Chronic kidney disease describes any progressive loss of kidney function, at least over a course of months, but more usually over a course of years. It is usually secondary to another condition and is progressive, often being the primary cause in the patient's death. About 735,000 people a year worldwide die from it, and about 2 million people in the United States and Canada have it at any given time. In addition, even more patients actually die from cardiovascular diseases than from kidney failure.
In addition, as the condition progresses, it usually creates a feedback of conditions that make it worse. For example, the most common cause is high blood pressure. However, as kidney function declines, blood pressure rises to allow more blood to be processed through the damaged kidneys, which makes the conditions worse.
About 75% of cases are caused by high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus and inflammation of the blood vessels in the kidneys. Other common causes are diseases of the large blood vessels, lupus and kidney stones.
Once the condition is discovered, it must be carefully monitored. Patients are usually treated to lower their blood pressure and, if possible, their other underlying conditions are treated as well. However, if the disease passes a certain point, dialysis and transplant remain the only options.