Smoking and kidney function

What is the relationship between smoking and renal (kidney) function?

Smoking is an independent risk factor for renal failure; smokers are four times more likely to develop renal failure compared to non-smokers.

Smoking increases heart rate, blood pressure, blood clot formation and promotes fatty deposits in the arteries. These are some of the most likely smoking related processes which can lead to renal function being affected. 

Compared to non-smokers, smokers have an increased risk of the following:

  • protein in urine
  • diabetic related kidney damage and almost double the rate of progression to end-stage renal failure
  • twice more likely to develop kidney cancer compared to non-smokers (the greater the amount of cigarettes per day smoked the higher the risk of developing kidney cancer).

What are the health benefits of stopping smoking for renal patients?

Stopping smoking not only reduces the risk of developing other diseases, but may help:

  • a patient recover quicker by eliminating the acute effects of smoking on the body.
  • may help slow kidney function decline in people with type two diabetes and with kidney disease.
  • may help to slow the progression of kidney disease in people with diabetes who use medications called ACE inhibitors.
  • reduce the risk of developing kidney cancer 
  • reduce the risk of smoking related development and progression of various types of neuropathy (damage to the peripheral nervous system). 

After stopping smoking:

Your health will begin to improve after just 20 minutes and you will soon start to notice the benefits of quitting.

  • After 20 minutes, your blood pressure and pulse rate will be back to the normal rate of a non-smoker.
  • After 24 hours, carbon monoxide will be gone from your body. Your lungs will start to clear out unwanted mucus and smoking debris.
  • After 48 hours, food will start to taste better and your sense of smell will improve too.
  • After 72 hours, your breathing will become easier and your energy levels will increase.
  • After 2-12 weeks, your circulation will improve, making your skin look better.
  • After 3-9 months, smoker’s coughs and breathing problems should improve as your lung function increases by up to 10%.
  • After 5 years, your risk of a heart attack will fall to about half that of a smoker.
  • After 10 years, your risk of lung cancer will fall to half that of a smoker… and your risk of a heart attack should be the same as someone who has never smoked.

Stopping smoking is one of the most important things you can do for your health. You are four times more likely to stop with an NHS service (using stop smoking medication and support).

To be referred to your local service or to speak to a specialist advisor please contact the stop smoking service:

Barnet Hospital and Chase Farm Hospital: 020 8216 4175 or
Royal Free Hospital: 020 7472 6393 or

Alternatively you can call the national stop smoking service on 030 0123 1044.

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