What is chronic kidney disease?

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) refers to all conditions of the kidney, lasting at least 3 months, affecting the filtration and removal of waste from the blood by the kidneys (indicating kidney dysfunction), and/or leakage of protein or albumin in the urine (indicating kidney damage). CKD is common, costly and often detected too late to be reversible, but it is largely preventable because many of its risk factors—high blood pressure, tobacco smoking, overweight and obesity, and impaired glucose regulation—are modifiable (Kidney Health Australia 2019).

Box 1: Stages of kidney disease

Early stages (1–2)

There are usually no symptoms as the kidneys are still able to function when they are slightly damaged. This makes diagnosis difficult.

Middle stages (3–4)

Level of waste (urea and creatinine) in the blood rises and the person starts to feel unwell. Kidney function slows down with increased urination.

End stage (5)

Person requires dialysis or a transplant to stay alive.

Source: Adapted from Kidney Health Australia 2007; Kidney Health Australia 2015.


Kidney Health Australia 2007. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) management in general practice. Melbourne: Kidney Health Australia.

Kidney Health Australia 2015. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) management in general practice, 3rd edn. Melbourne: Kidney Health Australia. Viewed 23 April 2020.

Kidney Health Australia 2019. Evidence document: a compendium to the National Strategic Action Plan for Kidney Disease. Viewed 24 April 2020.