There’s no cure for CKD. However, when you are diagnosed with CKD, there are treatments to help with symptoms, to slow or stop disease progression and to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
The main treatments are:
- Lifestyle changes – these include stopping smoking, eating a healthy and balanced diet, restricting salt intake to less than 6 grams each day, regular exercise, drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol each week and losing weight if you are overweight or obese. For more specific advice on dietary changes and how to control the amount of potassium and phosphate in your diet, please click here. Please avoid the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen, unless when advised by a medical professional.
- Medications – there is no specific medication for CKD. However, we can prescribe medications to control symptoms and the causes and consequences of CKD:
- High blood pressure – this can be a cause or consequence of CKD. We aim to get your blood pressure below 140/90 (or 130/80 if you have diabetes) through the above lifestyle changes and the use of medication.
- High cholesterol – some people with CKD also have high cholesterol. Alongside the above lifestyle changes, we can offer a medication called a statin to help lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Protecting your cardiovascular health – if you have CKD you are at increased risk of certain conditions like heart attack and stroke. We can reduce this risk through the above lifestyle changes and offering you medications called statins and anti-platelets (like aspirin).
- Water retention – as a consequence of developing CKD, you may notice breathlessness and swelling in your feet and ankles. We can address this by advising you on fluid intake and considering use of medication to help you pee more.
- Anaemia – some people with CKD can develop anaemia which causes you to feel tired. If this is the case, your GP will consider tablets or injections of medicine to help.
- Bone problems – CKD can consequently cause the phosphate levels in the blood to rise and vitamin D levels to fall. If this is the case, we advise to avoid foods high in phosphate, like red meat and dairy, and we give consideration to medicines that will lower phosphate level and increase vitamin D levels.
- Vaccinations – when you are diagnosed with CKD, it is recommended that you have the annual influenza vaccine and the one-off pneumococcal vaccine.
Here is a list and accompanying explanations introducing the commonly used medications in CKD.
- Dialysis – this treatment mimics the functions of the kidney and is only required by those with advanced chronic kidney disease (when the kidneys stop working). There are two types of dialysis, haemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. If you have advanced kidney disease, it will be worthwhile having a discussion with your GP regarding the types of dialysis, what’s involved and the pros and cons of each.
- Kidney transplant – this may eventually be needed only by those with advanced chronic kidney disease as an alternative to dialysis. It involves major surgery and the need to take medication for the rest of your life to prevent rejection of the donated kidney. For more information, read here.
- Annual reviews – please refer to the ‘The annual review of Chronic Kidney Disease’ section.
Remember that CKD is a spectrum, ranging from mild damage to advanced disease where the kidneys fail to work. Most patients will be able to control their CKD with lifestyle changes, medication and annual reviews. However, 1 in 50 patients will experience progression of their CKD despite these measures, which may ultimately require dialysis or transplant.