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Renal Failure (Kidney Failure): Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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The kidneys are located on either side of your spine in the lower back region. They are bean-shaped organs and filter the waste products from your blood. They also produce vital hormones and balance crucial elements in your body like calcium, potassium, and sodium.

The proper functioning of your kidneys is critical to your health. You need to be aware of signs that there might be something wrong with your kidneys in the case of renal failure.

What are the symptoms of renal failure?

There are two types of renal failure – acute renal failure or acute kidney injury (AKI) and chronic kidney disease (CKD).

AKI occurs suddenly, accompanied by acute pain. On the other hand, the symptoms of CKD appear gradually, and you may not realise it initially.

Symptoms of acute kidney injury

AKI occurs as soon as the kidney abruptly stops functioning normally. Renal failure symptoms of AKI are:

  • Internal bleeding
  • Swelling in the extremities and face (oedema)
  • Seizures
  • Abnormalities in blood and urine
  • Confusion
  • Coma

Symptoms of chronic kidney disease

CKD advances slowly and reveals little or no symptoms in the early stages. You may not feel much until your kidney function reduces to 20% or less.

By this time, the following renal failure symptoms might appear:

  • High blood pressure
  • Anaemia
  • Nausea
  • Metallic taste in your mouth
  • Breathlessness
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Itching
  • Muscle twitches and cramps
  • Itching
  • Insomnia
  • Abnormal blood and urine tests
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Coma
  • Easy bruising
  • Fatigue
  • Brittle and weak bones
  • Swelling in the extremities and face (oedema)

What causes renal failure?

The most common causes of renal failure are uncontrolled high blood pressure and diabetes, among other reasons.

If your kidneys suddenly deteriorate, your kidney disorder would come under the category of acute kidney injury.

You can suffer this type of renal failure due to the following:

  • Certain medications
  • A urinary tract infection or obstruction
  • Autoimmune kidney disease or other autoimmune disorders like lupus
  • Extreme dehydration
  • Uncontrolled systemic diseases such as liver or heart disease
  • Glomerular diseases (a hereditary disease which causes cysts to develop in the kidneys)
  • Polycystic kidney disease (a hereditary disease)

How is renal failure diagnosed?

Renal failure diagnosis is performed by observing how the kidneys are filtering impurities in the body. The filtering function of the kidneys is facilitated by tiny blood vessels called ‘glomeruli.’

To measure the rate of blood filtration by the glomeruli, the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) readings are taken.

A normally-functioning kidney typically should filter blood at 100 millilitres per minute. The value fluctuates with age and gender. Certain formulae, considering age and gender, are applied to get accurate and relevant GFR readings.

Another means of detecting renal failure is to check the creatinine levels through a blood test. Creatinine is a waste product that is excreted through urine. High creatinine levels in the blood indicate malfunctioning kidneys.

Can renal failure be prevented?

You cannot prevent chronic kidney disease. However, if you are diagnosed with renal failure, there is much you can do to restore your kidney function.

Suppose you adopt a healthy lifestyle and take certain preventive measures to manage renal failure. In that case, you can slow down the deterioration of your kidney function by observing the following:

  • With the help of your healthcare provider, monitor your kidney parameters.
  • Control your blood pressure if you suffer from abnormal blood pressure issues.
  • Control your diabetes, if any.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Maintain a healthy diet with advice from a dietician.

How is renal failure treated and managed?

Renal failure treatment depends on the extent of the condition. If you receive timely treatment for chronic kidney disease, you can delay the progression of the disease.

One or multiple measures may be required for proper management of renal failure.

Your doctor appointments might include routine blood pressure checks and blood tests. You will also receive a regime of medication that you should follow strictly post-renal failure.

In case of complete renal failure, you will probably have to undergo dialysis regularly. Dialysis is a process where your blood gets filtered by a machine that does the job of your kidneys.

Alternatively, kidney transplant surgery is an extreme but effective method used by doctors to deal with the complications of renal failure. A kidney transplant operation involves replacing a defective kidney with the healthy one of a deceased or living donor.

Conclusion

If you start to experience any of the renal failure symptoms mentioned above, waste no time visiting a doctor.

When renal failure occurs, it can happen suddenly or gradually. If you get help immediately, you can arrest the progress of your medical condition. You don’t want to reach a stage where you will need dialysis.

To avail of expert advice and treatment, visit the C. K. Birla hospital or book an appointment with Dr Abhay Ahluwalia, who will recommend the best line of renal failure treatment for you.

FAQs:

What happens when you go into/experience renal failure?

With renal failure, you may experience swelling in your hands and feet. You may feel tired because your blood isn’t getting purified as well as it should.

If your kidneys stop functioning altogether, your doctor will recommend dialysis. Extreme cases will call for kidney transplant surgery.

When you have failing kidneys, what is the colour of your urine?

If your kidneys stop functioning normally, your urine will appear dark brown due to excessive waste. You may find that you need to urinate less frequently. You might also observe foaming in your urine.

This is caused by increased protein levels in the urine. Increased protein in the urine is a sure sign of malfunctioning kidneys.

What is the commonest cause of kidney failure?

There are multiple causes of renal failure, but the leading cause is diabetes. Uncontrolled blood pressure can also take a toll on the kidneys.

Kidney disease, hereditary or otherwise, can also cause renal failure. Besides that, it can also stem from urinary tract issues, an enlarged prostate, kidney stones and various types of cancers.

Can a person recover from renal failure?

All types of renal failure are serious and should be dealt with immediately. In extreme cases, it can be fatal. However, if you take timely action, you can reverse the effects of kidney failure, especially in the case of acute kidney injury (AKI).

There is no fixed formula for kidney failure recovery. However, if you are healthy and relatively young, the prognosis for total recovery can be good.

On the other hand, if you have comorbidities (existing medical conditions), there could be multiple complications of renal failure. The line of treatment would be more complex and extensive. Full recovery in such a case can prove to be more challenging.

What are the three early signs of renal disease?

The three early signs of renal disease are as follows:

  1. Swelling in the hands, feet, and face (oedema): Oedema can occur due to several reasons. However, it is one of the primary symptoms of renal failure.
  2. Urination issues: There might be changes in your urination pattern like the urine amount, frequency of urination and colour.
  3. Dizziness and fatigue: You may suddenly feel weary with overall weakness. A primary symptom of anaemia is fatigue which is also linked to renal failure.

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