End-Stage Renal Disease

The final stage of chronic kidney disease (CKD), end-stage renal disease occurs when the kidneys are functioning at less than 15 percent of their normal capabilities, and are no longer able to filter waste from the blood. The kidneys experience complete or near-complete failure, and cannot function on their own.

Causes of End-Stage Renal Disease

End-stage renal disease is usually caused by diabetes, but can also be a result of the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • Vascular disease
  • Injury or trauma to the kidneys
  • Autoimmune disease

Certain genetic disorders can also cause end-stage renal disease.

Symptoms of End-Stage Renal Disease

As kidney failure progresses, patients experience many symptoms, which can include the following:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Infection
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures

End-stage renal disease also results in seizures.

Treatment of End-Stage Renal Disease

Because of the severity of the damage to the kidneys, the only treatments for end-stage renal disease are dialysis and kidney transplants.


Dialysis is the blood-cleansing procedure most often used as treatment for kidney failure. The chief function of the kidneys is to filter waste products from the blood. When the kidneys fail, dialysis takes over their function. During dialysis, blood is removed from a vein in the patient's arm or leg, circulated through a filtering machine, and returned to the body through an artery. Patients are required to undergo dialysis treatments several times a week, and may become extremely weak and fragile.

Kidney Transplant

A transplant involves removing one or both kidneys, and replacing them with healthy kidneys from a donor. Transplants can often help restore patients' health, but there are long waiting lists for receiving them. Post-transplant, patients require daily supplemental medications.

Both dialysis and kidney transplants have risks but, without treatment, end-stage renal disease leads to death.

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