Renal Parenchymal Disease: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, And Treatment

Kidney damage and disease is a common ailment among the population and one that can create many health risks and complications affecting your life. Understanding parenchymal disease and what medical options are available can help you identify whether you might be at risk and what you can do to manage and treat the disease if you are diagnosed.

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What is renal parenchymal disease?

The kidneys comprise various components and structures that contribute to their bodily function. Within the kidney’s anatomy is the parenchyma, which is responsible primarily for the filtration of blood that passes through the kidneys and the excretion of waste in the form of urine.

The renal parenchyma is a critical component of kidney function and can result in debilitating effects on the body if damaged or injured.

The renal parenchymal disease is any disease, disorder, or condition that causes damage to a person's renal parenchyma. Patients who show continued damage to the renal parenchyma over a few months are subsequently diagnosed with chronic kidney disease.

How common is renal parenchymal disease?

Diseases affecting the kidneys are prevalent across the globe. Chronic kidney disease is estimated to affect over 13%¹ of the worldwide population. This number is staggering and includes millions of individuals in the end stages of renal disease that must endure dialysis or other replacement therapies for the kidneys.

Only a portion of chronic kidney disease sufferers has the renal parenchymal disease. Many individuals have a renal parenchymal disease that does not resolve, and thus it becomes chronic kidney disease (CKD). 

Symptoms of renal parenchymal disease

Due to the vital functions of the parenchyma within the kidney, any interruption to this and its normal processes is likely to result in uncomfortable symptoms for the patient suffering from the renal parenchymal disease.

Symptoms and warning signs of renal parenchyma damage may gradually worsen over time as the disease and kidney damage progress. The renal parenchymal disease is serious and requires you to take action and seek prompt medical attention. Any continuous damage and deterioration of the kidneys threaten your overall health and longevity.

While an individual can experience any of these symptoms, they don't all need to be present to indicate there may be a cause for concern due to issues with your kidneys. If you are feeling unwell and present any of these symptoms, it warrants a call to your doctor for further evaluation and consultation.

Although singularly many of these symptoms can indicate a wide range of disorders, when there are multiple signs present, it may reveal renal disease.

Common symptoms of the renal parenchymal disease include:

  • Elevated blood pressure

  • Feeling very tired and fatigued

  • Short of breath

  • Feeling weak

  • Swelling in the abdomen

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Joint discomfort

  • Edema — swollen eyes or extremities such as the hands and feet

  • Little to no appetite

  • Anemia

  • Higher frequency of urination

  • Visible blood in the urine

  • Dizziness or itching

  • Weakening bones

Causes of renal parenchymal disease

How or why a person develops renal parenchymal disease differs for each individual. For example, the renal parenchymal disease can occur due to different factors or causes. There is no one underlying common culprit that results in renal parenchymal disease.

In some instances, it can be difficult for doctors to pinpoint the exact root cause of the development of the disease. Certain risk factors can increase the likelihood of you developing a disease affecting the parenchyma of the kidney.

Common risk factors and causes of the renal parenchymal disease include:

  • Hereditary conditions

  • Congenital kidney disease or defects

  • Diabetes, type 1 and type 2

  • Polycystic kidney disease

  • Infections of viral or bacterial origin

  • High blood pressure

  • Recurrent kidney infections or kidney stones


When you experience symptoms or warning signs of potential issues with your renal function, you should seek guidance from your doctor. It is quite common to initially have little to no symptoms. It might take some time for you to suspect something is not quite right and begin to feel unwell enough to seek medical attention and advice. 

The diagnosis of the renal parenchymal disease can only be made when you have undergone a thorough medical evaluation and testing to pinpoint the cause of your physical discomfort and distress.

A doctor may take a multi-faceted approach to figure out the culprit of your symptoms and have you go through a combination of tests to pinpoint the problem.

Imaging tests

The renal parenchyma is a critical component of the function of the kidneys to produce urine and filter the blood passing through this vital organ. Testing that can identify and look at the functioning of the kidneys is a beneficial tool that can help a doctor see when something is not working as it should.

For example, imaging tests of renal function can identify where the problem within the kidney might lie and any damage that may be present. Due to the higher cost of imaging testing, they may not be the first option a doctor will pursue in the diagnosis process. It is usual for a doctor to refer you to undergo imaging when there is another abnormal finding or combination of symptoms.

The following are examples of imaging tests used to diagnose the renal parenchymal disease:

  • Ultrasound

  • CT

  • MRI

Clinical exam

An examination by your doctor is the first step in diagnosing renal parenchymal disease. During your appointment, you will discuss what symptoms you are experiencing as well as your concerns. Your doctor will review your medical and family history to try to find any indications of what could be happening. 

At this initial clinical exam, a doctor is likely to refer you for routine and specific blood work and urine tests, particularly those that focus on renal markers if they already have a suspicion that there is an issue with your kidneys.

Examples of blood tests that can show kidney function and capabilities are glomerular filtration rate, creatinine, and blood urea nitrogen. If the doctor finds abnormal results of this bloodwork or urinalysis, they will likely then refer you for more in-depth imaging and diagnostics.

Management and treatment

Doctors offer no single common solution or plan for the management and treatment of renal parenchymal disease. Each approach to helping an individual with renal parenchyma disease will take into account their condition, what symptoms they are experiencing, and the severity of the damage to the renal parenchyma.

The reality is that there is no cure for renal parenchyma disease but rather medical management of the symptoms as best as possible to try and prevent further deterioration and damage to the kidneys and your overall health.

The development of renal parenchyma disease can occur because of a wide range of kidney disorders and conditions. Doctors may modify their treatment and management of your condition depending on what is causing the injury to your renal parenchyma.

There are different medical care options available to help patients improve their health, from medication to lifestyle changes and medical therapies. 

A doctor treating a patient with the renal parenchymal disease must consider what damage the patient has already suffered, the symptoms affecting their health and their life, and what potential future challenges or complications might arise if their condition continues to deteriorate.

For example, the renal parenchymal disease is strongly linked in many cases to increased hypertension, which can create additional challenges and concerns for your health and must also be managed effectively with the help of your doctor.

Treatment and management options for the renal parenchymal disease include:

  • Lifestyle and dietary changes – You can eliminate or reduce high-risk factors, such as being overweight, smoking, or drinking alcohol, and take a more health-conscious and nutrition-based approach to a patient's diet.

  • Medications – Various medications can help a patient with the day-to-day management of renal parenchyma disease. Medications to control blood pressure, high cholesterol, and fluid retention are examples of when a doctor might give you a prescription to help alleviate some of your discomfort and the complications that commonly arise with the renal parenchymal disease.

  • Managing fluid retention – Edema is an uncomfortable and common symptom of renal parenchymal disease. Your doctor may advise you on the best way to reduce fluid tension through diet changes, medications, and keeping a watchful eye on your fluid intake throughout the day.

  • Physical therapy – Damage to the kidneys can have debilitating effects and take quite a toll on your body and health. Studies have shown that patients with chronic kidney disease engaging in routine aerobic and weight-resisting exercises had better results in developing muscle strength and mass, which can help patients living with the disease improve their overall quality of life.

  • Dialysis – When kidney deterioration due to renal parenchymal disease is severe and enters the final stage, dialysis is a necessary measure to help patients sustain their life.

  • Transplantation – A kidney transplant² is often considered the best option for many patients suffering from end-stage renal disease. A transplant can give patients the best chance at living a higher quality and longer life.

Can renal parenchymal disease be prevented?

The prevention of renal parenchymal disease is not always possible. Suppose you suffer from a hereditary condition or other factors that increase your risk of renal parenchymal disease. In that case, you may not always be able to prevent it from happening entirely.

Still, you can reduce your risk of developing the disease by delaying the onset of the disease and slowing down the deterioration of your kidneys and symptoms.

Engaging in a healthy lifestyle, reducing risky activities such as smoking and drinking, and avoiding excess weight gain can help you stay healthy for longer. Additionally, if you know you are at high risk of developing the renal parenchymal disease because of your medical or family history, work with your doctor early on to take a proactive approach to your kidney health and stay vigilant for changes in your body.

Early intervention can help you prolong your life and slow down the overall effects and impacts of the disease on your body.

Complications of renal parenchymal disease

The renal parenchymal disease can exact a heavy toll on your kidney functions and overall health. There is a wide range of complications and issues that can arise as you try to manage the disease and maintain your quality of life. One of the most notable complications of the renal parenchymal disease is the high incidence of patients that develop secondary hypertension. 

The development of secondary hypertension opens the door to other health problems and threats to your well-being. When secondary hypertension develops, your doctor must take an aggressive approach to manage that condition in combination with renal parenchymal disease so as not to cause more severe and rapid deterioration of your overall health.

When to visit a doctor?

If you have a family history of renal disease or are developing symptoms that you believe might be associated with renal parenchymal disease, schedule a visit with your doctor as soon as possible to go over your symptoms and medical history and decide whether further testing might be necessary or appropriate.

The earlier you get a diagnosis of your condition, the better it will be for your future health, and it will also mean potentially earlier treatment. 

The lowdown

People are more commonly aware of chronic kidney disease and what that can mean to an individual's health. The renal parenchymal disease may not be as widely known but is the cause of many individuals suffering from chronic kidney disease worldwide.

The development of renal parenchymal disease is a cause for concern, and you should take immediate action under the advice of your doctor to combat the symptoms and underlying cause of the disease as best as you can.

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