Person standing on bathroom scale while wondering about kidney disease and weight gain

Kidney Disease and Weight Gain: What You Need to Know

Written on June 18, 2023 by Sendra Yang, PharmD, MBA. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Table of contents

When you think of weight gain, you probably think of being overweight or obese because obesity is so common.[1] The prevalence of obesity in the United States is around 42%.[1] There are various factors that impact weight gain, including behavior, environment, genetics, and sleep patterns.[2] You can unintentionally gain weight for other reasons as well. For example, as you age, your metabolism can slow down and cause you to gain weight if you have too much to eat, choose to eat unhealthy foods, or do not engage in adequate amounts of physical activity.[3]

Additionally, side effects of some medications like corticosteroids can cause additional weight gain. Alterations in your hormone levels or certain medical conditions can also cause you to gain weight. One medical illness that can potentially cause unintentional weight gain is kidney disease. To fully understand kidney disease and weight gain, it’s essential to start with a background of how the kidneys work, followed by what kidney disease is.

The Kidneys and Their Function

The kidneys are bean-shaped organs about the size of your fist.[4,5] Most people have two kidneys located on the back of the abdomen on each side of the spine. The kidneys are part of the urinary system. The primary function of your kidneys is to filter your blood and remove waste and extra water from your body in the form of urine. Fully functioning kidneys can filter around half of a cup of blood every minute.

The steps in how the kidneys filter your blood and remove waste from your body are as follows[4]:

  1. Your blood flows through a large blood vessel, referred to as the renal artery, into the kidneys.
  2. Tiny blood vessels in your kidney filter the blood, separating out water and waste.
  3. Another large blood vessel called the renal vein returns the purified blood into your bloodstream.
  4. The waste is removed in the form of urine through the ureters into your bladder.
  5. The bladder is where your urine is stored until you are able to excrete it with urination.

What is Kidney Disease?

Kidney disease occurs when there is damage to the kidneys. A condition called acute kidney injury, or acute renal failure, refers to kidney damage that happens in a few hours to a few days.[6] The term ‘kidney disease’ is more commonly associated with chronic kidney disease.[7] Chronic kidney disease is progressive and usually worsens over time.[8,9] Chronic kidney disease can be caused by diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases, infections, and medications.[10] Risk factors include a family history of chronic kidney disease and obesity.[8]

It is estimated that 15% of American adults, or 37 million people, have chronic kidney disease.[9] However, 9 in 10 adults with chronic kidney disease have no idea they actually have the disease.[9] In chronic kidney disease, the kidneys are damaged to the point where they can no longer filter blood effectively.[8] As a result, waste products and excess fluids are not removed from the body, causing various health issues that include[8]:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Anemia
  • Altered calcium, potassium, and phosphorus levels
  • Decreased appetite

Kidney Disease and Weight Gain

Another implication of the inability to remove extra fluids and waste products from the body is the potential for additional weight gain.[3] The additional weight seen with kidney disease is not what you would typically associate with weight gain. Weight gain from kidney disease occurs because of the buildup and retention of fluids in the body.[3, 11] Water weight, or swelling, is a sign of kidney disease.[3, 4] You should notify your healthcare provider if you notice swelling around your hands or ankles.

Everlywell Weight Loss Support

Tips to Prevent Kidney Disease

There are several ways you can keep your kidneys healthy and help prevent kidney disease. Some tips include[4, 7]:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Engage in a regular exercise routine
  • Limit medications that damage the kidneys (such as ibuprofen)
  • Stop or don’t start smoking
  • Decrease salt intake
  • Manage blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels

Overall Health with Everlywell

If you are gaining extra weight and have questions, you can schedule a telehealth video call via Everlywell for online weight management to speak with a certified clinician. You will be able to meet with the healthcare provider from the comfort of your own home. The healthcare provider can discuss your concerns and address your symptoms with the appropriate test, prescription, or lifestyle recommendation. Additionally, if you would like to discuss weight management strategies and your weight goals, there is also a telehealth weight management option.

Conditions That May Have Weight Gain as a Symptom

Genetic Obesity: What Does It Mean?

Can Undiagnosed Diabetes Cause Weight Gain?


  1. Adult obesity facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last reviewed May 17, 2022. Accessed June 9, 2023.
  2. Other factors in weight gain. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last reviewed June 3, 2022. Accessed June 9, 2023.
  3. Weight gain - unintentional. Mount Sinai Health System. Accessed June 9, 2023.
  4. Kidneys: Anatomy, function, Health & Conditions. Cleveland Clinic. Accessed June 9, 2023.
  5. Your kidneys & how they work. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Accessed June 9, 2023.
  6. Acute kidney injury (AKI). National Kidney Foundation. Accessed June 9, 2023.
  7. Take care of your kidneys. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last reviewed May 27, 2022. Accessed June 9, 2023.
  8. Chronic kidney disease basics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last reviewed February 28, 2022. Accessed June 9, 2023.
  9. Chronic kidney disease in the United States, 2021. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last reviewed July 12, 2022. Accessed June 9, 2023.
  10. Causes of chronic kidney disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Accessed June 9, 2023.
  11. Goldenberg K. Weight Change. In: Walker HK, Hall WD, Hurst JW, editors. Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition. Boston: Butterworths; 1990. Chapter 210. Available from:
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