Ever wondered about a word, term or acronym used in a discussion about kidneys? Here are the meanings of many of the common ones. Just click on the relevant initial letter below.
If you would like more information about kidney or urinary health, please contact our Kidney Health Information Service (KHIS) by phoning freecall 1800 454 363 or emailing KHIS@kidney.org.au.
If you have a hearing or speech impairment, contact the National Relay Service on 1800 555 677 or www.relayservice.com.au.
This glossary is not meant to be a substitute for advice from a health professional. Please note that we recognise each person's experience is individual and variations do occur in treatment and management due to personal circumstances, the health professional and the state one lives in. Should you require further information always consult your health professional.
The area of the body that contains the pancreas, stomach, intestines, liver, gallbladder and other organs.
Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor.
Australian College of Nursing.
Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine.
Acute kidney (renal) failure
A sudden drop in kidney function that is often short-lived and can require dialysis. For those with previously healthy kidneys it seldom means staying on dialysis. Also known as acute kidney (renal) disease.
Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council.
Acute kidney injury.
A protein in your blood plasma. In the blood, albumin acts as a carrier and helps to maintain blood volume and blood pressure. (See Protein).
Occurs when albumin is present in the urine. There are filters in the kidneys that prevent large molecules, such as albumin, from passing through. If these filters are damaged, albumin passes from the blood into the urine. (See Microalbuminuria, Macroalbuminuria, Proteinuria).
Albumin:creatinine ratio (ACR)
This test compares the amount of albumin in the urine with the amount of creatinine. It is used to detect whether albuminuria is present. (See Albuminuria, Creatinine, Microalbuminuria, Macroalbuminuria)
Occurs when there is only a small number of red blood cells in the blood or the blood cells are not working properly. Red blood cells carry oxygen, so someone with anaemia can feel weak, tired and short of breath.
These are made by the immune system, your body’s protection mechanism, to attack tissue that is not normally part of the body, for example bacteria or toxins.
Australian and New Zealand Society of Nephrology.
Automated peritoneal dialysis.
Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association.
Angiotensin II receptor blocker.
Produced when a vein and an artery in the arm or leg are joined together in an operation to make it easier to move blood in and out of the body during haemodialysis. Sometimes simply called a fistula.
A large blood vessel that takes blood from the heart to other parts of the body.
Atypical haemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS)
A rare, life-threatening, genetic condition that progressively damages the vital organs. aHUS is caused by chronic, uncontrolled activation of a part of the body’s natural immune system. This leads to blood clot formation in small blood vessels throughout the body. These blood clots can lead to stroke, heart attack and end stage kidney disease. aHUS affects both adults and children.
Automated peritoneal dialysis (APD)
A type of dialysis where a special fluid is moved in and out of the body continuously by a machine, usually overnight. Also called continuous cycling peritoneal dialysis (CCPD).
Blood glucose level.
A muscular, elastic sac or membrane inside the body that stores the urine.
Blood groups are classified by the ABO system (A, B, AB and O). In any of the four ABO groups, a person can be Rh positive or Rh negative, meaning that a person’s blood can be classified as one of eight possible types (O+, O-, A+, A -, B+, B-, AB+, AB-). Classifying blood type is important for working out compatibility for blood transfusions and organ transplantation.
The tubes that take blood around the body.
Body mass index.
Body surface area.
Using the same fistula needle site each time for dialysis. (See Fistula).
The most common mineral in the body. Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth. It is also important for regulating heart function, blood clotting, and muscle functioning, such as contraction and relaxation. Calcium levels are often abnormal in people with kidney disease. Raised calcium levels may cause headaches, nausea, sore eyes, aching teeth, itchy skin, mood changes, and confusion.
Putting in the needles for dialysis.
Continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD)
Includes all diseases and conditions of the heart and blood vessels, such as arteries and veins. The most common diseases and conditions include heart attack, heart failure, stroke, blockages in the blood vessels, and vascular kidney disease.
Caring for Australasians with Renal Impairment (CARI) Guidelines.
A plastic tube that is used to take fluid in or out of the body. (See Central venous catheter).
Central venous catheter
A special tube that is surgically inserted into your neck, collarbone or top of your leg to allow access for haemodialysis. One channel of the catheter takes blood to the dialysis machine, and the other returns cleaned blood from the dialysis machine. A central venous catheter is usually temporary until a fistula or graft is ready to be used. Also called a vascular access catheter.
Continuous cycling peritoneal dialysis.
Chief Executive Officer.
Chronic kidney (renal) disease.
A naturally occurring waxy substance made by the body. It is an essential building block of cell membranes, hormones and vitamin D. Too much cholesterol in the blood can cause clogging of the arteries and lead to cardiovascular disease. (See Lipids, Low-density lipoprotein, High-density lipoprotein, Total cholesterol).
Chronic kidney (renal) disease (CKD)
A term used widely to describe kidney damage or reduced kidney function (irrespective of the cause) that persists for more than three months. Sometimes chronic kidney disease leads to kidney failure, which requires dialysis or a kidney transplant to keep you alive.
Chronic kidney disease epidemiology collaboration.
Continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD)
A type of dialysis where a special fluid is put into the peritoneal cavity (in the abdomen) through a soft, plastic tube (catheter) then drained out a few hours later. This is usually done three or four times during the day to clean the blood.
Continuous cycling peritoneal dialysis (CCPD)
Very similar to CAPD but the fluid is moved in and out of the body continuously by a machine, usually overnight. Also called automated peritoneal dialysis (APD).
Continuous positive airway pressure.
Waste that is made by the breakdown of muscles. It is usually removed from the blood by the kidneys and passes out in the urine. When the kidneys aren’t working very well the creatinine stays in the blood and the measured level is elevated.
Dietary approaches to stop hypertension.
A chronic disease caused by problems with the production and/or action of insulin in the body.
Part of a dialysis machine that acts like a kidney to filter blood and remove waste products and excess fluid.
A treatment for end stage kidney disease that removes waste products and excess fluid from the blood by filtering the blood through a special membrane. There are two types of dialysis: haemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. (See Haemodialysis, Peritoneal dialysis, Continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis, Continuous cycling peritoneal dialysis).
Special fluid that is used during dialysis to help clean the waste and excess fluid from the blood.
A person who gives a body organ, such as a kidney, to another person. For kidneys, the donor can be living or deceased.
Estimated glomerular filtration rate (GFR). GFR is the best measure of kidney function and helps to determine the stage of kidney disease. It shows how well the kidneys are cleaning the blood. GFR is reported in millilitres per minute. The GFR is usually estimated from the results of the creatinine blood test with age and gender. (See Glomerular filtration rate).
End stage kidney (renal) disease (ESKD)
The stage of kidney disease when a person’s kidneys have stopped working so treatment, such as dialysis or a transplant, is needed to sustain life. Also referred to as end stage kidney (renal) failure (ESKF), or stage 5 chronic kidney disease.
A body chemical (hormone), mainly made by the kidneys, that causes the bone marrow to make red blood cells. A lack of this hormone can cause anaemia.
Erythropoiesis stimulating agent.
End stage kidney (renal) disease.
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate.
One complete treatment cycle of peritoneal dialysis.
FAITH Transplant Housing Program
Family Accommodation Initiative: Transplant Housing - located in Perth, Western Australia.
Produced when a vein and an artery in the arm or leg are joined together in an operation to make it easier to move blood in and out of the body during haemodialysis. Also known as an arterio-venous fistula.
A limit or total amount of fluid to be taken daily, which is usually set by a doctor.
Occurs when your body does not get rid of enough liquid (water). This can cause swollen or puffy ankles, face or hands, or shortness of breath. Also known as oedema.
Glomerular filtration rate (GFR)
GFR is the best measure of kidney function and helps to determine the stage of kidney disease. It shows how well the kidneys are cleaning the blood. GFR is reported in millilitres per minute. The GFR is usually worked out (estimated) from the results of the creatinine blood test with age and gender. (See eGFR).
A group of diseases that cause inflammation of the filter units in the kidneys. (See IgA nephritis).
A tiny set of blood vessels in the nephron.
General practitioner (doctor).
Also known as HbA1C, which occurs when haemoglobin joins with glucose in the blood. The HbA1c test shows what a person's average blood glucose level was for the two to three months before the test. This can help determine how well a person's diabetes is being controlled over time.
Another type of access for haemodialysis that is used if the blood vessels cannot be used for a fistula. During surgery an artery and a vein are joined together by soft tubing.
Occurs when red blood cells leak into the urine. It can turn urine a red or dark cola colour, which is visible to the eye or may only be found by a urine test (microscopic haematuria). Blood in the urine is a common sign of urinary tract infections but can also be the first sign of a problem with the kidneys or the bladder.
A treatment for kidney failure. The patient’s blood is pumped through special tubing to a haemodialysis machine. The machine acts like a kidney, filtering waste products from the blood before returning it to the patient. Haemodialysis usually lasts for four to six hours and is done three or more times a week. Haemodialysis can be performed in a hospital or satellite dialysis centre, or at home. It can also be performed at night. (See Home dialysis, Nocturnal dialysis, Satellite centre).
The part of red blood cells that gives them their red colour and transports oxygen around the body.
Stands for glycosylated haemoglobin, which occurs when haemoglobin joins with glucose in the blood. The HbA1c test shows what a person's average blood glucose level was for the two to three months before the test. This can help determine how well a person's diabetes is being controlled over time.
Hepatitis B virus.
Hepatitis C virus.
Added to the blood during haemodialysis to stop it from clotting (forming small lumps) and blocking the dialyser.
Home haemodialysis. Also Home HD.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL cholesterol)
Known as the ‘good cholesterol’. The higher the amount of HDL cholesterol, the lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. (See Cholesterol).
Human immunodeficiency virus.
When dialysis is performed at home. It can be peritoneal dialysis or haemodialysis. For home haemodialysis, special plumbing is installed in your home and the quality of your water supply is tested. You can choose to dialyse during the day or at night while you sleep. (See Haemodialysis, Nocturnal dialysis, Peritoneal dialysis).
Home haemodialysis. Also HHD.
Another word for high blood pressure. High blood pressure can cause chronic kidney disease and chronic kidney disease can cause high blood pressure.
A common type of glomerulonephritis where build up of the IgA antibody damages the kidney filters, allowing protein and blood to leak into the urine. IgA nephritis is a chronic kidney condition that may slowly worsen over ten to twenty years.
Medications that weaken the body’s normal immune system. They are taken by transplant recipients to prevent the body rejecting the transplanted kidney.
A chemical or hormone made by the pancreas that controls the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood.
Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme.
A large vein located in the side of the neck, sometimes used to provide access for haemodialysis. (See Vascular access catheter).
Kidney Disease Improving Global Outcomes.
Kidney health Australia.
Kidney Health Information Service.
Kidney Health Week.
Reddish, jelly bean-shaped body organs. Most people have two kidneys but people can live with one. The kidneys are in the lower back just under the bottom of the rib cage. A kidney is about the size of your fist. The kidneys are very important because they remove waste and fluid from the body and produce urine. They also help to control blood pressure, produce red blood cells, keep our bones strong, maintain the chemical balance of the blood, change Vitamin D so that the body can use it, and get rid of drugs and poisons.
A diagnostic test where a needle is used to remove a small piece of tissue from a kidney. A biopsy helps to determine the cause of kidney disease.
The stage of kidney disease when a person’s kidneys have stopped working so treatment, such as dialysis or a transplant, is needed to sustain life. Also referred to as end stage kidney failure (ESKF) end stage kidney disease (ESKD), or stage 5 chronic kidney disease.
When a healthy kidney is taken from one person and surgically placed into someone with end stage kidney disease. The kidney can come from a living or deceased donor. It is important to remember that a transplant is a treatment not a cure for kidney disease.
Kidney ultrasound scan
A probe is moved over the skin, sending and receiving ultrasound signals, which then make pictures of the kidneys and bladder. This is a diagnostic test, often used to measure the size of the kidneys.
Fatty substances, including cholesterol and triglycerides, which are present in blood and body tissues. (See Cholesterol, Low-density lipoprotein, High-density lipoprotein, Total cholesterol).
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol)
Known as the ‘bad cholesterol’. The higher the amount of LDL cholesterol, the higher the risk of cardiovascular disease. (See Cholesterol).
A thin, elastic lining or sac connecting or covering parts of the body.
Occurs when albumin, a kind of protein, leaks into the urine in very small or ‘micro’ amounts. The level can be measured by a special urine test, usually on a single urine sample. The appearance of microalbuminuria may be the first sign of an otherwise silent kidney condition. A microalbuminuria test should be done at least yearly if you have diabetes. (See Albuminuria and Albumin:creatinine ratio).
Occurs when albumin, a kind of protein, leaks into the urine in larger or ‘macro’ amounts. (See Microalbuminuria).
A doctor who specialises in kidney function.
The study of the kidneys.
A tiny part of the kidney that filter blood to make urine. There are over one million filters in each kidney.
National Health and Medical Research Council.
Haemodialysis performed at night while the patient is asleep. This is usually performed at the patient’s home. (See Home dialysis).
Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug.
National Vascular Disease Prevention Alliance.
Occurs when your body does not get rid of enough liquid (water). This can cause swollen or puffy ankles, face or hands, or shortness of breath. Also known as fluid retention.
Parts of the body that help us to stay alive, such as the kidneys, heart, lungs and liver.
They produce parathyroid hormone, or PTH, which helps control calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D levels within the blood and bone. End stage kidney disease can cause the parathyroid glands to produce too much PTH.
Patient Assisted Travel Scheme.
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Primary Care Education Advisory Committee for KHA
The space in the abdomen (belly) holding the intestines and other organs.
A treatment for end stage kidney disease where dialysis fluid is moved in and out of the peritoneal cavity to remove wastes and excess fluid from the blood. (See Continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis, Continuous cycling peritoneal dialysis).
A very thin sac or membrane that surrounds the organs on the inside of the abdomen or peritoneal cavity.
A mineral that, together with calcium, keeps your bones strong and healthy. Too much phosphate causes itching and pain in the joints, such as the knees, elbows and ankles. When the kidneys are not functioning properly, high levels of phosphate can accumulate in the blood.
If your phosphate level is too high you may be prescribed medicine called phosphate binders. These combine with phosphate in your intestines so it will pass out of your body with the faeces (poo). It is important to take phosphate binders with your meals and snacks.
Periodic limb movement in sleep.
An essential mineral that helps nerve endings and muscles to work. Potassium is usually removed by healthy kidneys. If your level of potassium is too high or too low, it can cause an irregular heartbeat. Very high potassium levels may cause the heart to stop.
Polycystic kidney disease.
Primary Care Education Program
Our Primary Care Education Program delivers education specifically developed for GPs, Primary Care Nurses, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers / Practitioners, Pharmacists and other health professionals.
A nutrient that you get from food, which builds, repairs and maintains body tissue. It also helps to fight infections and heal wounds.
Occurs when there are abnormal levels of protein in the urine. There are filters in the kidneys that prevent large molecules, such as protein, from passing through. If these filters are damaged, proteins pass from the blood into the urine. The most common protein found in the urine is albumin. The appearance of protein in the urine may be the first sign of an otherwise silent kidney condition.
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.
A person who receives a transplanted body organ, such as a kidney.
Another word for kidneys.
A chemical made by the kidneys that helps to control blood pressure.
Restless legs syndrome.
Putting the needles in for dialysis in a line up and down the fistula or graft. (See Fistula, Graft)
Renal Society of Australasia.
Also called sodium. Affects the amount of fluid the body retains and increases thirst. If you have a kidney problem, too much salt can make you drink more than your kidneys can remove and may cause high blood pressure; swelling of ankles, feet, hands and puffiness under the eyes; and shortness of breath.
A dialysis unit that provides haemodialysis away from the hospital. This is an option when hospital dialysis is not required and home dialysis is not appropriate.
A mineral in the body often called ‘salt’. The kidneys help to control the amount of sodium in the body. Sodium helps to control the amount of water in the body.
Spiral computed tomography.
Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor.
A medicine that helps to stop allergic reactions. It is used to prevent the body from rejecting a transplanted organ.
A blood vessel found underneath the shoulder that is sometimes used for haemodialysis.
A test to find out the level of compatibility or matching between the organs of a donor and a recipient. (See Blood group).
A group of cells of the same type, such as a muscle.
A cholesterol measurement that indicates all the cholesterol molecules in the blood, including low-density lipoproteins (LDL), high-density lipoproteins (HDL), and very low density lipoproteins (VLDL). (See Cholesterol, Lipids, Low-density lipoprotein, High-density lipoprotein).
A build up of waste products in the blood causing nausea, vomiting, tiredness and problems with concentration.
A waste product made as the body breaks down protein. If you have a kidney problem, too much protein causes too much urea, which can lead to nausea, vomiting, tiredness, headaches, a bad taste in the mouth, bad breath, and problems with memory and concentration.
The tube that connects the kidneys to the bladder.
The tube that takes urine out of the body from the bladder.
The name for excess fluid and waste products that are removed from your body by the kidneys. Commonly called wee.
Collecting all your urine for 24 hours and storing it in a special bottle for analysis.
A test to measure the amount of protein, blood and other substances in the urine.
The study of the urinary system.
Urinary tract infection.
Ultraviolet light B.
Occurs when your body does not get rid of enough liquid (water). This can cause swollen or puffy ankles, face or hands, or shortness of breath. Also known as fluid retention or oedema.