What Causes Kidney Disease?

The following information is taken from the Kidney Foundation of Canada website. Every cause mentioned is linked to the appropriate page on the website if you are interested in knowing more.

Acute Kidney Injury

  • Gastroenteritis, poisonings, malaria or other infectious diseases
  • Crush injuries

Alport Syndrome

  • Alport Syndrome (AS) is an inherited disorder of the basement membranes of the kidney, eye and ear. People who inherit defective genes for the “collagen” proteins in these basement membranes may develop progressive loss of renal function, deafness and abnormalities of the eye.


  • Diabetes is a disease that is caused by the lack of insulin in the body or the body’s inability to properly use normal amounts of insulin.
  • How diabetes affects the kidneys
    • Damage to the delicate blood vessels in the filters of the kidneys
    • Damage to nerves: when the bladder is affected, it may difficult to pass urine. The pressure from urine building up in the bladder can damage the kidneys
    • Infections: the urine of diabetics has a high sugar content, which encourages the growth of bacteria; consequently kidney infections may occur.

Childhood Nephrotic Syndrome

  • Nephrotic syndrome is also called nephrosis. These two terms describe a condition in which the kidneys leak large and abnormal amounts of protein into the urine. When protein is lost in the urine, this leads to puffiness or swelling (edema), often of the eyelids, feet and ankles, and eventually the abdomen. If left untreated, this can lead to problems with breathing, eating and infections.
  • Most children respond very well to treatment of nephrotic syndrome and, although most children have further attacks of the disease, the long-term prognosis for most children is very good.
  • Who is affected?
    • Childhood nephrotic syndrome can start at any age, but usually begins between the ages of two and five years. It is a rare condition that affects about 16 out of every 100,000 children at any given time, and it affects more boys than girls.
  • Causes of Childhood Nephrotic Syndrome
    • The exact cause of nephrotic syndrome is not known and it cannot be prevented. However, research into this condition is ongoing and researchers are trying to develop increasingly effective treatments. What we do know is that nephrotic syndrome is usually caused by an imbalance, from time to time, of the body’s immune system. This imbalance causes certain chemicals to disturb the filters of the kidneys. These filters begin to allow proteins to leak into the urine.


  • The disease I have. To be specific: membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis type 1.
  • Glomerulonephritis, also called GN or nephritis, is a disease of the kidneys in which the glomeruli, the tiny filters in the kidneys that help to clean the blood, become inflamed or damaged. This allows protein and red blood cells that normally circulate in the bloodstream to pass into the urine.
  • Glomerulonephritis has many different causes. In the majority of cases, the cause is unknown. However, the number of known causes has increased in recent years. It has been recognized for some time that certain infections, drugs, and – in rare cases – even cancer can lead to GN. More recently, it has been discovered that many different abnormalities in the genes of the body can also lead to the development of glomerulonephritis.
  • However, GN is not commonly inherited (passed on genetically from parent to child). The majority of cases of glomerulonephritis are sporadic; this means the disease arises spontaneously.
  • There is some evidence that GN may be caused or made worse by a problem in the body’s immune system.

Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome

  • Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), commonly referred to as “Hamburger Disease”, is a disease that affects the kidneys and other organs. It poses a substantial threat to Canadian children as one of the leading causes of both acute and chronic kidney failure.
  • HUS is more commonly seen in the warmer months of the year, following a gastrointestinal illness caused primarily by a particular strain of bacteria known as E.coli 0157:H7. While other types of E.coli are commonly found in the gastrointestinal tract of healthy humans, this particular strain (0157:H7) is not usually present except in diarrheal illnesses.

High Blood Pressure

  • Kidney disease can lead to high blood pressure in many people. The opposite is also true: having high blood pressure increases the risk of developing kidney disease. High blood pressure can damage the kidneys. This reduces the kidneys’ ability to remove fluids and waste products from the blood, and can lead to kidney failure.

Kidney Stones

  • A kidney stone can develop when certain chemicals in your urine form crystals that stick together. The crystals may grow into a stone ranging in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. Most stones form in the kidneys. Very small stones can pass through the urinary system without causing problems. However, larger stones, when traveling from the kidney through the ureter to the bladder, can cause severe pain called colic.
  • One out of ten Canadians will have a kidney stone at some point in their life. Kidney stones occur much more commonly in men than in women. They tend to affect people in middle age, and occur more frequently hot climates.
  • Kidney stones do not commonly lead to kidney failure.

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)

  • Polycystic means “many fluid-filled sacs” or “many cysts”. Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is a genetic disorder that causes multiple cysts to form in the kidneys.
  • Kidney failure resulting from PKD is caused by a combination of:
    • Pressure from expanding cysts, compressing normal kidney tissue
    • Scarring in the normal support tissue in the kidney
  • Who is affected by PKD
    • PKD can strike anyone at any time. About 5% of all people requiring dialysis or kidney transplantation have PKD.
    • PKD is an inherited disease.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

  • Lupus Erythematosus (LE) is a disorder that may involve only the skin (cutaneous LE), or it may involve many parts of the body, including the kidneys (systemic LE, also known as SLE).
  • Kidney involvement is significant in SLE, but not all patients suffer from it. The extent to which the kidneys are affected by SLE is variable and involvement may also change over time. Kidney involvement is not always serious. Only one in five cases is severe.



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