Glossary of Terms Associated with Kidney Disease



Automated Peritoneal Dialysis (APD)/Continuous Cycling Peritoneal Dialysis (CCPD):
Stands for "Continuous Cycling (cyclic) Peritoneal Dialysis." Dialysis happens inside the body, using the peritoneal membrane as a filter. A machine performs the peritoneal dialysis solution exchanges in regular cycles. Also generally known as Automated Peritoneal Dialysis (APD).

The area of your body that includes your stomach.

In dialysis, the point on the body where a needle or catheter is inserted. (See also Arteriovenous Fistula, Graft, and Vascular Access.) 

Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) / Acute Renal Failure (AKF):
Sudden and temporary loss of kidney function. (See also Chronic Kidney Disease.)

A term that refers to how well your dialysis is working. To measure adequacy, tests are carried out to see if enough fluid and waste products are being removed from your blood.

The condition of having too few red blood cells. Healthy red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. If the blood is low on red blood cells, the body does not get enough oxygen. People with anemia may be tired and pale and may feel their heartbeat change. Anemia is common in people with chronic kidney disease or those on dialysis. (See also Erythropoietin.)

Medications used to reduce inflammation.

Arteriovenous (AV) Fistula:
Surgical connection of an artery directly to a vein, usually in the forearm, created in patients who plan to perform hemodialysis (see Dialysis). The AV fistula causes the vein to grow thicker, allowing for the repeated needle insertions required in hemodialysis.

An artery is a blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart to the body.

Autoimmune Disease:
A disease that occurs when the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the body itself.



An organ that holds the urine excreted by the kidneys.

Blood Glucose:
Glucose is a type of sugar. A blood test can show the level of blood glucose. Some people who have diabetes need medication to help control their blood glucose. Others may be controlled with diet alone.

Blood Pressure:
The pressure of the blood against the inner walls of the blood vessels. Blood pressure varies with health, age, and stress levels.

Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN):
A waste product in the blood that develops when food protein is broken down. The kidneys filter blood to remove urea. As kidney function decreases, the BUN level increases.



A tube inserted through the skin into a blood vessel or cavity to draw out body fluid or infuse fluid. In Peritoneal Dialysis (PD) a catheter is used to infuse dialysis solution into the abdominal cavity and drain it out again.

Chronic Kidney Disease:
Slow and progressive loss of kidney function over several years, often resulting in permanent kidney failure. People with permanent kidney failure need dialysis or transplantation to replace the work of the kidneys.

A flat, slender bone joining the breast bone to the shoulder blade.

Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis (CAPD):
With CAPD, the blood is continuously being cleaned. The dialysis solution passes from a plastic bag through a catheter and into the abdomen. The solution stays in the abdomen with the catheter sealed. After several hours, the person using CAPD drains the solution back into a disposable bag. The person then refills the abdomen with fresh solution through the same catheter, to begin the cleaning process again. This type of Peritoneal Dialysis (PD) is non-machine assisted.

Continuous Cycling Peritoneal Dialysis (CCPD):
A form of Peritoneal Dialysis (PD) that uses a machine, or cycler. This machine automatically fills and drains the dialysis solution from the abdomen. A typical CCPD schedule involves three to five exchanges during the night while the person sleeps. The person using CCPD has either one dwell that lasts the entire day or perform additional exchanges during the day.

A waste product from meat protein in the diet and from the muscles of the body. Creatinine is removed from blood by the kidneys; as kidney disease progresses, the level of creatinine in the blood increases.

Creatinine Clearance:
A test that measures how efficiently the kidneys remove creatinine and other wastes from the blood. Low creatinine clearance indicates impaired kidney function.

Before a transplant, the donor's blood is tested with the recipient's blood to see whether they are compatible.

A machine that performs Peritoneal Dialysis (PD) solution exchanges in regular cycles.

A type of infection that causes inflammation of the bladder.

Small sacs that form in the body that contain gas, fluids, or partly solid material. Cysts are not normal; the body does not need them to function. 



Diabetes Mellitus:
A condition characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) resulting from the body's inability to use glucose efficiently. Insulin normally helps the body's cells use glucose. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas makes little or no insulin; in type 2 diabetes, the body is resistant to the effects of available insulin.

Dialysis Center:
The Dialysis center is a place where a team of health care professionals help someone with kidney disease. 

See Dialysis Solution

The process of cleaning wastes from the blood artificially. This job is normally done by the kidneys. If the kidneys fail, the blood must be cleaned artificially with special equipment. The two major forms of dialysis are hemodialysis and Peritoneal Dialysis (PD).

Dialysis Center:
The dialysis center is the place where a team of health care professionals treat someone with kidney disease who needs dialysis.

Dialysis Nurse:
If you are on dialysis, you may become closest to your dialysis nurse. He or she specializes in dialysis treatment. Your dialysis nurse can teach you about the advantages and disadvantages of different kinds of dialysis. Dialysis nurses also help train people to do dialysis themselves.

Dialysis Solution:
A cleansing liquid used in the two major forms of dialysis, Hemodialysis and Peritoneal Dialysis (PD). Dialysis solution contains dextrose (a sugar) and other chemicals that are similar to those naturally found in the body. In peritoneal dialysis, dextrose draws wastes and extra fluid from the body into the dialysis solution.

Dialysis Specialists:
Nurses and other health care professionals who manage dialysis procedures and/or instruct patients on how to manage their own dialysis.

A part of the hemodialysis machine. The dialyzer has two sections separated by a membrane. One section holds dialysis solution. The other holds the patient's blood.

Someone trained in nutrition and diet planning.

A person who offers blood, tissue, or an organ for transplantation. In kidney transplantation, the donor may be someone who has just died or someone who is still alive, usually a relative.

Dwell Time:
In Peritoneal Dialysis (PD) the amount of time a bag of dialysis solution remains in the patient's abdominal cavity during an exchange.

Means "having abnormal tissue development."



Swelling caused by too much fluid in the body.

End-Stage Kidney Disease (ESKD):
Irreversible kidney failure. When the kidneys fail, the body retains fluid and harmful wastes build up. A person with ESKD needs treatment to replace the work of the failed kidneys.

A medical doctor who specializes in treating disorders of the endocrine glands, including the pancreas.

See Erythropoietin

Erythropoietin (EPO):
A hormone made by the kidneys that stimulates cells in the bone marrow to produce new red blood cells. Synthetic versions are available (epoetin alpha). Lack of the hormone may lead to anemia.

See End-Stage Kidney Disease

In Peritoneal Dialysis (PD) the draining of used dialysis solution from the abdomen, followed by refilling with a fresh bag of solution.



See Arteriovenous Fistula

Fluid Allowance:
The amount of fluid a dialysis patient is allowed to drink each day.

Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS):
A type of glomerulonephritis that results from scarring in parts of the glomerulus (the filter of the kidney).



Plural of Glomerulus

Inflammation of the glomeruli. Most often, it is caused by an autoimmune disease, but it can also result from infection.

A tiny set of looping blood vessels that filter blood in the kidney. Plural: glomeruli.

In hemodialysis a vascular access surgically created using a synthetic tube to connect an artery to a vein. In transplantation a graft is the transplanted organ or tissue.



A measure that tells what portion of a blood sample consists of red blood cells. Low hematocrit suggests anemia or massive blood loss.

Hemodialysis (HD):
The use of a machine to clean wastes from the blood after the kidneys have failed. The blood travels through tubes to a dialyzer, which removes wastes and extra fluid. The cleaned blood then flows through another set of tubes back into the body.

The substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body.

A natural chemical produced in one part of the body and released into the blood to trigger or regulate particular functions of the body. Among the hormones the kidney releases are erythropoietin and an active form of vitamin D that helps regulate calcium for bones.

High blood pressure, which can be caused either by too much fluid in the blood vessels or by narrowing of the blood vessels.



Ideal Weight:
The ideal weight for a person after a dialysis treatment. The weight at which a person's blood pressure is normal and no swelling exists because all excess fluid has been removed.

Immune System:
The body's system for protecting itself from viruses and bacteria or any "foreign" substances.

A drug given to suppress the natural responses of the body's immune system. Immunosuppressants are given to transplant patients to prevent organ rejection and to patients with autoimmune diseases like lupus.



One of two bean-shaped organs that filter wastes from the blood. The kidneys are located near the middle of the back. They create urine, which is delivered to the bladder through tubes called ureters.

Kidney Failure:
Loss of kidney function. (See also End-Stage Kidney Failure, Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) / Acute Renal Failure (ARF), and Chronic Kidney Disease.) 

Kidney Stones:
Minerals, like calcium, sometimes form stones in the kidneys.

Kidney Transplant:
A kidney transplant is an operation performed by a transplant surgeon in which a healthy kidney from another person is placed into your body.



Lupus/ Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE):
A chronic disease of unknown cause. It can affect skin, connective tissue under the skin, blood vessels, and other organs, and may eventually damage the kidneys.



A thin sheet or layer of tissue that lines a cavity or separates two parts of the body. A membrane can act as a filter, allowing some particles to pass from one part of the body to another while keeping others where they are. The artificial membrane in a dialyzer filters waste products from the blood.

Mesangial Proliferative Glomerulonephritis:
A form of glomerulonephritis. Signs of this condition are swelling of the glomerulus, which is located inside the kidney, and blood in the urine. It is a rare disorder, affecting 3 out of 10,000 people. It can affect both adults and children.



Surgical removal of a kidney.

Nephrogenic Diabetes Insipidus:
A condition in which the kidney tubules have difficulty reabsorbing water. The condition can result in extreme thirst and excessive urination.

A doctor who is trained in internal medicine or pediatrics and specializes in kidney disease.

The small unit in the kidney, made up of small blood vessels (glomeruli) and tubules which produce urine.

Nephrotic Syndrome:
Nephrotic syndrome is a group of signs and symptoms including protein in the urine, low blood protein, and swelling. Nephrotic syndrome is often caused by disorders that result in some type of damage to the kidney glomerulus, leading to abnormal loss of protein in the urine.

Nutrition is the study of human food and liquid requirements for normal function.



A part made of specialized tissues that performs a specific function in the body. For example, your heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys are all organs.



Pediatric Kidney Disease:
Kidney disease that affects infants and children, and teenagers.

Pediatric Nephrologist:
A nephrologist is a medical doctor who specializes in disorders of the kidneys. A pediatric nephrologist has extensive training in general pediatrics and in helping children with kidney disease and kidney failure. He or she knows all about dialysis and transplant, and will supervise your treatment.

Percent of Kidney Function:
Blood and urine tests reveal how well the kidneys are working, so the physician can determine the percent of kidney function.

Peritoneal Cavity:
The space inside the lower abdomen but outside the internal organs.

Peritoneal Dialysis (PD):
Cleaning the blood by using the lining of the abdominal cavity as a filter. A cleansing liquid, called dialysis solution, is drained from a bag into the abdomen. Fluids and wastes flow through the lining of the cavity and remain "trapped" in the dialysis solution. The solution is then drained from the abdomen, removing the extra fluids and wastes from the body. There are two main types of Peritoneal Dialysis: CAPD and CCPD

Peritoneal Membrane:
The lining of the abdomen.

Inflammation of the peritoneal membrane, usually caused by infection.

Phosphorus is an element contained in many foods and is normally filtered by the kidney. When kidneys begin to fail, phosphorus remains in the body and can damage the bones.

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD):
A genetic disease that is randomly inherited. In recessive disorders such as ARPKD, the baby must inherit a copy of the disease gene from each parent in order to be affected. ARPKD affects one in 10,000 to one in 40,000 babies.

A mineral that helps muscles and nerves work correctly. Healthy kidneys get rid of any extra potassium that your body doesn't need from food you have eaten. Damaged kidneys may not be able to get rid of enough potassium.

Proteins are what keep your body tissue healthy and replace old or damaged tissue. Each day, protein must be included in the diet for you to stay healthy. There are two kinds of protein found in foods: animal proteins and plant proteins.



Red Blood Cells:
Help carry oxygen through the body.

When the body does not accept a kidney transplanted from another body.

Meaning "of the kidneys". A renal disease is a disease of the kidneys. Renal failure means the kidneys have stopped working properly.

Renal Artery:
"Renal" means "kidney." An artery is a blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart. So the renal artery carries blood away from the heart to the kidney.

Renal Dietitian:
A nutrition expert who has further specialized in the effect of diet on the health of people with kidney disease.

Renal Vein:
"Renal" means "kidney." A vein is a blood vessel that carries blood toward the heart. So the renal vein carries blood "cleaned" by the kidney, back to the heart.

A hormone made by the kidneys that helps regulate blood pressure.

Residual Renal Function:
Renal means "kidney." This term describes the kidney function left after you have started dialysis treatment.



Social Worker:
Your social worker can help with understanding how to live with a chronic illness, insurance matters, learning about support groups, and dealing with challenges at home, with friends, or in school.

A mineral found in the body and in many foods.

Stages of Chronic Kidney Disease

Subclavian/Subclavian Vein:
Means "beneath the clavicle." The clavicle is the collarbone, a bone in the shoulder. The subclavian vein is the large vein behind the collarbone which is sometimes used for hemodialysis.



Something that is toxic is poisonous. Some of the wastes produced by the body are toxic. They must be removed from the body by the kidneys or by dialysis, or they will poison the body.

Replacement of a diseased organ with a healthy one. A kidney transplant may come from a living donor, usually a relative, or from someone who has just died.

Transplant Surgeon:
A surgeon who specializes in transplanting organs, such as a kidney transplant surgeon.



A waste product found in the blood and caused by the normal breakdown of protein. Urea is normally removed from the blood by the kidneys and then excreted in the urine. Urea accumulates with kidney failure.

The condition where a person gets sick from wastes building up in the blood. Someone who has uremia may experience nausea, weight loss, high blood pressure, and/or trouble sleeping.

A thick-walled tube that moves the urine from the kidney to the bladder.

The tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.

A test of a urine sample that can reveal problems of the urinary system and other body systems. The sample may be observed for color, cloudiness, and concentration; signs of drug use; chemical composition, including sugar; the presence of protein, blood cells, or germs; or other signs of disease.

The system that takes wastes from the blood and carries them out of the body in the form of urine. The urinary tract includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra.

Urinary Tract:
"Urinary" means "related to urine". Urine is the excess fluid and waste removed from the body by the kidneys. Urine passes along the urinary tract.

To release urine from the bladder to the outside.

Liquid waste product filtered from the blood by the kidneys, stored in the bladder, and expelled from the body through the urethra by the act of voiding or urinating.



Vascular Access:
A general term to describe the area on the body where blood is drawn for circulation through a hemodialysis circuit. A vascular access may be an arteriovenous fistula, a graft, or a catheter.

A vein is a blood vessel that carries blood toward the heart.

Venous Line:
In hemodialysis, tubing that carries blood from the dialyzer back to the body.