Chronic Kidney Disease Myths and Misconceptions

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

Not everything you hear or read about chronic kidney disease (CKD) is true. In fact, there are plenty of common myths and misconceptions about kidney disease.

It is important to know the facts. Accurate medical information can give you a better understanding of your condition, help you care for yourself, and know which questions to ask your doctor.

Myth: Chronic kidney disease is rare

CKD is one of the most common health conditions faced by adults in the United States. In fact, about 37 million American adults may have CKD. A large part of the reason why kidney disease is so common is that a history of high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease are also common. These diseases damage the kidneys over time.1

Myth: If you have blood in your urine, it automatically means you have kidney cancer

Finding blood in your urine can be startling, but that alone does not mean you have cancer. Blood in the urine can be a sign of a condition that is easy to treat or something more serious. For example, blood in the urine could be a sign of:2

  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Urinary tract, bladder, or prostate infection
  • Inflammation of the urinary tract or kidneys
  • Bladder or kidney stones
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Liver disease
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • A blood disorder

Myth: You can tell if you have kidney disease because there will be early signs and symptoms

It is entirely possible to have kidney disease without knowing it. The symptoms of kidney disease may be confused with those of other health conditions. Or they may be so mild that you do not notice them.1,3

Many signs of kidney disease go unnoticed until the kidneys are severely damaged. For this reason, get regular checkups with your doctor and speak up if you begin to feel differently or notice signs of serious kidney disease.1,3

Myth: It is impossible to be diagnosed early for kidney disease

Kidney disease can be found early. Two tests that play a big role in early diagnosis are:4

  • A GFR blood test to measure how well your kidneys are working
  • A urine test to see if there is protein or blood in your pee

If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease, you have a higher risk of developing CKD. Ask your doctor to check your kidney function regularly if you have any health conditions that may damage your kidneys.1,4

Myth: Once your kidneys fail, you cannot be treated

Actually, when your kidneys stop working, you still have treatment choices. A process called dialysis is one option. Dialysis is a medical treatment in which a device cleans the waste and extra water out of your blood. This is usually the job of your kidneys.5

There are 2 types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Each type of dialysis has advantages and disadvantages.5

You also may be able to qualify for a kidney transplant. This means doctors implant a healthy kidney from a donor into your body.5

Myth: Children don't get kidney disease

Children can have chronic kidney disease, but it is usually caused by different things than CKD in adults. Birth defects are the leading cause of kidney disease in infants and small children. For example, children may be born with:6

  • One kidney instead of 2
  • One or 2 kidneys that do not work properly
  • A kidney that is located somewhere other than the normal place in the body

In older children and teens, nearly half of chronic kidney disease cases are caused by conditions that damage the kidney's tiny filters. The most common causes are a group of disorders that include:6

  • Minimal change disease
  • Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis
  • Membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis

Things to keep in mind

The internet is filled with incorrect information and people selling easy cures. Lean on your kidney care team to get the facts.

If you are ever unsure or confused about something you have heard or read about kidney disease, speak up. Your doctor and other care team members can be a valuable resource and answer any questions you may have.

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