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Renal Failure: Everything You Need to Know

Types of Renal Failure|Signs and Symptoms |Causes and Risk Factors|Diagnosis and Treatment
Renal Failure: Everything You Need to Know

Types of Renal Failure

When the kidneys are unable to clean and filter blood and allows waste to build up in your body, it is called renal failure. To learn more about kidney failure, here are some quick facts you need to learn.

If your kidneys are healthy, they clean waste products by filtering an average of 180 liters of fluid per day which creates urine to remove the waste from your body. Your kidneys are constantly working to remove waste from your body.

10 Ways to Maintain Good Kidney Health

Healthy kidneys also create hormones that control red blood cells and blood pressure. Additionally, your kidneys balance how much certain elements are in your blood, which can include calcium, potassium, and sodium.

When you have kidney failure, that means that your kidneys are not working the way they should be. However, “renal failure” is a broad term used to cover various problems.

The Types of Kidney Failure

There are two types of kidney failure: acute and chronic. Here is a quick rundown to help you learn the difference between the two.

Acute Kidney Failure

When your kidneys are not able to filter waste from your blood suddenly, it is acute kidney failure. This type of kidney failure can develop quite rapidly and often happens to people who are already hospitalized.

This often needs intensive treatment and in some cases, it may be fatal. However, it could also be reversible, especially if you are in good health.

Chronic Kidney Failure

As mentioned earlier, acute kidney failure can happen rapidly and even as quickly as a few days. On the other hand, chronic kidney failure causes a slow loss of kidney function.

Many people may not notice signs of chronic kidney failure because they can be very subtle in the early stages, unlike acute kidney failure. They may only experience obvious symptoms until the kidneys are significantly damaged.

48% of people who have severely reduced kidney function while not being on dialysis treatment do not even realize they have chronic kidney failure.

Signs and Symptoms

There are times when a person may have little to no symptoms of kidney failure, especially if it is in the early stage of kidney failure.

It may be hard to identify because they are very subtle during the early stages. Here are some examples of early symptoms you might notice:

Other possible symptoms of renal failure may include the following.

  • Seizures
  • Pressure or pain in the chest
  • Coma
  • Confusion
  • Persistent nausea
  • Excessive fatigue or drowsiness

The symptoms you may experience can vary depending on what type of kidney failure that you have.

Causes and Risk Factors

As mentioned earlier, renal failure is a broad term.

Kidney failure can develop from several causes or conditions and the cause often determines what kind of renal failure it is.

The following problems can cause renal failure:

  • Scar tissue or a kidney stone is blocking your kidney
  • Diseases like polycystic kidney disease, glomerulonephritis, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar/diabetes damaged your kidneys
  • Loss of blood flow to the kidney from severe infections, heart disease, dehydration, allergic reactions, severe burns, etc.
  • Blood clot around or in the kidneys
  • Alcohol and drugs
  • Certain antibiotics
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Hemolytic uremic syndrome
  • Lupus
  • Vasculitis
  • Overload of toxins that come from heavy metals

Kidney Stones: What You Need to Know

Kidney Failure Complications

You may experience complications if you have kidney failure, especially if it is left untreated. The following complications may include:

  • Permanent kidney damage (if you have end-stage chronic kidney failure, it is irreversible)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Chest pain
  • Fluid build-up
  • Anemia
  • Weaker immune system
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Weaker bones

Diagnosis and Treatment

A blood test known as a creatinine level test is a common way to assess kidney function.

If there is a high level of creatinine in your blood, that means your kidneys may not be functioning properly. This result could signal renal failure before a patient even has symptoms.

Your doctor may also perform urine and imaging tests.

In some cases, your doctor may need to get a sample of your kidney tissue to test it.

How Do You Treat Renal Failure?

Treatment for kidney failure may vary on what caused your kidney failure.

More often than not, a doctor may prescribe medications to treat any complications or chronic conditions you may have.

Dialysis may be needed if your kidneys are unable to function properly, which is commonly needed for people who have end-stage chronic kidney failure.

However, people with acute kidney failure may get dialysis if they need to remove toxins from their body as their kidneys heal.

In more serious cases, you may need more to treat your renal failure. For instance, some people may need to get a kidney transplant and take medications for the rest of their life, so their body does not reject the kidney.

When You Should See a Doctor

If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, it would be wise to see a doctor immediately.

Preventing renal failure before it occurs or treating it in its early stages could greatly help prevent serious complications.

Can You Prevent Renal Failure?

While it is difficult to prevent or predict renal failure—especially, acute renal failure—there are some things you could try to reduce your chances of developing it.

The following may include:

  • Adopting a healthy lifestyle
  • Consulting a doctor regularly to manage your kidney and chronic conditions
  • Consulting a doctor before taking over-the-counter medication
  • Stop smoking

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Tracey Romero Updated 4 weeks ago
Medically reviewed by Elfred Landas, M.D.
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