Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

Treating Children with CKD

Nephrology worker with patient

What Is It?

How a Kidney Works Diagram

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is when the kidneys lose function over time. The change in kidney function can happen quickly over months, but often takes many years to progress. It is very difficult to predict when the kidneys will lose so much function that the body cannot stay healthy without help. Artificial filtering (dialysis) or a kidney transplant may be needed when the level of waste products or excess fluid in the body becomes unhealthy

What Do the Kidneys Do?


What are the signs of CKD in children?

Children with CKD may feel completely normal until their kidneys lose much of their function. Sometimes doctors will detect kidney disease during a sports physical exam or when checking a child’s urine or blood tests at a routine office visit.

The signs and symptoms of kidney disease are not very specific. Sometimes children have:

Dark urine Dizziness High blood pressures Low blood counts (anemia) Nausea

Learn more about how the kidneys work

What Causes CKD in Children?

There are many causes for CKD in children, but in some cases, they may not always be found:

An abnormal development of the kidneys or urinary tract before birth Diseases that are inherited or occur in several members of the same family, such as:
  • Alport’s Nephritis
  • Polycystic Kidney Disease
Kidney diseases that happen without a clear reason such as  focal segmental glomerular sclerosis (FSGS). Systemic diseases such as diabetes and lupus
  • Poor energy or appetite
  • Poor growth
  • Swelling or puffiness

How is the Diagnosis of CKD made?

Your child's doctor will take blood and urine tests to make a diagnosis. One of the blood tests will check for the level of creatinine, which helps to measure kidney function. The creatinine level is used to determine how well your child's kidneys filter blood, also known as glomerular filtration rate (GFR).

See handout on "How Well Are Your Kidneys Working?"

Your child's doctor may also order a renal ultrasound to look at the kidneys.


The kidneys are major organs of the body and have many functions. As a result, when the kidneys do not function well, different parts of the body may be affected.

Our health care team will make sure your child has the right medications, nutrition plan and support to help with problems related to CKD.

  • Acidosis — The body needs the right acid balance for growth. With CKD, the body may have difficulty regulating the acid in the blood. When there is too much acid, a condition called acidosis may result. Acidosis can cause poor growth in children.
  • Anemia — With CKD, the kidneys may not able to make new red blood cells.  As a result, children may feel tired, weak and have difficulty concentrating at school.
  • Bone Problems — The kidneys play a major role in bone health. The kidneys regulate the amount of calcium and phosphorus which is important for bone growth. Kids with CKD may have poor growth, fractures or bone deformities.
  • Growth — The kidneys help convert vitamin D to a form the body can use. Vitamin D helps the body keep the right amount of calcium and phosphorus. Without these minerals, a child cannot grow properly. Children with CKD may be shorter than their peers at the time of diagnosis.
  •  Hypertension — The kidneys play an important role in regulating blood pressure. Children with CKD may have problems with maintaining a normal blood pressure.
  • Nutrition — Sometimes children with CKD have problems with appetite and nausea. These problems can lead to poor weight gain.

Anemia in Kidney Disease
Aranesp: Instructions for use
Epogen: Instructions for use

Bone Health
CKD: Mineral and Bone Disorder
When Your Child has a Chronic Kidney Disease

Growth and CKD
Growth Failure in Children with Kidney Disease
Nutropin Growth Hormone

Kidney Failure
Peritoneal Dialysis
Treatment Methods for Kidney Failure in Children

Kidneys and How They Work

Nutrition for CKD in Children

Support for Children and Families
Starlight Children's Foundation

Seattle Transplant Program

Helpful Links

American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP)
American Kidney Fund (AKF)
American Society of Pediatric Nephrology (ASPN)
National Institute of Digestive and Diabetes and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
National Kidney Foundation (NKF)