Glossary of Chronic Kidney Disease Terms

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: December 2022

A

Acute kidney injury (AKI)

AKI is a sudden change in the kidneys' ability to function due to illness, injury, or certain medicines. May also be called acute renal failure.1,2

Albumin

A protein found in the blood. Albumin in the urine is often a sign of kidney disease.2

Albuminuria

A condition in which high levels of protein are found in the urine. A sign of kidney disease.2

Anemia

Low red blood cell levels in the blood. A common complication of advanced kidney disease.1

Artery

A blood vessel that moves blood from the heart to other parts of the body. For example, the renal artery moves fresh blood from the heart into the kidneys.1

B

BMI

Stands for body mass index. Doctors use the BMI formula to measure if you are at a healthy weight.2

C

Cardiovascular disease

Also called heart (cardio) disease or blood vessel (vascular) disease.2

Chronic

A long-term health condition.2

Chronic kidney disease (CKD)

A health condition in which the kidneys do not work as well as they should. Stages of kidney disease are measured using a GFR test. A GFR of 60 or lower indicates kidney disease. May also be called CKD or chronic renal disease.3

Clinical trial

A research study that tests new drugs and therapies to help prevent, diagnose, or treat disease. Clinical trials also determine if treatment methods are safe and effective for use in humans.3

Comorbidity

A health condition that exists at the same time as one or more other health conditions.2

Computed tomography (CT)

A type of X-ray that takes pictures of the inside of the body at different angles. CT scans help doctors spot abnormalities. Also called computerized tomography.3

Conservative management

A term used when someone decides not to begin dialysis when they have reached end-stage kidney disease. These people begin palliative and hospice care instead.4

Creatinine

A waste product of muscle activity that is removed by the kidneys. High levels of creatinine may mean reduced kidney function.1

D

Diabetes

A disease in which the pancreas no longer produces insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body control blood sugar levels. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease that usually begins in childhood. Type 2 is caused by long-term eating and exercise issues and is usually diagnosed in adulthood. Also called diabetes mellitus.2

Diabetes educator

A specialist trained in diabetes. May be a nurse, dietitian, pharmacist, or doctor. They educate people on how to manage their disease and reduce diabetes-related problems.5

Diabetic nephropathy

Kidney disease caused by diabetes. Diabetic nephropathy is the number 1 cause of kidney failure. Also called diabetic kidney disease.2

Dialysis

A treatment for kidney failure in which a machine does the job of the kidneys. The machine filters waste and excess water from the blood.3

Diuretic

A medicine or other product that increases urine flow. It may be prescribed to reduce swelling (edema) caused by kidney disease, heart disease, or both. Also called a water pill.1,5

E

Edema

Swelling caused by the kidneys' failure to remove enough fluid (water) from the body.4

End-stage kidney disease (ESKD)

Final stage of kidney disease. Dialysis or transplant is needed to live. Also called kidney failure or end-stage renal failure.4

Erythropoietin (EPO)

A hormone made by the kidneys that tells your bone marrow to make red blood cells. People with kidney disease may become anemic when their body produces too few red blood cells.1

G

GFR

A blood test that tells how well your kidneys are working. Stands for glomerular filtration rate. Also known as estimated glomerular filtration rate or eGFR.1

Glomerulonephritis

A kidney disorder that causes inflammation in the glomeruli, the tiny filters in the kidneys. If untreated can cause chronic kidney disease. Also called nephritis.1,2

Glomerulus

A tiny blood vessel inside the kidneys that filters blood. Multiple vessels are called glomeruli.6

Glucose

A sugar found in the blood that is used by cells for energy.2

Gout

A type of inflammatory arthritis that can damage the kidneys. Gout can cause CKD, and CKD can cause gout.7

H

Hematuria

When blood is found in urine.3

Hemodialysis

A type of dialysis in which a machine cleans wastes from the blood.8

Hemoglobin A1c test

Often called the A1c test. Measures how well your diabetes is controlled.2

High blood pressure

Blood pressure is a measure of the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels. When this force is consistently too high, you may be diagnosed with high blood pressure. It is one of the leading causes of CKD. Also called hypertension.4,5

Hyperkalemia

High levels of potassium in the blood.2

Hypertension

Another name for high blood pressure.3

I

Intravenous urogram (IVU) or intravenous pyelogram (IVP)

A special kind of X-ray that looks at a person’s urinary system.3

K

Kidney

Organs that filter extra water and waste from the blood, turning them into urine.6

Kidney failure

When the kidneys no longer work.1

Kidney stones

Masses made of crystals and proteins that may block the urinary tract and prevent pee from leaving the body.1

Kidney transplant

To take a kidney from one person and place it in another person's body. One of the treatments for severe kidney disease or kidney failure.1

L

Lupus nephritis

Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks healthy tissue. When the body attacks the kidneys, it is called lupus nephritis.9

M

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

A noninvasive imaging scan that uses powerful magnets in order to take 3-dimensional images of the inside of your body.3,5

Metabolic acidosis

When acid builds up in your body because your kidneys can not remove enough of it.10

Mineral and bone disorders

When the kidneys stop working well, it causes chemical imbalances in the body that lead to weak bones. Osteoporosis, osteodystrophy, and hyperparathyroidism are examples of these disorders.2

N

Nephrologist

A doctor who specializes in kidney care.4

Nephron

Tiny filtering units in the kidneys that make urine. Made up of a glomerulus and a tubule.2,6

NSAID

Stands for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. A type of pain reliever that may damage the kidneys when used in large amounts or over a long time. Examples include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.5

O

Osteodystrophy

Weak bones caused by kidney disease. A common side effect of severe kidney disease.1

P

Peripheral arterial disease

Poor blood flow to the arms and legs due to narrowed or blocked blood vessels. Also known as PAD or peripheral vascular disease (PVD).2

Peritoneum

A sac, or membrane, that lines the inside of your abdomen and holds the liver, stomach, pancreas, spleen, and intestines. The area where the peritoneum holds all of these organs is called the peritoneal cavity.11

Peritoneal dialysis

A type of dialysis that uses the peritoneum to filter wastes from the body.12

Polycystic kidney disease

An inherited disease that causes cysts to form in the kidneys, causing kidney damage.1

Prognosis

The likely outcome for someone who is sick with a disease.3

Proteinuria

Protein in the urine. See albuminuria.2

R

Renal

Another word for kidney or something that involves the kidneys.2

Renal cell carcinoma (RCC)

A type of kidney cancer. The cancer starts in the area of the kidney that filters and removes excess water and waste products.3

Renal dietitian

A nutrition expert who helps people with kidney disease develop an eating plan that helps manage their health. They have extra training in the special needs of people with kidney disease. Many work in dialysis centers.5

Renal disease

Another name for kidney disease.1

S

Sodium

Salt. Can build up in your system when your kidneys are not working properly. This buildup can lead to high blood pressure.13

Staging

A system that doctors use to describe how severe your kidney disease is. Chronic kidney disease has 5 stages.1,3

T

Tubule

Tubules are tiny structures within a nephron that return nutrition to your blood and remove waste.6

U

Urea

A waste product removed in urine.1,2

Uremia

When waste that is normally filtered out by the kidneys builds up in the blood.14

Ureter

The tube in the body that carries pee from the kidney to the bladder.3

Urethra

The tube that carries pee from the bladder out of the body when you urinate.3

Urinalysis

Also known as a urine test. Used to find out if there is protein, blood, and other substances in your pee.1

Urologist

Doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the urinary tract system. This includes your kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra.3

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.