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  • Writer's pictureDr. Karuturi Subrahmanyam

What are the causes of kidney damage?

The kidneys are vital organs that filter the blood and remove waste products, excess fluid, and electrolytes from the body. They also produce hormones that regulate blood pressure, red blood cell production, and bone health. When the kidneys are damaged, they cannot perform these functions properly, and this can lead to serious health problems.


Kidney damage, also known as kidney disease, is a condition where the kidneys lose their function over time. Kidney disease can progress to kidney failure, which requires dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive. Kidney disease affects millions of people worldwide and is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and death.


There are many possible causes of kidney damage, but some of the most common ones are:

  • Diabetes: Diabetes is a condition where the body cannot regulate the level of sugar in the blood. High blood sugar can damage the small blood vessels in the kidneys, which reduces their ability to filter the blood. Diabetes is one of the main causes of kidney failure.

  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure is a condition where the force of the blood against the walls of the arteries is too high. High blood pressure can damage the arteries and the kidneys, which increases the workload of the kidneys and reduces their function. High blood pressure is another major cause of kidney failure.

  • Glomerulonephritis: Glomerulonephritis is a group of diseases that cause inflammation of the glomeruli, which are the tiny filtering units of the kidneys. Glomerulonephritis can be caused by infections, autoimmune disorders, genetic factors, or unknown reasons. Glomerulonephritis can damage the glomeruli and impair their ability to filter the blood.

  • Interstitial nephritis: Interstitial nephritis is a condition where there is inflammation of the tubules and surrounding structures of the kidneys. Tubules are small tubes that carry urine from the glomeruli to the bladder. Interstitial nephritis can be caused by infections, allergic reactions, medications, toxins, or other factors. Interstitial nephritis can damage the tubules and affect their ability to reabsorb water and electrolytes from the urine.

  • Inherited kidney diseases: Inherited kidney diseases are genetic conditions that affect the structure or function of the kidneys. Some examples are polycystic kidney disease, which causes multiple cysts to grow in the kidneys; Alport syndrome, which affects the membranes that filter the blood in the glomeruli; and Fabry disease, which causes a buildup of fatty substances in the cells of various organs, including the kidneys.

  • Enlarged prostate: The prostate is a gland that produces fluid for semen in men. As men age, the prostate can grow larger and press on the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside of the body. This can cause difficulty in urinating, urinary tract infections, bladder stones, and kidney damage due to increased pressure and reduced urine flow.

  • Kidney stones: Kidney stones are hard deposits of minerals and salts that form in the kidneys or urinary tract. Kidney stones can cause severe pain, bleeding, infection, and blockage of urine flow. Kidney stones can damage the kidneys by causing inflammation, scarring, or infection.

  • Some cancers: Some cancers can affect the kidneys directly or indirectly. For example, renal cell carcinoma is a type of cancer that originates in the cells of the kidneys; multiple myeloma is a type of cancer that affects plasma cells in the bone marrow and can cause kidney damage due to excess protein in the urine; and lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that fight infections and can infiltrate or compress the kidneys.


These are some of the main causes of kidney damage, but there may be other factors involved as well. If you have any symptoms or risk factors for kidney disease, such as fatigue, swelling, nausea, changes in urine output or color, diabetes, high blood pressure, family history of kidney disease, or older age, you should consult your doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Early detection and management of kidney disease can help prevent or delay its progression and complications.

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