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How Common is CKD? Unmasking a Silent Epidemic on the Rise

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Chronic kidney disease (CKD) silently affects millions worldwide. CKD, also known as chronic kidney failure, is characterized by a gradual decline in kidney function. About the size of a fist, these remarkable organs play a crucial role in filtering waste and excess fluids from the blood, a process essential for maintaining overall health. The early stages of this disease may present minimal signs or symptoms, making it challenging to detect until it reaches an advanced state.

As the disease advances and reaches its later stages, the damage becomes more severe. This can lead to dangerous imbalances of fluid, electrolytes, and waste products within the body, potentially causing complications like heart disease. Individuals in these stages may experience symptoms such as swelling and lower back pain, prompting the need for proactive measures and consideration of treatments like dialysis or a kidney transplant. [1], [2]

Stats About CKD

Chronic kidney disease silently affects a substantial portion of the U.S. population, an estimated 37 million people – about 1 in 7 adults. Surprisingly, up to 9 in 10 individuals with CKD remain unaware of their diagnosis, a concerning statistic given the disease’s potential to progress unnoticed. Diabetes and high blood pressure, prevalent culprits in kidney disease, contribute to 3 out of 4 new cases of kidney failure in the United States. Strikingly, early-stage CKD often manifests without noticeable symptoms, leaving many unaware until the disease reaches an advanced stage.

Kidney disease is a serious condition, worsening over time and posing risks of kidney failure, stroke, or heart attack. The toll on public health is substantial, with about 360 people initiating dialysis treatment for kidney failure every day. Notably, the economic impact is significant, as evidenced by the $87.2 billion spent in 2019 on treating Medicare beneficiaries with CKD. These alarming numbers underscore the need for heightened awareness, early detection, and ongoing research efforts to improve kidney disease management and treatment. [3], [4]

Breaking it Down by Age, Demographic & Gender

Understanding the prevalence of CKD requires a closer look at how it affects different demographic groups. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2021 report reveals that CKD is slightly more common in women than in men. CKD prevalence varies among ethnic groups, with Black adults having a higher incidence, followed by Hispanic adults. White and Asian adults experience CKD at a similar and slightly lower rate. Age plays a significant role, as CKD is most common among those aged 65 or older (38%), followed by individuals aged 45 to 64 (12%), and those aged 18 to 44 (6%).

When examining end-stage kidney disease (ESKD), the United States Renal Data System’s 2020 Annual Data Report sheds light on additional disparities. Men are 1.6 times more likely to develop ESKD than women. Once again, racial and ethnic differences are stark, with Black individuals nearly four times more likely to develop ESKD compared to White individuals. Notably, Black individuals, constituting 13% of the total population, account for 30% of people with ESKD in the U.S., often resulting from high blood pressure.

Transplant statistics also reflect disparities, with children aged 17 or younger being significantly more likely to receive a transplant within five years compared to adults. Women have a slightly higher likelihood of receiving a transplant within five years compared to men. Racial disparities persist, as White individuals are more likely to receive a transplant within five years compared to Black, Hispanic, and Asian individuals, and even more so than Native American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander individuals. These eye-opening statistics underscore the importance of addressing CKD with a tailored and inclusive approach, taking into account age, gender, and ethnicity. [4]

CKD on the Rise Globally

CKD is now a global health crisis, with its prevalence soaring in the 21st century due to escalating risk factors like obesity and diabetes mellitus. In 2017 alone, an estimated 843.6 million people worldwide were affected by CKD. It’s crucial to identify, monitor, and treat CKD comprehensively on a global scale. Diagnosis involves laboratory testing, including estimating glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) and testing urine for albumin or protein. The prevalence of CKD varies based on age, sex, and race, with older individuals, females, and certain racial groups experiencing higher rates.

The burden of CKD is significantly impacted by risk factors such as diabetes mellitus and hypertension, making these chronic conditions vital in understanding CKD prevalence. Diabetes has emerged as a major contributor to CKD, with high prevalence rates among diagnosed diabetics. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart-related issues worldwide. It’s closely tied to chronic kidney CKD, and many people with hypertension also have a higher chance of experiencing CKD. Despite the prevalence of CKD-associated deaths worldwide, awareness and comprehensive research funding continue to lag behind, slowing effective prevention and treatment measures.

The rise of CKD is evident in its global mortality rates, marking it as one of the leading causes of death. The Global Burden of Disease studies have revealed a concerning increase in CKD-related deaths, with all-age mortality rates escalating by 41.5% between 1990 and 2017. Disparities in the impact of CKD-related deaths are noticeable across different regions, underscoring the urgency of addressing this silent health challenge on a worldwide scale. As CKD continues to climb the ranks of causes of death globally, comprehensive efforts are needed to raise awareness, enhance early detection, and allocate sufficient research funding to combat this escalating public health crisis.[5]

  • References

    [1] “Chronic Kidney Disease.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 6 Sept. 2023,
    [2] “Stages of Kidney Disease (CKD).” American Kidney Fund, 14 Dec. 2023,
    [3] “Chronic Kidney Disease Basics.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 28 Feb. 2022,
    [4] “Kidney Disease Statistics for the United States – NIDDK.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Accessed 8 Mar. 2024.
    [5] Kovesdy, Csaba P. “Epidemiology of Chronic Kidney Disease: An Update 2022.” Kidney International Supplements, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 2022,


    The information provided in the article is for general informational purposes only. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Accordingly, before taking any actions based upon such information, you are encouraged to consult with the appropriate professionals. 

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