Chronic Kidney Disease (Adults)

Chronic Kidney Disease (Adults): Understanding Your Results

What is chronic kidney disease?

  • You have two kidneys. Healthy kidneys remove waste products from your body. They also help the body to control blood pressure, make red blood cells, and keep bones healthy.
  • Chronic kidney disease means the kidneys are not able to do their part to keep you healthy.
  • Chronic kidney disease does not happen overnight. It happens slowly, and the damage occurs in stages. Most people with early stages of chronic kidney disease do not have any symptoms. They may feel nothing. They may not know that anything is wrong.
  • The good news is that chronic kidney disease can be treated! Treatment can stop more damage.
  • In severe stages of chronic kidney disease, the kidneys can no longer clear body wastes. So body wastes build up and make you feel sick. They can also cause high blood pressure, anemia (low number of red blood cells), weak bones, and nerve damage. You may also have a higher chance of getting heart disease and blood vessel disease. If the kidney damage continues to get worse, it can lead to kidney failure. Kidney failure is when your kidneys no longer work well enough to keep you alive. If you have kidney failure you will need a treatment like dialysis or a kidney transplant.
  • Chronic kidney disease can be caused by diabetes (high blood sugar levels), high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases (like lupus), medications that injure the kidneys, and other conditions. The risk for getting kidney disease is partially genetic, but lifestyle choices, like healthy diet and exercise, can reduce the risk. The risk also increases with age.

What does high risk for chronic kidney disease mean?

  • On average, 1 out of 10 people, or 10% of people, have chronic kidney disease.
  • If you are at high risk of chronic kidney disease, this means that your risk is at least 2 times higher than a person not in the high risk category.
  • Your risk of chronic kidney disease is high because of one of the following reasons:
    • You have a close blood relative with chronic kidney disease, or
    • You have a high polygenic risk score (PRS) for chronic kidney disease. Your polygenic risk score is in the top 2%. This means that you may have a higher genetic risk for chronic kidney disease than 98 out of 100 people.
  • This result does not mean that you have chronic kidney disease or that you will definitely develop chronic kidney disease in your lifetime.
  • This PRS was created using genetic information from large research studies of people with European, Asian, African, and Hispanic/Latino descent. We outline how this score was created below:
    • DNA differences in each population were picked up that are linked to chronic kidney disease risk
    • These DNA differences were combined into a single score, called a “trans-ancestry PRS”
    • This score was tested using genetic information from other research studies with different populations and was accurate
  • Larger research studies are needed in people of other descents to provide a risk range for those populations – see the Broad PRS report attached.

What can you do to lower your risk for chronic kidney disease?

  • Not everyone who is at high risk for chronic kidney disease will get it. Talk to your doctor(s) or healthcare provider about how to decrease your chances of getting chronic kidney disease.
  • Have a checkup with your healthcare provider at least once a year. Your healthcare provider will check your blood pressure and sugar level and will test you for kidney disease.
  • There are also steps you can take to prevent kidney disease:
    • Exercise regularly
    • Make healthy food choices
    • Limit how much alcohol you drink
    • Stop smoking if you are a cigarette smoker. If you never smoked, don’t start!
  • Some medicines and supplements can harm the kidneys. Use only the medicines, vitamins, and supplements that your healthcare provider recommends. Avoid herbal supplements and those used for body-building.
  • Some drugs that you take for pain can also harm the kidneys. They are called NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). They include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve). Talk to your healthcare provider if you have questions about them.

What are your next steps?

  • You should share these results with your doctor(s) or other healthcare provider to discuss actions to lower your risk. If you are at a high risk of kidney disease, get tested for it! There are two simple tests:
    • Urine test: Your urine will be tested for protein. Your body needs protein. But protein should not be in the urine. Having protein in your urine may mean that your kidneys are not working properly. This can be a sign of early kidney disease.
    • Blood test: Your blood will be tested for a waste product called creatinine. Creatinine comes from muscle. When the kidneys are damaged, they have trouble removing creatinine from your body.
  • You should also get your blood pressure checked. High blood pressure puts you at extra risk for kidney disease. Regular checkups help find and treat high blood pressure. This helps lessen your risk for kidney damage.
  • If you have high blood sugar (diabetes), talk with your doctor(s) or other healthcare provider about how to best control your sugar to prevent kidney disease.
  • Your results will be uploaded to your electronic health record for you to review and will be available to your doctor(s) or other healthcare providers.
  • You may also want to share your results with your family members.
  • If you have any questions about your results, please contact our study team. You can find this contact information on the cover page of the GIRA.

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