Acute Kidney Injury v. Chronic Kidney Disease: What’s the Difference?

Kidney problems can be complex, developing suddenly or over a long period of time. The difference lies in the cause and treatment of the acute and chronic kidney problems. 

The Difference

AKI: Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) is the sudden, severe onset of kidney failure. This is generally caused by or related to a drug, urinary obstructions, dehydration, illnesses, and/or massive blood loss. It is likely that, after treatment, your kidney function will return to your normal baseline. 

CKD: Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is the gradual decline of kidney function over time, usually without symptoms until it is severe. Once we hit our 40s, our kidney function naturally starts to decline. This natural decline can be accelerated by other conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart conditions. With CKD, we hope to keep the decline steady and stable.


AKI: The underlying cause of the kidney injury needs to be identified, assessed, and treated to help the kidney function return to the normal baseline. Additionally, patients may receive fluids, medications, or undergo a few treatments of dialysis until the kidneys can recover adequately. Dialysis is meant to take over the function of the kidneys. Treatment should be temporary, with minimal follow-up needed. 

CKD: Contributing conditions should be monitored and managed. CKD requires regular monitoring by a nephrologist. CKD can lead to other complications if not properly followed and managed with diet, regular movement, proper medication usage, and regular lab work as prescribed by your physician.

Munjal’s Musings

“Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) are like car maintenance. CKD is normal wear and tear that happens over time. After 10 years of use, your car doesn’t have the same get-up-and-go like it did on the day you got it. AKI is like a flat tire. You patch the hole and you’re back to normal.”

Remember to keep your annual appointments with your Primary Care and regular nephrology follow-ups to monitor and detect trends in health changes.If you are concerned about your kidney function, call to make an appointment to discuss with Dr. Munjal. As always, stay safe and healthy!

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