Smoking and chronic kidney disease in healthy populations

Nephrourol Mon. Winter 2013;5(1):655-67. doi: 10.5812/numonthly.3527. Epub 2012 Dec 15.


The objective of this review is to explore the link between smoking and the development of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in generally healthy populations without pre-existing renal dysfunction such as diabetic nephropathy. Twenty-eight epidemiological studies concerning the renal effects of smoking in the general population were collected from the MEDLINE database and were reviewed for indications of proteinuria and/or the decline of glomerular filtration rate (GFR), and evaluated on the level of evidence and the quality of the study. Sixteen of the 28 studies were cross-sectional in design. Most articles had some weakness in scope, such as the 6 articles which did not fully exclude DM patients from the subjects, the 4 that did not consider the effects of ex-smoking, and the 3 that focused on only a small number of subjects. From these cases, it is difficult to draw firm conclusions. However, proteinuria or microalbuminuria was persistently high in current smokers; as much as 5-8% or 8-15% respectively, which was up to 2 to 3-times the rate of lifelong non-smokers. On the other hand, only 5 studies broader in scope detected any decline of GFR in smokers, while 9 other studies suggested a higher GFR in smokers than in non-smokers. Two good quality studies showed an even a significantly lower risk of a decreased GFR in smokers. These paradoxical CKD markers in smokers, i.e., a higher appearance of proteinuria with a higher GFR, could be a focus for further studies to reveal the underlying reasons for smoking-induced CKD. Workplaces may be an excellent place to study this subject since the long-term changes in renal function of smokers can be observed by collecting data in the annual health check-ups mandated at places of employment.

Keywords: Glomerular Filtration Rete; Kidney Failure, Chronic; Proteinuria; Smoking.