) and direct damage to kidney cells (glomerular disease). Chronic kidney disease can also occur after recurrent urinary tract infection, which is more common for women than men.

Chronic kidney disease is the progressive loss of kidney function over months or years. As noted above, this is generally the result of long-term damage from another health condition.

End-stage kidney disease (also known as end-stage renal disease) is the most serious form of chronic kidney disease. It occurs when the kidneys are no longer able to function at a level needed for daily life. Medical help (including dialysis) is necessary to treat end-stage kidney disease. End-stage kidney disease can occur in young people, but it is more common in older people.

What are the symptoms of kidney disease?

Each kind of kidney disease has its own symptoms.

Symptoms for urinary tract infection include:

The symptoms of chronic kidney disease, including end-stage renal disease, can be quite varied, but common ones include:

What are the consequences of kidney disease?

Possible consequences of a urinary tract infection are:

Possible consequences of chronic kidney disease are:

What can be done to prevent kidney disease?

The following lifestyle changes can help prevent kidney disease:

How is kidney disease managed?

The management of most chronic kidney disease usually involves a combination of treatment for the underlying conditions and for the specific consequences of chronic kidney disease. For example, urinary tract infections are usually managed with antibiotics.

End-stage kidney disease requires medical intervention to prevent death. Current treatment options include regular dialysis to mechanically filter the blood and maintain the functions usually performed by kidneys. Kidney transplantation is another treatment option in some circumstances.

Some Indigenous people with endstage renal disease are at high risk of withdrawing from treatment because of:

Withdrawal from treatment is a huge worry because this usually leads to death.

Last updated: 10 July 2012
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