Although the lifespan of stage 5 kidney disease depends on certain factors, the average length of time a patient lives ranges from 5 to 10 years.
It is difficult to say how long can you live with stage 5 kidney disease because it is dependent on factors, such as:
Dialysis is needed when you develop end-stage kidney failure, which is usually when you have lost 85 to 90 percent function of the kidneys. This is termed end-stage renal disease. Your kidneys have a glomerular filtration rate (GFR) of less than 15 mL/min/1.73 m2 at this stage.
From anecdotal reports and studies, the average lifespan of patients with stage 5 kidney disease ranges from 5 to 10 years. However, patients have lived for up to 20 years with the help of dialysis.
What are the symptoms of stage 5 kidney disease?
Stage 5 chronic kidney disease presents with important physical and psychological symptoms in the last months of life. These symptoms may be similar to or greater than those in patients with advanced cancer.
In end-stage renal disease (ESRD), the function of the kidney to effectively filter wastes fluids, electrolytes, and minerals out of the blood reduces. These waste products eventually accumulate within the body. This can cause a wide range of signs and symptoms.
Normal kidneys carry out important bodily functions, such as controlling blood pressure, strengthening bones, and making new red blood cells. These functions are also hampered in ESRD.
You may experience most or all the following symptoms:
These symptoms may vary in severity and occur either all or at least most of the time.
How is stage 5 kidney disease diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider may ask about your family’s and your medical history to diagnose your condition.
You may have to undergo physical and neurological exams along with other tests, such as:
- Blood tests: Blood creatinine and urea are wastes that accumulate in blood in stage 5 kidney disease.
- Urine tests: To estimate the level of the protein, albumin, in your urine.
- Imaging tests: Ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, or computed tomography scan to assess the kidneys and detect any abnormalities.
- Glomerular filtration rate (GFR): It is a measure to estimate the level of kidney function. It is calculated by the lab specialist based on a combination of several factors that include creatinine levels, age, weight, height, etc. GFR test is usually done after the above tests show abnormalities. Doctors usually confirm kidney damage on encountering low levels of GFR.
Your doctor would also like to know if you have diabetes or heart problems. Hence, they may ask for tests, such as:
How is stage 5 kidney disease treated?
There is no cure for stage 5 kidney disease. Treatment can just help control the signs and symptoms.
A kidney specialist (nephrologist) will prescribe you medications that will aim at:
Advanced stages of kidney disease usually require lifetime dialysis or a kidney transplant to increase survival by a few years.
Along with the right medications, certain lifestyle changes are a must. The dietary modification depends on the stage of kidney disease you are at. For example, higher stages of chronic kidney disease necessitate you to lower your daily dietary intake of protein, phosphorus, and potassium. A certified nutritionist can recommend the most appropriate diet plan for you.
Some commonly recommended lifestyle steps include:
- Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day or 150 minutes a week
- Having a salt-restricted (low in sodium) diet
- Quitting smoking and alcohol consumption
- Avoid high-fat foods
- Managing stress through activities, such as deep breathing
What are the complications of stage 5 kidney disease?
Complications of stage 5 kidney disease include:
Without either dialysis or a transplant, kidney failure progresses and can even turn life-threatening quickly. Supportive care may help you manage your symptoms and help you improve your quality of life.
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Medically Reviewed on 12/15/2021
Murtagh FE, Addington-Hall J, Edmonds P, et al. Symptoms in the month before death for stage 5 chronic kidney disease patients managed without dialysis. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2010 Sep;40(3):342-52. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20580200/
Henrich WL, Burkart JM. Patient survival and maintenance dialysis. UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/patient-survival-and-maintenance-dialysis