What causes kidney disease?

The following are common causes of kidney disease in Australia:

  • Diabetes (half of all causes)
  • Hypertension
  • Inflammation of the kidneys (glomerulonephritis)
  • Lupus (Systemic lupus erythematous)
  • Kidney infection (pyelonephritis)
  • Kidney failure symptoms

Kidney impairment/ failure tends to happen gradually. Even if just one kidney works or both work partially, normal kidney function is still possible. So it can be a long time before any symptoms are noticed. When symptoms do occur, they can different from person-to-person, making it hard to diagnose kidney impairment quickly.

The following symptoms may be present:

  • Fatigue
  • Frequent need to urinate, especially at night
  • Itchy skin
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Water retention (swollen feet, hands)
  • Erectile dysfunction


What is dialysis?

Dialysis is the artificial process of eliminating waste and unwanted water from the blood. In other words, dialysis is the artificial replacement for lost kidney function.

A healthy person’s kidneys filter approximately 1,500 litres of blood each day. A person cannot live if waste products are not removed from the kidneys. Without dialysis, the waste products in the blood increase and eventually reach levels that cause coma and death.

Although dialysis helps patients whose kidneys have failed, it is not as efficient as a normal kidney. Consequently patients on dialysis need to be careful about what and how much they drink and eat. They also need to be on medications.


How can I look after my kidneys?

  • Stop smoking
  • Achieve and maintain healthy weight
  • Exercise
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Have a 6-monthly to yearly blood test by your GP to check on your urine and kidneys
  • Early referral to a kidney specialist if you have kidney impairment

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