Frequently Asked Questions

What is kidney disease?

  • Chronic kidney disease includes conditions that damage your kidneys and decrease their ability to keep you healthy.
  • If kidney disease gets worse, wastes can build to high levels in your blood and make you feel sick.
  • Kidney disease increases your risk of having heart and blood vessel disease. These problems may develop slowly over a long period of time.
  • Chronic kidney disease may be caused by diabetes, high blood pressure and other disorders.
  • Early detection and treatment can often keep chronic kidney disease from getting worse.
  • When kidney disease progresses, it may eventually lead to kidney failure, which requires dialysis or a kidney transplant to maintain life.

How will kidney disease change my life?

  • You will need to make adjustments based on the type of treatment your doctor prescribes. The Foundation staff is available to assist you during this time of transition. Please call us if you need to talk to someone about your questions or concerns.

How can the Tennessee Kidney Foundation help me?

  • See our Patient Program and Services page for information on the types of services offered by the Tennessee Kidney Foundation.  If you live in one of the counties we serve, you may contact your social worker for the necessary applications. If you do not yet have a social worker (pre-dialysis patients), call the Foundation or email

What are the warning signs of kidney disease?

  • Changes in urination
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure or untreated diabetes or anemia
  • Swelling of the feet, ankles, hands or face
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Back pain
  • Itching
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of appetite
  • Ammonia breath or an ammonia or metal taste in the mouth
  • Nausea and vomiting

Who is at risk for kidney disease?

  • Anyone can develop chronic kidney disease at any age. However, some people are more likely than others to develop kidney disease. You may have an increased risk for kidney disease if you:
    • have diabetes
    • have high blood pressure
    • have a family history of chronic kidney disease
    • are older
    • belong to a population group that has a high rate of diabetes or high blood pressure

Can I donate one of my kidneys to someone?

  • If you would like to become a donor, you may do a blood work-up to determine if you are a match for him or her.
  • Physicians consider anyone other than family, friends or other living donors, as well as cadavers for organ donors.
  • Become a registered organ donor by signing the back of your driver’s license or go to to register online.

What are the stages of Kidney Disease?

  • Stages 1 and 2: Stages 1 and 2 usually have no symptoms to indicate that the kidneys are damaged. People are usually diagnosed through being tested for other conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes, which are the two leading causes of kidney disease.
  • Stage 3: Symptoms may develop in Stage 3, such as puffy eyes or swollen hands and feet. Changes in urination (more frequent urination, burning during urination, or bloody urination) may also be a sign of Stage 3, along with pain in the small of back and fatigue.It is recommended that you see a kidney specialist (nephrologist) at Stage 3.
  • Stage 4: Stage 4 patients have advanced kidney damage. Additional symptoms from Stage 3 may include nausea, difficulty in concentrating, loss of appetite or metallic taste in mouth.
  • Stage 5: Stage 5 patients are in kidney failure. Treatment includes dialysis or transplantation.