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Medical Therapy for Chronic Kidney Disease

At the UPMC Kidney Disease Center, we personalize medical treatment based on:

  • The cause of your chronic kidney disease
  • The symptoms of your disease
  • Your treatment goals

The first step, determining the cause of your chronic kidney disease, is very important. Some causes of kidney diseases begin suddenly or lead to rapid loss of all kidney function, while other causes of kidney disease progress slowly over several decades. For some causes of kidney disease there are proven treatments, or new clinical trials for treatments that are promising. For these and other reasons, we may perform additional tests to make sure we are not missing treatable causes of chronic kidney disease.

Our next steps are to understand how chronic kidney disease is affecting you and then formulate a plan that includes any particular goals you have regarding travel, blood tests, dietary restrictions, or what you know about dialysis.

Chronic kidney disease changes how people respond to medications, including resistance to some medications, and increased toxicity to other medications. We will help adjust your medications as your kidney function changes.

In general, the following conditions become more prominent as chronic kidney disease worsens:

  • Anemia, because kidney disease decreases the hormone that tells your body to make new blood cells. Severe anemia can make you very tired.
  • Bone health, because kidney disease disrupts calcium and phosphate, which our bodies use to make bones, and disrupts the hormones that make bones strong.
  • High potassium, because kidney disease decreases your ability to get rid of excess potassium, which can be dangerous for your heart if the levels in your blood become too high.
  • Hypertension and swelling of the feet and legs because kidney disease decreases your ability to get rid of excess salt water from your body.

Medical Therapy Benefits and Risks

The benefits and risks of medical treatment are unique to each person. Every person reacts differently to treatment, and it will largely depend on the cause of your kidney disease. For most people, medical therapy can:

Help your kidney disease progress more slowly.

Help you avoid or delay dialysis and kidney transplantation.

Help you live a more active, healthier life.

There are a number of risks of medical treatment, including side effects of various medications. Your kidney doctor will talk to you about the potential side effects so you're fully aware of the risks of each treatment.

Conditions We Treat with Medical Therapy

See the full list of kidney conditions we treat.

What to Expect From Medical Therapy

If your PCP refers you to a kidney doctor, make sure you know why. Often, the results of blood work or urine tests will cause them to have concerns about your kidney function.

During your first appointment at the UPMC Kidney Disease Center, expect your doctor to:

  • Perform additional tests to look for a reversible cause of your kidney disease.
  • Ask questions about your symptoms, diet, and care goals.
  • Provide education about kidney disease.
  • Once we know more, we will describe some of the more advanced kidney disease treatments like dialysis and transplantation.

Bring a list of questions for your kidney doctor. We're here to provide answers and help you feel at ease with your care.

Contact Us About Medical Therapy for Kidney Disease

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