Renal parenchymal disease is a group of conditions that can develop in the parts of your kidneys that filter your urine and produce the hormone erythropoietin. These conditions can range from mild to life threatening.

Renal parenchymal disease is a group of conditions that can develop in the parenchyma of your kidneys.

The parenchyma is the functional part of an organ, as opposed to the parts that give the organ structure. The parenchyma of your kidneys is found under the outer layers of fat and connective tissue. It includes two structures:

  • The renal cortex: This is the outer part of the parenchyma that produces the hormone erythropoietin. It also contains one end of the nephrons (the functional units that allow your kidneys to filter your blood).
  • The renal medulla: This inner part of the parenchyma consists of triangular structures called the renal pyramids. They contain nephrons and allow filtered fluid to flow out of your kidneys.

Many types of diseases can affect the renal parenchyma. Read on to learn more about these diseases.

Is renal parenchymal disease dangerous?

Renal parenchymal diseases can range from mild to life threatening. Any of these diseases can be classified as:

  • acute if it develops suddenly
  • chronic if it develops slowly over many years

Health experts estimate that 12–15% of people with acute kidney injury need permanent dialysis. Dialysis involves running your blood through an external machine that filters it in place of your kidneys.

The most common type of kidney cancer, renal cell carcinoma, develops in the nephrons. People with kidney cancer, including this type, in the United States had a 5-year relative survival rate of 78% in the years 2013–2019.

The 5-year relative survival rate is a measure of how likely people with this type of cancer are to survive for at least 5 years, as compared to people without cancer.

Doctors usually stage chronic kidney disease (CKD) based on estimated glomerular filtration rate (GFR).

Estimated GFR helps doctors find out how well your kidneys are working by measuring levels of certain substances in your blood. It’s measured in milliliters per minute per 1.73 square meters of body surface area (mL/min per 1.73 m2).

CKD can be divided into six categories based on GFR:

StageEstimated GFR in mL/min per 1.73 m2
G190+
G260–89
G3a45–59
G3b30–44
G415–29
G5 (end stage kidney disease)less than 15

CKD typically does not cause symptoms in the early stages since your body can usually adapt to limited kidney function. Symptoms tend to get worse over time, once your body can no longer adequately filter your blood.

When symptoms appear, they can include:

Symptoms of acute kidney disease can include:

Potential causes of acute kidney injury include:

Diabetes is the most common cause of end stage CKD, accounting for 30–50% of cases. High blood pressure is the second most common cause, accounting for about 27% of cases.

Other causes include:

People with diabetes and high blood pressure are at an increased risk of developing kidney disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, other risk factors include:

Possible complications of CKD include:

Learn more about the complications of CKD.

Tests you may receive to help diagnose kidney disease include:

Treatment options for kidney disease include:

  • lifestyle changes such as:
    • avoiding NSAIDs except when advised by a healthcare professional
    • increasing your physical activity
  • medications to manage conditions such as:
    • high blood pressure
    • high cholesterol
    • high potassium
    • diabetes
  • dialysis (in people with end stage kidney disease)
  • kidney transplant (in people with end stage kidney disease)

Ways that you may be able to reduce your chances of developing CKD include:

  • treating underlying conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure
  • quitting smoking, if you smoke
  • eating a balanced diet
  • avoiding excessive alcohol intake
  • exercising regularly
  • following the instructions for use of medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen and not exceeding the maximum duration or dose

It’s important to consult a doctor if you develop symptoms that could indicate acute kidney disease, such as pain in one side of your back or in your side along with:

  • blood in your urine
  • a recent urinary tract infection
  • fatigue or a fever

It’s also important to contact a doctor if you have symptoms of CKD, such as unintentional weight loss or blood in your urine.

If you’ve received a diagnosis of kidney disease, it’s essential to contact your doctor if you notice any changes in your symptoms.

It’s important to contact a doctor right away if you develop symptoms that might be caused by kidney disease. Many kidney conditions have a better outlook when treated earlier.