Kidney Damage | Kidney Disease

Kidney Disease

Kidney Damage

We understand how kidney damage impacts your health and life. We’re here to give you the most skilled and compassionate care.

Medically reviewed by Baback Roshanravan, M.D. on Dec. 04, 2023.

A female patient hunched in pain with hand on her stomach sitting with a female provider

What Is Kidney Damage?

U.S. News and World Report ranked UC Davis Health a high performing hospital for treatment of kidney failure. We offer expertise and ongoing care for chronic kidney disease, and we partner with many dialysis clinics in our region.


What Is Kidney Damage?

When your kidneys become damaged, they can’t filter waste from your blood the way they should. This allows waste to build up in your blood that can increase inflammation, blood pressure, and feelings of tiredness.

Our nephrologists (kidney doctors) provide expert care for kidney damage due to diseases such as:

  • Acute kidney injury (AKI), a condition that leads to sudden kidney damage or failure.
  • Chronic kidney disease (CKD), an ongoing condition where your kidneys don’t filter waste from your blood properly.
  • Diabetic nephropathy, a diabetes-related condition where high blood sugar damages your kidneys.
  • Glomerular diseases, conditions caused by autoimmune diseases, cancer, infections and certain medications that affect your kidney’s ability to filter out toxins.
  • Hypertensive nephropathy, a condition where high blood pressure causes kidney damage.

Kidney Damage Symptoms

Symptoms of kidney damage depend on the cause and how severe it is. You may have no symptoms.

Common Symptoms

As kidney damage gets worse, you may have more and worse symptoms, including:

  • Frequent urination
  • Loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in your ankles, feet or hands
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Trouble sleeping

Emergency Symptoms

Call 911 or get medical attention right away if you experience:

  • Chest pain
  • Seizure
  • Trouble breathing

Causes of Kidney Damage

Kidney damage typically happens as a result of another disease or health problem.


Cancer and the medications that treat it can lead to kidney damage.


Diabetes can give you high blood sugar over a long period of time. Chronic (long-term) high blood sugar can damage the parts of your kidneys that filter waste from your blood.

High Blood Pressure

Over time, high blood pressure can damage your blood vessels and cause scarring and damage in certain structures of your kidneys.

Genetic and Autoimmune Diseases

Certain genetic diseases, such as polycystic kidney disease, can cause kidney damage. Autoimmune diseases such as lupus and IgA nephropathy can also lead to kidney damage.

Kidney Infection

Chronic or repeated infections in your kidneys can lead to damage.

Kidney Stones

Kidney stones can cause blockages that lead to kidney damage, especially if you don’t get treatment.


Risk Factors for Kidney Damage

Certain factors increase your risk of kidney disease that can lead to kidney damage.

Abnormal Kidney Structure

Abnormalities in the structure or size of your kidneys can increase your risk of kidney disease and damage.


Your risk of kidney disease that leads to damage is higher if you are over 60.

Heart Disease

Heart disease, such as coronary artery disease (CAD) or high blood pressure, raises your risk of kidney disease leading to damage.


Diagnosing Kidney Damage

You may need multiple tests to diagnose kidney damage. These may include:

  • Blood tests to check markers of kidney function and look for signs of infection. 
  • Scans such as MRI or ultrasound to look for problems with the structure of your kidneys. 
  • Urine tests to check your kidney function and look for signs of infection.

Treatments for Kidney Damage at UC Davis Health

Specialists in our Division of Nephrology have extensive experience and expertise in treating chronic kidney disease and kidney failure. We collaborate with your entire care team to manage every aspect of your health.

Your treatment depends on how much kidney function you have. Kidney disease typically gets worse over time, but lifestyle changes and other treatments may help slow the progression of kidney damage. With treatment, we aim to prevent kidney failure.


Dialysis uses machines to perform the function of your kidneys. These machines remove waste from your blood. Hemodialysis takes place in a clinic, and peritoneal dialysis you can do at home.

Lifestyle Changes

More physical activity can slow the progression of kidney disease. A low-protein, low-salt and plant-based diet helps reduce the strain on your kidneys. You also may need to monitor your intake of certain nutrients, such as potassium. Our clinical nutrition services team can help you navigate diet changes.


You may need to take medications to support your kidneys and your overall health. These may include drugs to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol and diuretics to balance the fluid levels in your body.


If your kidney damage is severe, you may need a kidney transplant. This involves replacing the damaged kidney with a healthy kidney from a donor. Our Transplant Center is a respected regional referral center for kidney transplants.


Preventing Kidney Damage

Some causes of kidney damage are not preventable. Keeping your blood sugar and blood pressure in healthy ranges may help prevent some types. 

In the U.S.

1 in 7Adults has chronic kidney disease

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Chronic Kidney Disease in the United States, 2023 

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