What Is Stage 1 of Chronic Kidney Disease? Everything to Know

Medically Reviewed By Emelia Arquilla, DO

Stage 1 kidney disease is the earliest stage of chronic kidney disease (CKD). CKD occurs when the kidneys become damaged over time and slowly stop working.   Most cases of kidney disease are chronic, meaning they cannot be cured. However, it is possible to take steps during stage 1 of kidney disease to slow the progression of the condition and minimize complications.

This article examines the possible symptoms and causes of stage 1 kidney disease. It also looks at treatment opinions and when to contact a doctor.

What are the symptoms of stage 1 kidney disease?

A person is testing a urine sample.
Sean Locke/Stocksy United

People with stage 1 kidney disease may have protein in their urine, a sign that there is damage to the kidneys. However, most people will not know unless a doctor tests for protein in the urine. 

Often, people with stage 1 kidney disease do not have any noticeable symptoms. At this stage, the kidneys are still functioning well, even though they are damaged. As the condition progresses, symptoms become more noticeable. 

Common early signs and symptoms of kidney disease are:

Learn about symptoms never to ignore if you have kidney disease.

What causes stage 1 kidney disease?

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), more than 37 million U.S. adults have kidney disease. 

Kidney disease usually happens over time as the result of another medical or health condition that damages the kidneys. 

The kidneys need healthy blood vessels to work properly, so any condition that affects the blood vessels can damage the kidneys. These include:

  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure

Anyone with a family history of kidney disease is also at a higher risk of developing the condition.

Learn more about kidney disease causes and risk factors.

What are the treatments for stage 1 kidney disease?

The goal for treatment of stage 1 kidney disease is to slow the progression of the condition and keep your kidneys functioning on their own for as long as possible. Though there is no cure for kidney disease, you can prevent it from getting worse. 

Doctors typically recommend lifestyle and diet changes, managing any other health conditions you might have, and, in some cases, medication. 

Lifestyle changes

With stage 1 kidney disease, recommended lifestyle changes include:

  • quitting smoking if you smoke
  • eating a balanced diet
  • exercising regularly
  • limiting alcohol intake
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • avoiding nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Diet

Your doctor will help with a treatment plan, but diet is one way many people with stage 1 kidney disease manage the condition. The two main diet strategies are a meal plan low in salt and limiting limit protein intake.

Taking these steps ease your kidneys’ workload. The more protein and salt you eat, the harder your kidneys have to work to filter them out. 

Your doctor may also recommend the “dietary approaches to stop hypertension” (DASH) diet. The diet may help lower blood pressure. It includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grains, and limits saturated fat and sugars. 

Learn more about the DASH diet.

Medications 

Your doctor may recommend prescription medications as part of treatment for stage 1 kidney disease. 

No medication treats kidney disease specifically. However, some help manage other health conditions that could worsen kidney disease, such as pills to lower your blood pressure or diabetes medicines to manage blood sugars and improve kidney health.

As kidney disease worsens and causes swelling in your body, your doctor may also recommend diuretics. These help flush excess fluid from your body.

Learn more about diuretics.

When should I see a doctor?

You should contact a doctor if you know you are at risk for kidney disease or are having any symptoms of early kidney disease. 

Contact your doctor if you:

  • have blood in your urine
  • experience frequent UTIs
  • have unexplained swelling in your hands, feet, or face
  • have a family history of kidney disease
  • have a history of diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease

The earlier you identify kidney disease, the better you can manage it. 

Our kidney disease appointment guide can help you to prepare for your appointment.

How do doctors diagnose stage 1 kidney disease?

Your doctor may perform a physical exam, ask about your medical history, and run test to confirm the diagnosis or rule out the possible causes.

The two main ways a doctor will diagnose kidney disease are with a urine test to look for protein and a blood test to check kidney function.

Protein in your urine indicates kidney damage.

The blood test will give a measurement called the glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) to tell doctors how well your kidneys are working. A healthy eGFR is 90 or above. This is also typical with stage 1 kidney disease.

Following diagnosis, your doctor may order routine blood tests to monitor eGFR measurements as the condition progresses.

A doctor may also perform a blood pressure test. They may also order imaging tests to look at your kidneys. 

What is the outlook for a person with stage 1 kidney disease?

The outlook for someone with stage 1 kidney disease is positive because this is the earliest stage of the disease. Someone with stage 1 kidney disease can live for many years because their kidneys are still functioning well. 

How fast kidney disease progresses depends on age, treatments, and overall health. Your doctor can advise on steps to manage your symptoms and slow the progression of the condition.

According to 2017 data in Pediatric Nephrology, Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source doctors use the time when someone reaches a glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) ≤60 mL/min to mark the inevitable progression of the disease to serious points. This does not typically happen until stage 3 CKD.

Learn more about kidney disease prognosis and life expectancy.

What are the other stages of chronic kidney disease?

There are five stages of CKD. The higher the stage, the more advanced the disease.

Kidney disease is divided into two categories: early kidney disease (stages 1–3) and later kidney disease (stages 4–5). 

Here is more about each stage of kidney disease and what to expect:

StageeGFRKidney function
Stage 190 or higherMild kidney damage occurs, but the kidneys are still functioning as expected.
Stage 260–89Kidneys still work well. There is mild damage.
Stage 3a and 3b30–44; 15–29There is moderate to severe kidney damage. Kidney function is lowered.
Stage 415–29Kidneys are beginning to fail.
Stage 515 or lowerKidneys are about to fail or have already failed. 

Learn more about the 5 stages of kidney disease.

Summary

Stage 1 of kidney disease, the earliest stage, indicates some physical kidney damage. But overall, kidneys are still function correctly. Your doctor can advise on slowing the progression of the condition.

These include managing other health conditions, exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, and maintaining a moderate weight. Your doctor may also recommend quitting smoking and limiting alcohol intake.

Contact your doctor if you have concerns about the symptoms of kidney disease or if you have a family history of the condition. Urine and blood tests can help to confirm the diagnosis.

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  2. Chronic kidney disease tests & diagnosis. (2016). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd/tests-diagnosis
  3. Medicines to manage kidney disease. (n.d.). https://www.kidneyfund.org/treatments/medicines-manage-kidney-disease
  4. Nutrition and kidney disease, stages 1–4. (n.d.). https://www.kidney.org/nutrition/Kidney-Disease-Stages-1-4
  5. Stage 1 of chronic kidney disease: Causes, symptoms and treatment. (n.d.) https://www.kidneyfund.org/all-about-kidneys/stages-kidney-disease/stage-1-chronic-kidney-disease
  6. Stages of kidney disease. (2022). https://www.kidneyfund.org/all-about-kidneys/stages-kidney-disease
  7. Treatment: Chronic kidney disease. (2019). https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/kidney-disease/treatment/

Medical Reviewer: Emelia Arquilla, DO
Last Review Date: 2023 Mar 15
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