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Renal Failure: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

  • Synopsis: Published: 2015-07-17 (Revised/Updated 2016-09-24) - Information regarding the basics of renal failure, a condition when the kidneys lose the ability to filter waste products from the blood. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Thomas C. Weiss at Disabled World.
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.

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Quote: "A person has an increased chance of experiencing acute renal failure if they have heart failure, obesity, long-term diabetes, or high blood pressure."

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.

Kidney Stones: Kidney stones, an enlarged prostate gland, or a tumor may cause a sudden blockage that stops urine from flowing out of a person's kidneys.

Heavy Blood Loss: 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.

Damage From Poisons, Medications, or Infections: Damage from these things include medications that may at times harm a person's kidneys. Examples of these medications include ACE inhibitors, gentamicin or streptomycin, or even dyes used in some types of X-ray tests.

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.

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:

  • Cystatin-C
  • Homocysteine (HCY)
  • Urine osmotic pressure
  • SerumĪ²-2 microglobulin
  • Retinol binding protein (RBP)
  • Urine immune globulin G (U-IgG)

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:

  • Flank pain
  • A poor appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Little to no urine when urinating
  • Swelling, particularly of the feet and legs
  • Feeling confused, anxious, sleepy and restless

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:

  • Coma
  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling
  • Lethargy
  • Proteinuria
  • Poor appetite
  • Shortness of breath
  • High blood pressure
  • High creatinine level
  • Nausea and vomiting

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.

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

  • Diagnosis
  • Clearance
  • Blocking
  • Tolerance
  • Adjustment
  • Protection

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.

Skin Symptoms: Skin itch is a common symptom for people with renal failure. The person's skin becomes dry and tawny and the person may also experience ecchymosis.

Respiratory System Symptoms: Due to acidosis, a person's expired gas has a urine taste. If the condition is severe - pulmonary edema, lung calcification or cellulose pleurisy may appear.

Digestive System Symptoms: The earliest symptom of the digestive system for people with renal failure are poor appetite and indigestion. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea might appear when the person's condition worsens. People with renal failure usually also experience gastrointestinal bleeding.

Nervous System Symptoms: Nervous system are main symptoms of Uremia. At the early stage of uremia, people usually experience fatigue, headache, a decrease in understanding and memory. With the illness condition worsening, people may experience muscle cramps, 'fidgets,' somnolence and even coma.

Cardiovascular System Symptoms: Due to renal hypertension, hyperkalemia, acidosis, sodium-water retention and anemia - people with renal failure may experience arrhythmia, impaired myocardium or heart failure. Due to the stimulation of the person's urea, they may also experience sterility pericarditis. When severe, cellulose and hemorrhagic exudate may appear in the person's pericardial cavity.

Awareness: Kidney Disease Awareness

Green awareness ribbonkidney cancer (also known as renal cell carcinoma) awareness and kidney disease awareness is represented by the color green ribbon. March is National Kidney Month, and World Kidney Day is on March 14th. Today, 31 million Americans are living with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Almost half of people starting dialysis have kidney failure caused by diabetes.

Other Awareness ribbon colors

Other awareness dates

Learn More About Renal Failure

  • Acute kidney failure
    www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/kidney-failure/basics/definition/CON-20024029
  • What is Renal Failure
    www.wisegeekhealth.com/what-is-renal-failure.htm
  • First Steps After Diagnosis of CKD
    https://www.kidney.org/kidneydisease/recentlydiagnosed

Related Information:

  1. Risk of Developing Kidney Failure in Your Lifetime - American Society of Nephrology - (2012-08-18)
    https://www.disabled-world.com/health/cancer/kidney/renal-failure.php
  2. Chronic Kidney Disease - Wendy Taormina-Weiss - (2012-02-21)
    https://www.disabled-world.com/editorials/kidney-disease.php
  3. Kidney Cancer: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment
    https://www.disabled-world.com/health/cancer/kidney/


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