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Diagnosis & Treatment of Kidney Disease

At Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, our nephrologists focus on identifying kidney problems and delivering treatments that give you the best chance to recover—so you can get your life back.

Kidney conditions we treat

Our expert nephrologists offer medical treatment of kidney disease and high blood pressure. If your kidney disease is a complication of diabetes, we work together with your endocrinologist on treatment options. A urologist may also provide diagnostic procedures and surgical treatment for kidney problems involving the bladder. 

Managing chronic kidney disease

With chronic kidney disease (CKD), the kidneys lose their ability to filter fluid, wastes and toxins, which may build up in the blood. Other complications, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), anemia (low red blood cell count) and weak bones, may also develop over time. This condition may lead to more serious health problems, including kidney failure. When the kidneys begin to fail (stop working), a nephrologist helps prepare you for dialysis or kidney transplantation.

  • The two main causes of CKD are diabetes and high blood pressure. Other causes include:

  • In the early stages, many people may not have symptoms. As the disease progresses, symptoms include:

    • Bad taste or loss of taste
    • Changes in urination (volume, frequency and color)
    • Difficulty sleeping
    • Fatigue and lack of energy
    • Muscle cramping at night
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Poor appetite
    • Swollen feet, ankles or puffy eyes
    • Shortness of breath
    • Weight loss or gain
  • CKD has five different stages, each defined by your glomerular filtration rate (GFR). Your physician calculates your GFR using a blood test along with your age and gender.



    Kidney function

    Stage 1

    > 90

    Kidney damage with normal or higher kidney function

    Stage 2


    Kidney damage with mild decrease in kidney function

    Stage 3


    Moderate decrease in kidney function

    Stage 4


    Severe decrease in kidney function

    Stage 5

    < 15

    Kidney failure

Options for kidney treatment

Before you start kidney treatment, it’s important to talk with your care team about the details of your treatment plan, including:

  • Your preferred location to receive treatment, including your own home or one of our clinics.
  • Scheduling: We try to accommodate your schedule to the best of our ability.
  • Whether to have a dialysis access (entrance into your bloodstream that lies beneath your skin and is easy to use) placed before you start dialysis.
  • For hospitalized people with kidney conditions, our experienced dialysis nurses and certified technicians provide inpatient dialysis at locations throughout the Puget Sound area.

  • If you’re planning to receive a kidney transplant, you can trust that you’re in good hands with our transplant team. Virginia Mason Franciscan Health is a recognized leader in kidney transplant procedures in the Pacific Northwest, earning a designation as a Donor Care Network Center of Excellence by the National Kidney Registry. Learn more about kidney transplant procedures at the Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Transplant Center.

Nutrition counseling

Registered dietitians at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health offer one-on-one nutrition counseling services for people with CKD or kidney stones. Your dietitian works with you and your physician to get a complete picture of your kidney function, overall health (including other medical conditions) and nutritional status. He or she then develops a comprehensive meal plan with appropriate foods to ensure you get enough of the right nutrients for optimal health.

Learn more about our individual nutrition counseling for patients in various stages of kidney disease.

Emergency diet plan

When circumstances temporarily prevent you from getting your dialysis treatment, we’ve developed an emergency diet plan. Intended for periods of less than five days, the diet helps prevent waste products, potassium and fluid from building up in your bloodstream. Download our emergency diet plan to learn more.

Palliative care for kidney failure

Some people choose not to treat their end-stage kidney failure, depending on their circumstances. At Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, we provide end-of-life support to make our patients comfortable without dialysis.

Learn more about Hospice and Palliative Care services.

Find a kidney specialist

You can trust our team of specialists for exceptional kidney care when you need it most.