Home » Kidney Failure: Causes, Types, and Symptoms

Kidney Failure: Causes, Types, and Symptoms

A picture of kidney failure

Kidney Failure happens when your kidneys stop functioning properly. Your kidneys filter the waste and extra fluid in your blood, and the result is excreted as urine. Wastes and additional fluids might build up in your body as a result of failing kidneys, which can make you very ill.

Acute and chronic kidney failure are the two most prevalent forms. Acute renal failure can be fatal and manifests abruptly. The progression of chronic renal disease can cause kidney failure.

Kidney failure is brought on by diabetes, hypertension, and a few medications. The treatment for renal failure depends on the cause and may include dialysis or a kidney transplant.

What is kidney failure?

Kidney failure is the term used to describe when one or both kidneys are failing. Kidney failure may occur suddenly and unpredictably. Sometimes an issue is persistent and becomes worse over time.

When the kidneys can no longer perform their normal functions, renal failure develops. This could be caused by a variety of things, such as a sickness, an accident, or a drug side effect. Kidney failure can result in toxin buildup, fluid retention, and electrolyte imbalance. Kidney failure can indeed be lethal if neglected. Renal failure is the most advanced stage of kidney disease. It is lethal if not treated.

Who is affected by kidney failure?

Kidney failure can affect people of all ages, although it is more frequent among the elderly. The cause of this is unknown, however it might be related to an increased risk of getting renal disease as people age.

Anyone can experience kidney failure. However, the following factors might increase your chance of kidney failure:

  • Diabetes: About 1 in 3 adults with diabetes have kidney failure.
  • When you have a heart condition.
  • If the kidney structure is abnormal.
  • Family history of kidney disease: Kidney disease often runs in families.
  • Older age: The risk of kidney disease increases as you age.

• Being African American, Hispanic or American Indian: People of these races are more likely than whites to develop kidney failure.

How common is kidney failure?

According to National Renal Foundation, over 26 million persons in the United States suffer from kidney disease, yet the majority are unaware of it. One in three adults is at risk of developing renal disease.

How does renal failure happen?

Acute kidney damage can cause anything from a little decrease in function to renal failure and death. Acute kidney damage is frequently caused by decreased blood flow to the kidneys (typically due to blood loss, dehydration, or cardiac issues that cause blood pressure to drop) or by specific medicines or chemicals.

What occurs after kidney failure begins?

Depending on the estimated glomerular filtration rate, there are several stages of kidney disease (eGFR).

There are 5 kidney disease stages:

Stage 1 (mild): your eGFR is 90 or above, or your kidneys show no signs of damage (normal kidney function)

Stage 2 (mild): your eGFR is 60-89 and your kidney function is mildly decreased (some damage to your kidneys)

Stage 3 (moderate): your eGFR is 30-59 and your kidney function is moderately decreased (moderate damage to your kidneys)

Stage 4 (severe): your eGFR is 15-29 and your kidney function is severely decreased (severe damage to your kidneys)

Stage 5 (end-stage): your eGFR is below 15 or you are on dialysis (kidney failure)

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What are the initial kidney failure warning signs?

There are a few initial kidney failure warning signs, including:

  • Swelling in the feet, ankles, legs, face, or hands
  • Decreased urination or no urination at all
  • Puffiness around the eyes
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue or Feeling tired all the time
  • Skin rash
  • Problems concentrating

What is the most common cause of kidney failure?

Chronic kidney disease, which develops when the kidneys become damaged and cease functioning over time, is the most frequent cause of kidney failure. Diabetes, high blood pressure, urinary tract infections, and specific medications are additional risk factors. The most common causes of kidney failure are uncontrolled high blood pressure and diabetes. Other common causes include:

  • Kidney disease
  • Blocked urine flow
  • Certain medications
  • Certain infections

Kidney failure typically takes time to develop. Kidney failure can also result from additional CKD causes, such as:

  • High blood pressure. High blood pressure can damage your kidneys by causing them to leak protein.
  • Polycystic kidney disease (PKD). A disorder called polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is a genetic illness that develops cysts inside the kidneys.
  • Lupus. An autoimmune condition called lupus has been linked to organ damage, joint discomfort, fever, and skin rashes.
  • Diabetes. High blood sugar (glucose) levels can damage your kidneys.

If you have any of these conditions, your doctor can help you monitor your kidney function and may begin treatment to prevent kidney failure.

Acute kidney failure is frequently caused by:

  • Severe dehydration
  • Blood loss
  • Blockage of the urinary tract
  • Certain medications
  • Kidney infection
  • Kidney stones
  • Heart failure
  • Liver failure

A healthcare professional may examine your kidneys and identify kidney failure using a range of kidney function tests. Common tests if the medical professional believes you could be at risk for kidney failure include:

  • Blood tests to check for levels of creatinine and urea in your blood. Urea is a waste product that’s removed from your blood by your kidneys. Creatinine is a waste product that’s produced by your muscles.
  • Imaging tests. A healthcare provider may use ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or arteriography to take pictures of your kidneys and assess their function.
  • A kidney biopsy is in which a small sample of kidney tissue is removed and examined for signs of damage.
  • Urine tests. Your healthcare provider may test your urine for the presence of blood, protein, or other substances that could be signs of kidney damage or disease.

Signs and symptoms

Early kidney disease often has no signs or symptoms. Kidney function can be measured with a blood test called estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR).

As kidney disease progresses, your eGFR will decrease. As chronic kidney failure progresses, you may experience some of these signs and symptoms:

• Swelling of your feet and ankles

• Persistent itchiness

• Fatigue and drowsiness

• Sleep problems

• Shortness of breath

• Nausea

• Poor appetite

• Confusion

• Pain in your chest or abdomen

• Seizures or coma in advanced cases

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Tests and diagnosis

Tests and chronic kidney failure diagnosis

  1. Pee tests: To identify chemicals such as protein, glucose, and others in your urine.
  2. Blood tests: To determine your blood’s concentrations of electrolytes, creatinine, and other compounds.
  3. Imaging tests: To gain a better look at your kidneys, you may need an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI.
  4. Kidney biopsy: To examine the kidney tissue.
  5. A renal function test will determine how effectively your kidneys are functioning.


The findings of your tests will be used by your doctor to make the diagnosis of kidney failure. Your medical background, symptoms, and risk factors could also be taken into account. They could suggest you get additional testing or treatment from a specialist in some circumstances.

Your doctor will develop a treatment strategy just for you if renal failure is confirmed. This might involve adjustments to one’s way of life, medicine, dialysis, or a kidney transplant.

Kidney transplant

In a kidney transplant, a healthy kidney from a donor is surgically placed in the place of a patient’s damaged or diseased kidneys. Either a living or a deceased donor may provide the kidney for transplant. The recipient’s lower abdomen receives the donor kidney during the procedure, which is carried out while the patient is under general anesthesia. Only when complications arise do the recipient’s own kidneys have to be removed. The recipient will take medication following the transplant to avoid the donor’s kidney being rejected.

Many people with advanced kidney disease undergo kidney transplants as a life-saving procedure. While the recipient’s quality and length of life may not be significantly increased by the transplanted kidney, it often does.


If you have chronic kidney failure, you might need dialysis. Dialysis is a treatment that performs many of the normal duties of the kidneys, like filtering waste products from the blood, when the kidneys no longer work adequately.

Dialysis is divided into two types: hemodialysis & peritoneal dialysis.


During Hemodialysis , your blood circulates outside your body through an external filter called a dialyzer, which removes excess fluid, electrolytes, and wastes from your blood. Hemodialysis requires a needle or permanent catheter to access your bloodstream and a special filter to clean your blood.

This process is typically done three times a week for about four hours at a time, although the frequency and duration of your treatments might vary depending on your condition.

You might be able to do hemodialysis at home or at a dialysis center.

Peritoneal dialysis

The peritoneum, which lines the abdomen, is used in peritoneal dialysis to filter waste from the blood. It is applied when a person’s kidneys are no longer capable of carrying out their normal functions. A catheter is inserted into the belly as part of the surgery, and the abdomen is then filled with dialysate, a sterile fluid. In order to give the solution time to remove waste from circulation, it is placed in the belly for many hours. After that, the solution is drained and brand-new dialysate is added. Usually, this procedure is performed multiple times each day. Although some patients might require hospital monitoring, peritoneal dialysis is typically performed at home.

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How long is kidney failure tolerable?

Kidney failure is a serious illness that can lead to death. The average lifespan for someone with kidney failure is about 5 to 10 years.


You might be able to prevent kidney damage by managing conditions that put you at risk of kidney disease. These include diabetes, high blood pressure, and a family history of kidney failure.


If you have diabetes, you can lower your chance of developing kidney damage by:

• Keeping your blood sugar at a target level recommended by your doctor.

• Maintaining a healthy weight.

• Exercising regularly.

• Taking any medications prescribed by your doctor.

• Getting regular screenings for kidney problems.

High blood pressure

Reduce your risk of getting kidney injury if you do have a high blood pressure by:

• Taking your blood pressure medications as directed.

• Exercising regularly.

• Eating a healthy diet.

• Getting regular screenings for kidney problems.

Family history of kidney failure

By receiving frequent renal tests and addressing any illnesses that increase your risk of kidney disease, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, you can lessen your likelihood of acquiring kidney damage if you have a family member who has kidney failure. By receiving frequent renal tests and addressing any illnesses that increase your risk of kidney disease, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, you can lessen your likelihood of acquiring kidney damage if you have a family member who has kidney failure.

What are the risks and complications of kidney failure?

In the majority of cases, kidney failure is not a life-threatening condition. However, if untreated, it can lead to serious complications, including:

  • Anemia: A decreased production of red blood cells can lead to anemia or a low red blood cell count. Anemia can cause fatigue, pale skin, and irregular heartbeat.
  • Fluid retention: When the kidneys are not functioning properly, fluid can build up in the body. This can cause swelling in the ankles, legs, and feet
  • Kidney stones: They are small, hard deposits that form in the kidneys. Kidney stones can cause severe pain and can block the urinary tract.
  • Infection: Kidney failure can weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infection.
  • Heart disease: It can increase the risk of heart disease.
  • Death: In severe cases, kidney failure can lead to death.

How can I prevent kidney failure?

  • Control your blood pressure
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid foods that are heavy in sodium and protein.
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Don’t smoke or use tobacco
  • Limit your alcohol intake
  • Monitor your blood sugar levels
  • Take your medications as prescribed

Chronic kidney failure is a serious condition that can have several different causes. It is important to be aware of the symptoms of kidney failure so that you can seek medical help as soon as possible if you think you may have this condition. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential to improve the chances of a good outcome.

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