CKD Glossary

In the course of the diagnosis, treatment, and management of my disease I've become familiar with a lot of technical and medical terminology that most people aren't.  Here's a synopsis:

Anemia --

CKD: Chronic Kidney Disease -- see also Stages of CKD

This is actually more of a category than a single disease.  A person with CKD has a condition in which the kidney has suffered damage and is expected to continue declining until total kidney failure is reached.

There are many diseases which cause CKD, the most common of which are diabetes and hypertension.  My particular disease is called Membranoproliferative Glomerulonephritis, Type II (MPGNII), or Dense Deposit Disease (DDD).  It's a very rare condition and little is known about it, but it's an autoimmune condition that seems to be caused by a genetic mutation.

Creatinine -- see also GFR

A chemical waste in your blood that is a byproduct of muscle contractions (made from creatine); your kidneys are supposed to filter it out.  Serum creatinine (the amount of creatinine in the blood) is one of the key indicators of kidney function.  In a healthy adult, normal serum creatinine levels fall between .5 and 1.2 milligrams per deciliter of blood depending on muscle mass (men tend to have more muscle mass than women, and people of African descent tend to have more muscle mass than other races).

DDD: Dense Deposit Disease -- see also CKD

The common name for MPGNII

Edema; Pitting Edema --
Water retention, manifested as swelling, especially in the face and extremities.  Pitting edema is when the swelling is severe enough that when you press with your finger, the indentation remains.

GFR: Glomerular Filtration Rate -- see also Creatinine; Stages of CKD
A number that indicates how many mililiters of blood the kidneys are able to filter per minute.  This number is arrived at by a formula, taking into account a patient's serum creatinine level, age, gender, race, and sometimes other factors, which determines what stage of CKD they are at.  When a person's GFR drops below 29, they need to start planning for dialysis and/or a transplant.  When a person's GFR drops below 15, this is kidney failure.

Hematuria --
Blood in the urine.  Frank hematuria is when you can see the difference (small amounts of blood may be present without affecting the color).  This was the first symptom of kidney disease that I noticed; my urine was a dark rusty color.

Hyperkalemia -- see also Potassium
Too much potassium in the blood; a common symptom of advanced CKD and also a side effect of certain medications used to manage CKD.  Very high levels of blood potassium can cause weakness, muscle spasms, tiredness, irregular heartbeat, and even heart attack, so patients with this problem must restrict dietary sources of potassium.

Hyperphosphatemia -- see also Phosphorus
Too much phosphorus in the blood; a common symptom of CKD.  As kidney function declines, phosphorus can build up in the blood, causing the parathyroid glands to pull calcium out of the bones to balance it.  This makes the bones weak, brittle, and achy, and can also create dangerous and painful hard mineral deposits in the soft tissues of the body.  Patients with this problem take a "phosphorus binder" with meals to prevent the body from absorbing so much phosphorus from food, and also need to limit dietary sources of phosphorus.

MPGNII: Membranoproliferative Glomerulonephritis, Type II -- see CKD

Phosphorus -- see also Hyperphosphatemia
A mineral found naturally in meats, dairy products, whole grain foods, nuts and beans, chocolate, and baking powder, as well as an additive in most commercially processed food.  It performs many necessary functions in the body, and healthy kidneys work to keep blood phosphorus levels in balance with other minerals, especially calcium.  

Potassium -- see also Hyperkalemia
A mineral found in practically all foods, but particularly in whole grain products, dairy products, meats, nuts and beans, chocolate, molasses, and many fruits and vegetables, including:

  • cantaloupe and honeydew melon
  • kiwi
  • bananas
  • oranges
  • mangoes
  • dried fruits
  • potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • winter squash, including pumpkin
  • tomatoes
  • avocadoes
Potassium is necessary to muscle and nerve function, especially for the heart, and it is dangerous, particularly to the heart, for potassium levels to be either too low or too high. 

Proteinuria --
Protein in the urine; a sign that things are coming out of the blood which should be staying in; a symptom of CKD.  Also a symptom of pre-eclampsia (toxemia) in pregnancy.

Stages of CKD --

The National Kidney Foundation has divided CKD into five stages, based on the rate at which the kidneys are able to perform their primary task (filtering the blood to produce urine).  Without getting too technical, the stages are as follows:

Stage 1: (GFR 90+) some damage to the kidneys but no loss of function and usually no symptoms felt by the patient

Stage 2: (GFR 60-89) slight loss of kidney function but usually no symptoms felt by the patient, although they may have elevated levels of creatinine in their blood and blood and/or protein in their urine

Stage 3: (GFR 30-59) moderate loss of kidney funtion and symptoms begin to present, such as high blood pressure, anemia, fatigue, fluid retention, itchiness

Stage 4: (GFR 15-29) severe loss of kidney function and patient feels very unwell

Stage 5: (GFR 0-14) kidney failure; patient must receive dialysis or transplant to continue living

I am currently at Stage 5.  I am on home Peritoneal Dialysis 11 hours a day.