What Factors Affect Life Expectancy with Kidney Disease?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 21 October 2018
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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.


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Post 5
I recently read that the kidney dialysis life expectancy is just over four years. I found out last year that I have a chronic kidney disease, and I will likely one day need dialysis.

This is a scary thing to me. Though there are people who have lived twenty years on dialysis, it isn't common.

However, without it, most people only live six months. I would hope that within four years, a suitable kidney donor could be found for me.

Post 4
I knew a man with kidney failure, and his life expectancy was extended because of his dialysis. He had to have it three times a week, but he didn't want to do this forever.

He desperately wanted on the transplant list, but since he was overweight, he didn't qualify. They want to give organs only to people who have the best chances of survival and taking care of themselves, so they do discriminate.

The sad thing was that he couldn't lose weight, because he was too sick to exercise. It was an impossible situation for him.

Post 3
@DylanB – The polycystic kidney disease life expectancy often does depend on the individual's circumstances. I had a friend who had this disease, but she was also a diabetic and a smoker with heart problems.

She actually survived on dialysis for several years, but eventually, it all became too much for her body. She died when she was 65, but it's kind of amazing that with all her physical ailments she even made it that far.

Post 2
I have polycystic kidney disease. It's hereditary, and all I can do is limit my protein and salt intake and stay on my high blood pressure medication.

Since I've been doing these things, I have been feeling better. I'm only at stage two, so my life expectancy is fairly long.

I know that the cysts may one day become so numerous that they fully choke out my kidney function. Until then, I will stick to my diet and medicine, and hopefully, I can prolong the life of my kidneys.

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