Kidney Disease Prognosis and Life Expectancy

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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Chronic kidney disease, or CKD, is diagnosed in stages ranging from 1 to 5, measured by levels of a waste product in the blood called creatine. Doctors make a prognosis by evaluating the stage of the disease along with an individual’s general health and age. Stage 1 and 2 kidney disease indicates mild damage, when your kidneys are mostly healthy and still working well. Stages 3, 4 and 5 reflect a more serious progression of CKD, with different life expectancies. Kidney disease is a serious health matter, but there are effective treatments and lifestyle practices that can slow its progression. Kidney transplant can give some people a normal life expectancy.

Later Stages of Kidney Disease: Stages 3, 4 and 5

Many people with CKD aren’t diagnosed till the disease has advanced, as symptoms often don’t appear till kidney function is at 25% or less. CKD is a progressive disease that worsens slowly over a period of years and leads to kidney failure. With kidney failure, waste products must be cleaned out of your blood by mechanical means. Here are the life expectancies for later stages of chronic kidney disease, though individual experiences and life spans vary widely:

  • Stage 3 Kidney Disease: You may not have symptoms, but your creatine levels indicate some damage to your kidneys. At this relatively early stage, you do not need dialysis or a kidney transplant. Life expectancy for stage 3 kidney disease differs between men and women. A 40-year-old man has a typical life expectancy of 24 years after diagnosis, and a 40-year-old woman with the same diagnosis has a life expectancy of 28 years.
  • Stage 4 Kidney Disease: The kidneys are significantly damaged. Kidney failure becomes likely, which will require dialysis or a kidney transplant. A 40-year-old man with stage 4 kidney disease has a life expectancy of 14 years after diagnosis, while a 40-year-old woman can expect to live 16 more years. The right diet and medication may still slow disease progression.
  • Stage 5 Kidney Disease: The kidneys are close to failure or have failed. You need to start dialysis or, if you are a candidate, have a kidney transplant. There are not enough donor kidneys available for everyone to get a transplant. Without a transplant, men between the ages of 30 to 35 have a life expectancy of 14 years with stage 5 CKD. For women of the same age, the expected life span is 13 years. If you are between 70 and 75 years, life expectancy is 4 years for both men and women. If you have a successful transplant, you can live a normal life span. Even without dialysis or a transplant, your life expectancy may be improved by taking medication and following a healthy lifestyle.

Slowing and Treating Kidney Disease Progression

Medications that can help people with kidney disease, though there is no cure. Certain blood pressure drugs, including ACE inhibitors and ARBs, may slow disease progression and delay kidney failure, even in people without high blood pressure.

If you do have high blood pressure, it’s important to control it because it can damage the blood vessels in the kidneys, worsening CKD. Your doctor can prescribe blood pressure medicine and may recommend reducing the salt in your diet.

Many cases of kidney disease are linked to diabetes, so controlling your blood sugar is vital, with medication if necessary. Take care to monitor your blood sugar levels regularly and try to stay at a healthy weight.

When there is kidney damage, phosphorus can build up in the body and weaken bones. Talk with your doctor about avoiding foods high in phosphorus, such as dairy products, processed meats, beer, soda, and chocolate.

Potassium is another mineral that can build up in the body when you have kidney disease. Too much potassium increases the risk of a heart attack. Ask your doctor about avoiding foods that are high in potassium, such as bananas and broccoli.

If you have CKD and are not on dialysis, your doctor may advise you to eat less protein, as protein can be difficult for kidneys to filter when they are not functioning well. You can work with your doctor to manage your kidney disease, improve your prognosis, and delay kidney failure. Each person will have a different experience, and life expectancy statistics reflect averages.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Jul 9
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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