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Causes of Decreased Kidney Function

The kidneys are the filtration system for waste in the body. They eliminate waste from the blood and dispose of it in the form of urine. This is an important job that requires the kidneys to be functioning properly. But, that’s not their only job. The kidneys also control red blood cell production, produce hormones that regulate blood pressure, remove drugs from the body and balance the fluids in the body.

More than 26 million American’s have kidney disease. Kidney failure is a serious condition in which the kidneys fail to rid the body of waste. This may lead to dialysis and kidney transplant. Dialysis is the use of a kidney machine to remove the body’s waste products. Transplantation is replacing the damaged kidney with a healthy one.

There are many causes of decreased kidney function. The kidneys may not get enough blood, there may be a blockage in the urinary system, causing back up into the kidneys, the kidneys could become injured or it may be caused from an inherited disease. Following are more specific causes of decreased kidney function:


Diabetes is the most common cause of decreased kidney function in the United States. Diabetes causes an increase in blood sugar levels. These high levels of glucose can cause damage to the blood vessels and cause a decrease in kidney function.

High blood pressure (Hypertension):

If the blood vessels of the kidneys become damaged, the ability of the kidneys to remove waste from the body decreases.

Heart conditions:

Heart conditions that cause a decrease in the amount of blood flowing to the kidneys can decrease the kidneys ability to remove waste from the body. Low blood pressure (hypotension) causes a reduced amount of blood flow to the kidneys. Congestive heart failure and a heart attack are two heart conditions that cause a decreased amount of blood flow to the kidneys. Without enough blood, the kidneys can’t function properly.


Obstruction of the bladder and the ureters can cause a back-flow of urine up into the kidneys, causing an overload. This causes damage to the blood vessels in the kidneys and decreases kidney function. The bladder and ureters can become obstructed by kidney stones as well as blood clots, nerve disorders and narrowing or twisting of the ureters. In men, an enlarged prostate can cause urinary retention that leads to decreased kidney function.

Excess protein intake:

For women who already have decreased kidney function, excess animal protein intake can cause a decline in an already damaged kidney. A low protein diet may be needed for women with mild kidney decline to prevent further damage and decreased function.


Glomerulonephritis causes inflammation of the kidneys tiny filtering units called the glomeruli. Inflammation of the glomeruli may cause damage over years that can lead to decreased kidney function.

Heredity conditions:

Polycystic disease is the most common inherited disease of the kidneys. Polycystic kidney disease is an inherited disorder that is the result of cysts on the kidneys. The cysts gradually get larger and cause decreased kidney function. Other inherited diseases that cause a decrease in kidney function are Alport syndrome, primary hyperoxaluria and cystinurea.

Drugs and toxins:

Abusing over the counter medication and pain medications over the years, can cause a decrease in kidney function. Alcohol, cocaine and heroine abuse can also cause the kidneys to lose function.

There are many conditions and other causes of decreased kidney function. That’s why it is so important for you to get tested if you are at risk. According to The National Kidney Foundation, people who are at risk for kidney disease are those who are 18 years or older, have high blood pressure, diabetes or a family history of kidney disease.

For more information visit The National Kidney Foundation.