The kidneys act as sophisticated filters for the body. They clean and purify the blood, sifting out waste products and excess fluid that eventually leave the body as urine.
The efficiency of the kidneys is usually assessed by measuring the glomerular filtration rate (GFR). When GFR slows down appreciably and irreversibly, a person is said to have renal failure. Chronic renal failure is the term given to the gradual loss of kidney function over a number of years, or even decades.
End-stage renal disease (ESRD) occurs when the kidneys permanently fail, requiring dialysis, (which removes wastes and water from the blood) and/ or transplantation. There are two types of dialysis. Hemodialysis passes blood through a machine (a dialyzer) to remove wastes and water. Peritoneal dialysis works on the same principle as hemodialysis, however wastes and water are removed from the blood while still in the body instead of being passed through a machine.
Hyperphosphatemia (elevated levels of phosphate in the bloodstream) is an almost universal and inevitable complication of chronic renal failure.
An estimated two million Canadians have kidney disease, or are at risk of developing kidney failure.