Renal Failure: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Author: Thomas C. Weiss
Published: 2015/07/17 - Updated: 2020/09/15
Contents: Summary - Introduction - Main - Related

Synopsis: Information regarding the basics of renal failure, a condition when the kidneys lose the ability to filter waste products from the blood. Acute renal failure might be a reversible condition. If a person is in otherwise good health, they might recover average kidney function. Heavy blood loss, a bad infection known as, 'sepsis,' which may reduce blood flow to a person's kidneys, dehydration or an injury may cause harm to the kidneys.


What is Renal Failure?

Renal failure, also known as kidney failure or renal insufficiency, is defined as a medical condition in which the kidneys fail to adequately filter waste products from the blood. The two main forms are acute kidney injury, which is often reversible with adequate treatment, and chronic kidney disease, which is often not reversible. In both cases, there is usually an underlying cause.

Main Digest

Renal failure is divided into Chronic Renal Failure and Acute Renal Failure. The information below concerns the basics of renal failure. Acute renal failure means a person's kidneys suddenly lose their ability to filter waste products from their blood. When a person's kidneys stop working, fluids and waste products build up in their body, which can cause issues that may be fatal.

Causes of Acute Renal Failure

Acute renal failure might be a reversible condition. If a person is in otherwise good health, they might recover average kidney function. What follows are causes of acute renal failure.

A person has an increased chance of experiencing acute renal failure if they have heart failure, obesity, long-term diabetes, or high blood pressure. Other things that raise the risk of acute renal failure include being ill and already in the hospital, a belly or heart surgery, a bone marrow transplant, or if the affected person is a Senior.

Chronic Renal Failure: Compared to acute renal failure, chronic renal failure means a person's kidneys no longer have the ability to work as they should as the condition becomes increasingly worse. Chronic renal failure is hard to reverse because much of the person's kidney function has been lost. Most people with renal failure opt for dialysis treatment, or a kidney transplant.

Continued below image.
Fig 2. Kidney location in the human female body.
Fig 2. Kidney location in the human female body.

Diagnosing Acute Renal Failure

If a person is already in the hospital, testing done for other issues might find renal failure. If the person is not in the hospital, yet experiences symptoms of renal failure, a doctor will ask about their symptoms, the tests that have been performed, as well as the medications the person takes. The person's symptoms can help to point out the cause of their kidney issues.

A diagnosis of chronic renal failure is confirmed through blood testing that measures the buildup of waste products in the person's blood. Creatine, BUN and glomerular filtration rate (GMR) are the routine blood tests used to measure the buildup of waste products in blood. GFR is the rate at which blood is filtered through the kidneys and may be calculated based upon the lever of creatinine, gender, age, and race. BUN and creatinine increase, while GFR decreases.

Urine testing might be performed in order to measure the amount of protein or the concentration of electrolytes or to detect the presence of unusual cells. For most people, there is very little protein or no protein in their urine, so protein in the urine is not usual and may be a clue that the person's kidneys have been damaged. Unusual aggregations of red and white blood cells called, 'casts, may be seen in the person's urine with kidney disease. The type of cast in the person's urine may help reveal what type of kidney disease they have. Whether or not the person's kidneys have the ability to appropriately monitor and filter blood can be decided through comparing the concentrations of electrolytes in their urine and blood.

Additional tests are used to achieve a diagnosis of the type of renal failure. Biopsy of the person's kidney uses a thin needle to place through the person's skin into the kidney to get small amounts of tissue with the goal of examining the tissue under a microscope. An abdominal ultrasound may assess the size of the person's kidneys and might identify whether or not there is an obstruction. Some other tests which may diagnose renal failure with more accuracy include:

Symptoms of Acute Renal Failure

People with acute renal failure need to be aware of signs and symptoms that their kidney function might be deteriorating. Additional evaluation and treatment by a nephrologist may be necessary. The symptoms of acute renal failure may include:

Symptoms of Chronic Renal Failure

As an affected person's kidney function decreases, the symptoms of renal failure are related to an inability to regulate water and electrolyte balances, clear waste products from the person's body, as well as to promote red blood cell production. Symptoms of chronic renal failure may include the following:

Continued below image.
Fig 1. Kidney location in the human male body.
Fig 1. Kidney location in the human male body.

Treating Renal Failure

When the condition develops into renal failure, a person's kidneys have been damaged severely. Much of their kidney function has been lost. For people with renal failure there are some different treatment options. What follows are descriptions of the treatment options.


Due to the fact that a person's kidneys have failed to remove the waste products out of their body at renal failure stage, people have to ask a machine for help. The machine may help them to clear the waste products in their blood. Dialysis can help people to reduce the level of waste products and maintain their lives to some extent. Dialysis simply replaces one of the regular functions of a person's kidneys; however, dialysis treatment comes with the potential for some different side-effects which may include nausea, vomiting, headache, or low blood pressure. Even though dialysis may prolong the lives of people with renal failure, some people face kidney transplant surgery if possible.

A Kidney Transplant:

Kidney transplant may be the last life-saving straw. Kidney transplant may help people with renal failure to free themselves from dialysis while extending their lifespan; however, not everyone affected who receives a kidney transplant is so fortunate and no one can guarantee the success of the operation. To receive a kidney transplant, the wait for a new one might take years. After receiving the kidney, people have to take anti-rejection medication for the remainder of their lives. The medicines; however, may destroy the person's innate immune system and the person might find that after a period of time - the creatinine level will increase again.


Immunotherapy is a systemic therapy some people are unaware of. Immunotherapy includes six steps including (in order) immune:

Each step has a clear purpose. The purpose of immunotherapy is to repair the person's damaged kidneys, enhance their kidney function and to rebuild the innate immune system of the human body. The largest attraction of immunotherapy is the use of traditional Chinese medicine; it plays a very important role in the process.

Renal Failure Complications

If renal failure cannot be treated in time, some complications may appear. The complications can make people with renal failure suffer more and may even be fatal. What follows are descriptions of potential renal failure complications.

Author Credentials:

Thomas C. Weiss is a researcher and editor for Disabled World. Thomas attended college and university courses earning a Masters, Bachelors and two Associate degrees, as well as pursing Disability Studies. As a Nursing Assistant Thomas has assisted people from a variety of racial, religious, gender, class, and age groups by providing care for people with all forms of disabilities from Multiple Sclerosis to Parkinson's; para and quadriplegia to Spina Bifida. Explore Thomas' complete biography for comprehensive insights into his background, expertise, and accomplishments.

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Cite This Page (APA): Weiss, T. C. (2015, July 17 - Last revised: 2020, September 15). Renal Failure: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment. Disabled World. Retrieved June 17, 2024 from

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