Kidney weakness (chronic): causes and risk factors

Kidney weakness (chronic): causes and risk factors

There are risk factors for kidney disease. This could actually be a problem if it is not controlled. You should avoid these risk factors as much as possible, since the kidneys are responsible for filtering what we drink.

Kidney problems are often very painful or complicated to manage, so you don’t want problems with your kidneys. That’s why here we show you the risk factors for kidney disease. You should make sure that you can control your life, not that these factors take over.

Risk factors for kidney disease can go unnoticed because this can be an everyday thing that you are doing every day.

Common causes of chronic kidney weakness are diabetes mellitus and high blood pressure, which account for about 35% of all cases. 15% of patients with kidney weakness suffer from inflammatory diseases of the renal corpuscles, the so-called glomerulonephritides. Hereditary diseases such as cystic kidneys (8%) and kidney-damaging drugs or chronic inflammation of the renal pelvis (5% each) are further causes. The various diseases lead to a decline in renal function at different rates.

Blood sugar and blood pressure have a significant influence on the development and progression of chronic kidney weakness. Even a slightly elevated blood pressure can cause kidney weakness to progress more rapidly in combination with diabetes. The systolic pressure in healthy people is in the range of 110-130 mmHg, the diastolic pressure between 70-80 mmHg. A pressure of 140/90 and above is considered elevated blood pressure.

However, the reasons for chronic kidney weakness are not always known. There seems to be a genetic predisposition for this, as people with relatives suffering from kidney disease are also more likely to suffer from kidney weakness. Furthermore, it is now known that obesity and smoking can also increase the risk of chronic kidney weakness.


A frequent cause of chronic kidney weakness is diabetes. If the blood sugar level remains elevated for a long time, there is a risk of chronic kidney disease. In the long term, elevated blood sugar levels damage the walls of the blood vessels. This hinders the blood flow and thus the transport of nutrients to the organs. The late damage of diabetes to the kidneys is also called diabetic nephropathy.

The damage to the small blood vessels in the kidneys makes their walls more permeable. Small protein particles, so-called albumins, slip through the vessel walls and are excreted with the urine. The detection of albumin in the urine is the first alarm sign that diabetes is damaging the kidneys. The narrowing of the small blood vessels in the kidneys also means that the kidney tissue is no longer supplied with sufficient oxygen and nutrients and the kidney cells die.


The renal corpuscles are the “microfilters” of the kidneys and are also called glomeruli. They consist of tiny blood vessels that are clenched together and filter salts, metabolic products, harmful substances and above all fluid from the blood. Each kidney has about half a million to a million glomeruli. Contact with harmful substances in the blood can cause the kidney cells to become inflamed. The inflammation always affects both kidneys and more or less strongly all renal cells.

Cystic kidneys

This congenital kidney malformation usually leads to kidney weakness from the age of 40. Numerous fluid-filled cavities (cysts) restrict the function of the kidney tissue. In childhood these cysts are small, fill up more and more with fluid in the course of life and then displace the normal kidney tissue. This is how kidney weakness develops, which often leads to dialysis in the sixth decade of life.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure can be both a cause and a consequence of chronic kidney weakness. On the one hand, high blood pressure damages the renal corpuscles (glomeruli) so that they gradually fail. On the other hand, when kidney function deteriorates, more blood pressure-increasing hormones are produced. In addition, too much salt and water remains in the body, which also causes the blood pressure to rise.

A disturbed kidney function and high blood pressure therefore cause and reinforce each other. In many cases, hypertension patients are therefore also kidney patients and vice versa.


As an important excretory organ of the body, the kidneys also filter many drugs or their breakdown products. However, some of these substances can damage the kidney tissue. Such damage to the kidneys caused by drugs is generally rare and only occurs either in very high doses (for example paracetamol, see also below) or in patients with certain risks. For example, diclofenac is more likely to damage the kidneys of older people with arteriosclerosis who are taking antihypertensive and diuretic drugs. Medicines that can occasionally cause such kidney damage include

painkillers, such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, diclofenac
Antibiotics: e.g. aminoglycosides (amikacin, gentamycin, neomycin or streptomycin)
Cancer drugs (chemotherapeutic drugs)
Contrast media containing iodine
Over-the-counter painkillers can damage the kidneys if taken continuously. For example, the active ingredient paracetamol can have a kidney-damaging effect from a total dose of 1,000 grams – a quantity that is reached after three years if 500-milligram tablets are taken twice daily. Recently, kidney damage has also been increasingly discussed in connection with the continuous intake of pantoprazole and other blockers of stomach acid (so-called PPIs).

If used improperly or in the wrong dosage, or even high blood pressure medications and diuretics can cause rather acute kidney failure.

Diseases of the blood vessels

Chronic diseases of the blood vessels can impair kidney function. Vascular diseases can lead to reduced blood flow and thus cause reduced blood flow to the kidneys. Deposits of calcium and fat (so-called plaques) on the vessel wall, such as in arteriosclerosis, can gradually close the vessels completely, so that the kidney tissue behind them is no longer supplied with blood and dies off. This can also affect blood vessels that lie outside the kidneys. If, for example, there is a narrowing between the abdominal artery (aorta) and the kidney, this is known as renal artery stenosis.

Blood vessels can also become inflamed, this is called vasculitis (from the Latin vas for blood vessel). Such vascular inflammations sometimes only occur at the kidney, more often the kidney and other organs are affected. They often progress very quickly, i.e. kidney function can be completely lost within weeks. Fortunately, doctors have very good drugs to cure vascular inflammation, at least if diagnosed in time.

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