Get to know the language of kidney disease


It’s normal to wonder how your life will change and how you’ll manage the changes that come with a new diagnosis of kidney disease. The lexicon of kidney disease can add another layer of complexity to navigating this transition. Familiarizing yourself with some of the medical terms you’ll hear your Nephrology Associates of Greater Cincinnati care team use can help you feel more at ease about the changes happening in your body and empowered to be an active participant in your health. 

Chronic kidney disease

When your body’s kidneys are no longer able to effectively perform the function of cleaning toxins and waste from the blood, chronic kidney disease (CKD) occurs. You may also hear your doctor refer to CKD as chronic renal failure. Chronic kidney disease can progress quickly or more slowly over time based on a variety of factors. CKD has stages, beginning with stage 1 (higher kidney functioning) and progressing to stage 5 (little to no kidney function, also called end stage renal disease).


Creatinine is a chemical waste product produced from muscle activity. It then gets released into the blood and needs to be filtered out through the kidneys. When kidney function declines, elevated levels of creatinine can be found in the blood.

Glomerular filtration rate

Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is a measurement of how well your body’s kidneys clean your blood and is used to determine your stage of kidney disease. Once you’ve been diagnosed with kidney disease, your nephrologist will order blood tests on a regular basis to determine your GFR and how the disease is progressing. The GFR is calculated based on the amount of creatinine present in your blood and other factors like your age, race, gender, and weight.


Glomeruli is the plural of glomerulus – a cluster of blood vessels found in the kidneys. There are about a million of these clusters in the kidneys that are responsible for filtering the blood. If your kidney function declines, these glomeruli are not working properly.


Hypertension, or high blood pressure, goes hand in hand with chronic kidney disease: hypertension contributes to CKD and CKD contributes to hypertension. High blood pressure decreases the flow of blood to your kidneys, causing blood vessels to constrict. Learn more about renal hypertension on our blog.

Polycystic kidney disease

Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) describes a hereditary condition where cysts form in the kidneys. Cysts are sacs filled with fluid. Depending on their size and number, these cysts can actually change the size of the kidneys and interfere with proper kidney function.


Renal refers to your kidneys. You’ll hear this term used interchangeably with “kidney”: renal diet, renal disease, renal failure, renal health, etc.


This is just an introduction to the vocabulary of kidney disease. At the Nephrology Associates of Cincinnati, it’s important to us to empower our kidney patients with the knowledge they need to understand what’s happening in their bodies and take charge of their health. We always welcome your questions and are happy to walk you through these terms and more.

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Nephrology Associates of Greater Cincinnati
4750 E Galbraith Road, Suite#103
Cincinnati, OH 45236

(513) 984-3500
(513) 791-2151