GFR and the 5 Stages of CKD Made Simple

GFR and the 5 Stages of CKD Made Simple

Published on
April 18, 2021

In layman's terms, CKD and GFR are a measure of kidney function. The Kidney Experts blog post will help you understand what these two measurements mean for your health and how to monitor them in the future.

It's estimated that over 26 million people in the United States have chronic kidney disease (CKD)—that 6% of the U.S population over age 20 has CKD, often without knowing it.

CKD is a progressive condition, and if left untreated it can lead to heart attack, stroke, or death. The good news? There are proven treatments for CKD!

It all starts with a healthy kidney. The kidneys are the body's natural filter, removing excess water and waste products from the blood to maintain fluid balance.

When they don't work properly, it can lead to an accumulation of toxins in your body that can cause serious health problems. When the kidneys lose their ability to remove wastes and fluids as they should, it creates the condition called chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Kidney Image in Chronic kidney disease (CKD)
Kidney Image in Chronic kidney disease (CKD)

CKD is a progressive condition that leads to end-stage renal disease (ESRD), which requires dialysis or transplantation for treatment. CKD is a disorder of the kidneys that causes them to gradually lose their ability to function.

GFR stands for Glomerular filtration rate and it measures how much blood your kidneys are filtering each minute.

It is important to understand what stage of CKD you are in and how your GFR relates. Chronic kidney disease is a condition that occurs when the kidneys do not work properly for an extended period of time. The stages are divided into five categories.

Brief Descriptions of the 5 Stages of CKD based on GFR

  • Stage 1 - Normal kidney function (GFR greater than 90)
  • Stage 2 - Mild loss of kidney function (GFR between 60 up to 90)
  • Stage 3 - Moderate loss of kidney function (GFR between 30 up to 60)
  • Stage 4 - Severe loss of kidney function (GFR between 15 up to 30)
  • Stage 5 - End-stage renal disease (ESRD, GFR less than 15)
Stages of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) based on Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR)
Stages of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) based on Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR)

The first stage of chronic kidney disease is the "normal" state. In this category, there are no symptoms and your GFR remains at a healthy level. There are no risks associated with being in this stage for an extended period of time.

Chronic kidney disease can also exist as a mild decline in renal function (stage two). Most people are typically without symptoms at this stage as well. The GFR is between 60 up to 90.

Chronic kidney disease can also exist as a moderate decline in renal function (stage three). Again, most people are without signs or symptoms at this stage. The GFR is between 30 up to 60.

The final stages of these diseases are classified as stage four and stage five. In these cases, people will typically be experiencing severe health problems caused by their kidneys. While stage four is characterized by a GFR between 15-30, ESRD means that your GFR has dipped below 15 - generally less than five years after diagnosis.

Signs and Symptoms of CKD stages four and five include

  • Fatigue
  • Swelling in the lower extremities (feet and ankles) and abdomen.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased thirst
  • Weight gain or weight loss.
  • Loss of appetite (in advanced cases)
  • Insomnia, itching, and nausea
  • Having uncontrolled hiccups that don't improve with fluid intake
  • Metallic taste in the mouth that feels like you are sucking on coins

A person with CKD stage four and five might also experience depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders. There may be a change in the color of urine from clear to dark (very pale straw-colored) because it is not being filtered properly by the kidneys. Sometimes people can have anemia because their GFR decreases and they are losing more red blood cells than normal. In addition, there could be problems with digestion due to reduced kidney function such as constipation or diarrhea. Other symptoms include numbness or tingling around your mouth; dizziness; ringing in the ears; nausea that doesn't improve on its own; excessive sweating together with an increased thirst which suggests dehydration.

An ESRD patient will likely need dialysis treatment. There are many types of dialysis and the type someone receives will depend on their age, medical history, kidney function, other health-related problems they have, and more. Other options include hospice care in this population for the right patients.

As the GFR declines, so does the kidneys' ability to perform their basic functions of filtering waste from the bloodstream and maintaining proper electrolyte balance. While there can be many reasons why CKD occurs (ranging from diabetes and high blood pressure), the most common cause is long-term damage to the nephrons in our kidneys due to high levels of protein in our urine.

In conclusion, chronic kidney disease is a progressive condition that may not require dialysis.

Please Share This Page

Who you speak with when you call.
Brandy Carr Staff at The Kidney Experts
Meagan Hardison Staff at The Kidney Experts

2022 Patient Successes This Year!




Started Tummy (Peritoneal) Dialysis


Home Therapies


Successfully Taken Off
Of Dialysis

2021 Patient Successes This Year!




Started Tummy (Peritoneal) Dialysis


Home Therapies


Successfully Taken Off
Of Dialysis

Questions about  Kidney Care

What is Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)?

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a gradual loss of kidney function, which happens to everyone over time. It's a natural part of aging, but we do our best to slow down this process and prevent kidney failure. Sometimes we can even reverse disease!

What are Kidneys?

The kidneys are a vital part of the body's filtering system. This system cleans the blood and removes harmful waste. If the kidneys do not function, they cannot filter toxins. This can lead to a host of problems. A specialist called a Nephrologist works to delay chronic kidney disease. A Nephrologist works to prevent kidney failure.

What is a Nephrologist?

A nephrologist is a medical doctor specializing in the kidneys. They order blood tests, ultrasound, kidney biopsies, and other tests to rule out diseases and complications. They also prescribe medications and make referrals to other specialists.

What is Nephrology?

Nephrology is the practice of medicine that deals with the kidneys. The kidneys are responsible for filtering wastes from the blood and producing urine. Nephrology is concerned with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of kidney diseases. The focus is on diseases that cause kidney failure.

Kidney Care 2.0
What is the Difference?

personalized service

Personalized Service

We recognize that every patient is unique and that what works for one may not work for others. We take the time to get to know you and your needs. We will design a plan of care that is unique to your specific needs, rather than following a standard protocol.
Finding The Cause

Finding The Cause

Kidney disease is a very serious condition that can have a major impact on your health. To prevent further disease, it is important to focus on a healthy lifestyle. We will help you find a cause for your kidney disease and develop a plan to avoid further complications.
Latest Therapies

Latest Therapies

We want to be a part of your healing process. Our goal is to help those with kidney failure get the best possible care. This includes using the least amount of treatment to get the greatest benefit. We help patients begin home therapies. We also help them get transplants.
Expert Providers

Easy Communication

Kidney disease can be a frightening thing. We help you understand what it's like to live with kidney disease and how we can help you live the best possible life. We are here for you. Reach out to us in any way you need for your kidney care needs. We are available by phone, text, email, or MyChart.

Our Health Services

Kidney disease can be confusing. You are not alone. Because kidney disease is progressive, it can be hard to figure out what the future holds. It's important to stay informed and plan ahead. Our team of experts will walk with you every step of the lifelong journey through kidney disease. We are here for you. We will help you with information on how to know your numbers and monitor your health, an individualized care plan, convenient blood testing, and a variety of support programs.

We cover a wide range of care related to kidney disease, including, but not limited to the following


Dialysis Company Affiliations

DaVita Kidney Care
Dialysis Care Center
DaVita Kidney Care
DaVita Kidney Care
We see patients at 17 dialysis units!

Major Insurance Providers Accepted

Insurance seems complicated and confusing. We're here to help you understand your insurance.
Find out more about Insurance for your Kidney Care Needs.
Cigna Healthspring
Tennessee Medicare TN Health Insurance
Palmetto GBA - Railroad Medicare Tennessee TN
Aetna Health Insurance
Amerigroup Health Insurance
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Insurance BCBS
Tennessee TennCare Health Insurance
Missouri Medicare MO Health Insurance
Palmetto GBA - Railroad Medicare Missouri MO
VA Community Care Network CCN - Community Care
WellCare Health Insurance
Cigna Health Insurance
Humana Health Insurance
Missouri MO HealthNet (Medicaid)
United  Healthcare
TRICARE Health Insurance

The Kidney Experts

We do everything possible to slow down the worsening function of your kidneys. Sometimes, we can improve kidney function! When function declines, we focus on kidney transplantation and home therapies. We see you at a dialysis unit for regular dialysis for those unable to complete therapies at home.

There is no need to visit us to answer your questions and get refills. We have staff available to answer your calls. We don't take care of you only while you are at our office. We are always ready to take care of you whenever you need us to

Meet your Kidney Specialists

We are here to help


1575 Parr Av,
Suite B
Dyersburg, TN 38024
215 Hawks Road, 
Suite 11,
Martin, TN 38237
1995 Highway 51 South,
Suite 208,
Covington, TN 38019
© Copyright 2018 - 2021 | The Kidney Experts, PLLC | All Rights Reserved | Email:
The Best Kidney Care Practice in Tennessee
Top map-markercross linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram