Life expectancy with kidney disease can depend on the stage of the disease at diagnosis, the patient's general level of health and age, and what kind of treatment the patient receives. Patients facing a diagnosis of kidney disease should ask their medical provider for a complete overview so they understand their options and the various prognoses. It is important to weigh quality of life issues as well, as a patient might live four years with one treatment and two with another, but could have a better quality of life with the shorter prognosis.
Medical professionals stage kidney disease between one, the least severe form, and five, the most severe. They also differentiate between acute and chronic disease. In acute disease, the kidneys are rapidly overloaded by an issue like an infection or exposure to a toxin. Chronic disease develops over time and represents a slow failure of the organs. With an acute condition, the prognosis can actually be quite good if the patient gets supportive care. Dialysis may be necessary to take over for the kidneys initially, and the patient could make a full recovery. Chronic disease involves permanent damage and can be less survivable.
The lower the stage of kidney disease at the time of diagnosis, the better. A patient with stage two disease might be able to control it through medications, diet, and other measures to keep the kidneys working well into old age. Stage five kidney disease, on the other hand, has a much shorter life expectancy. Patients with comorbidities, like diabetes or heart disease, also have a lower life expectancy because their bodies are already under stress.
Treatments can include medications, diet, exercise, dialysis, and kidney transplants. Life expectancy with kidney disease can improve with more advanced treatments, but quality of life can become an issue. An older patient might find dialysis three times a week intolerable, for example, and might prefer more conservative treatment. Conversely, a relatively healthy young patient might be willing to undergo dialysis and get on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.
Age is another key factor, and kidney disease patients over 65 have a decreased life expectancy. Black patients also tend to have a shorter life expectancy, as do those in lower economic classes. These patients may not receive a diagnosis until they have a more advanced disease, and they could have access to fewer treatment options. Ultimately, a patient's life expectancy depends on how well the patient adheres to treatment. Most patients die of secondary cardiovascular disease caused by the kidney problems.