Kidney and old age: changes in the kidneys and the urinary system

Is kidney disease related to age?

Yes.  Any kidney disease may appear at any age, but it is more likely to appear over the age of 60. At least 50% of the patients suffering from a kidney disease is elderly. The older we get, the older our kidneys get.

All stages of kidney failure are more common in the old age, but medium kidney failure (GFR 30-59 ml/min/1.73 m2) is the one that becomes more common as one gets older.

Is there any change in my kidneys, as I grow older?

Yes, plenty. About 20-25% of the renal mass is lost between the ages of 30-80 years old, the weight of the kidneys is reduced by about 10% per decade, after the age of 30 and the length is reduced by 0.5 centimetres per decade after the age of 40 years old.

Is there any change in the function of my kidneys, as I grow older?

The functional changes include the reduction in the Glomerular Filtration Rate (that is, the amount of blood that the kidney “cleans” per minute) which is related only to the age and not to any other disease (i.e. diabetes mellitus). Other processes that take place in the kidney lose their “efficiency”, over time.

Even renal vessels become “harder” reducing, thus, the blood supply of the kidneys.

Is the kidney only, from the urinary system, affected because of age?

No. The urinary bladder changes as well.  Its wall changes. It loses its elasticity and becomes harder. It cannot contain the same amount of urine as before. As for men, we have to take into consideration the prostatic hyperplasia.

Apart from the increase in age, are there other risk factors that “accelerate” the loss of the renal function for these patients?

Yes. The usual factors, that is diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, other cardiovascular diseases, long-term intake of nephrotoxic drugs (such as anti-inflammatory drugs).

I am elderly, my creatinine is reduced, is that normal? Haven’t I got kidney failure?

Creatinine is the result of metabolism of creatinine that comes from the muscles. The elderly have a reduced muscular mass and therefore their creatinine is reduced….”normal”… It is not a reliable indicator of kidney failure, especially in the elderly.

If I have kidney failure, is it going to worsen as I get older?

People aged > 60-65 with kidney failure, face an increased risk of growth of the kidney disease or other complications, such as acute kidney damage, in comparison with younger people. What should be done is a plan of monitoring with the attending nephrologist for an early identification of the factors that can lead to an acute deterioration aiming to their timely treatment.

By the Scientific Director Aristides Paraskevopoulos


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