Chronic kidney disease (CKD) may increase a person’s risk of COVID-19. People with COVID-19 may also be likely to develop chronic kidney disease afterward.

Scientists are still investigating the link between CKD and COVID-19. However, some research suggests that having both diseases may increase the risk of severe illness.

This article discusses whether CKD increases someone’s risk of COVID-19 and how people with CKD can treat or reduce their risk of COVID-19. It also looks at whether COVID-19 affects kidney function and when individuals should contact a doctor.

Coronavirus data

All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date. Visit our coronavirus hub for the most recent information on COVID-19.

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People with CKD or undergoing treatment for it are at greater risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This may be because CKD weakens a person’s immune system, making it less able to protect them from viral infections.

People who have had a kidney transplant operation must take anti-rejection medications, which are also known as immunosuppressive medications. They work by making someone’s immune system less active. This makes it harder for their immune system to fight viral infections, such as SARS-CoV-2.

Having any stage of CKD can make someone more likely to have a more severe illness due to COVID-19. According to 2023 research, people with CKD are five times more likely to have severe COVID-19 than the general population.

The current treatment guidelines for COVID-19 recommend doctors use antiviral medications in the early phases of this disease and then immunomodulators in the later phases. These treatments may help people manage COVID-19 symptoms and reduce their risk of serious illness.

Antiviral medications help the body fight off viral infections. Immunomodulator medications change a person’s immune system, so it works more effectively. People with CKD may have one or more of these treatments, though the dosage differs compared with dosages for those without kidney dysfunction.

Remdesivir is currently the only antiviral medication the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved to treat COVID-19. However, research into the effects of antiviral medications for people with both CKD and COVID-19 is limited.

Learn more about treatments for COVID-19.

Scientists are still investigating the effects of COVID-19 on the kidneys. In a 2023 review of research into COVID-19 and CKD, scientists found that kidney damage can develop after having COVID-19 and may include:

Having CKD or other kidney conditions may make someone more likely to develop AKI or worsening CKD.

Learn more about COVID-19 and kidney health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people with medical conditions that increase their risk from COVID-19 follow certain preventive measures, such as:

  • wearing a mask or respirator
  • improving ventilation in enclosed spaces
  • undergoing testing if they have COVID-19 symptoms
  • following recommendations for what to do if they have received exposure to SARS-CoV-2
  • avoiding contact with people who have suspected or confirmed COVID-19
  • physical distancing

Additionally, people receiving dialysis treatments should not miss treatments. If a person has had a kidney transplant, they should continue to take their anti-rejection medication, maintain appropriate hygiene, and follow medical recommendations.

Vaccination against COVID-19 can also help protect people with CKD against COVID-19. Additionally, vaccines are safe and effective for those with CKD.

It is important to contact a doctor if a person has CKD and suspects they might have COVID-19. Seeking treatment may help reduce the risk of serious illness.

An individual can also consult a doctor if they have had COVID-19 and have concerns about kidney damage or worsening CKD. Symptoms of kidney disease include:

  • frequent need to urinate
  • foamy urine
  • blood in urine
  • itchy skin
  • feeling tired or weak

A person’s doctor can ask them questions about their symptoms and may order tests to determine their cause.

Scientists are still investigating the effects between CKD and COVID-19. However, having CKD may make a person more at risk of developing COVID-19 and severe illness. COVID-19 may also make someone more likely to develop CKD or other kidney issues.

Antiviral medications may be suitable for treating COVID-19 in people with CKD. However, research is currently limited.

People with CKD should continue to take precautions to help protect against COVID-19. Their doctor can advise them on steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19.