Kidney failure occurs when one or both kidneys aren't able to work normally. The kidneys remove waste in the form of urine from the body. They also balance the water and electrolyte content in the blood by filtering salt and water.
Kidney failure is divided into two categories:
Kidney disease causes the tiny filters in the kidneys called nephrons to lose their ability to filter. Damage to the nephrons may occur suddenly after an injury or poisoning. But, many kidney diseases take years or even decades to cause damage that is noticeable.
The two most commons causes of kidney disease are:
Others causes include:
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
Factors that increase your chance of developing kidney failure include:
Some kidney diseases begin without any symptoms. As the disease progresses, some of the following symptoms may develop:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:
Images may be taken of your kidneys, bladder, and ureters. This can be done with a renal ultrasound .
Most chronic kidney diseases are not reversible. But, there are treatments that may be used to help preserve as much kidney function as possible. In the case of acute renal failure , treatment focuses on the illness or injury that caused the problem.
Medications used in acute or chronic kidney failure may include:
Talk to your doctor about other medications you are taking. These include prescribed and over-the-counter medications, as well as herbs and supplements. Since the kidneys are no longer working properly, waste can build up in your body.
Dialysis is a process that takes over for the kidneys and filters waste from the blood. This may be done on a short-term basis until kidney function improves or it may be done until you have a kidney transplant .
This may be the right option for some patients. Having a successful transplant depends on many factors, such as what is causing the kidney damage and your overall health.
You can take the following steps to help your kidneys stay healthy longer:
If you are diagnosed with kidney failure, follow your doctor's instructions .
In some cases, you cannot prevent kidney failure. But, there are some steps you can take that will lower your risk:
National Kidney Foundation
National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse
Canadian Diabetes Association
The Kidney Foundation of Canada
Chronic kidney disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated April 22, 2013. Accessed July 8, 2013.
Johnson CA, Levey AS, et al. Glomerular filtration rate, proteinuria, and other markers. Am Fam Physician. 2004;70:1091-1097.
Johnson CA, Levey AS, et al. Clinical practice guidelines for chronic kidney disease in adults: part I. Definition, disease stages, evaluation, treatment, and risk factors. Am Fam Physician. 2004;70:869-876.
Kidney Disease Outcomes Quality Initiative. K/DOQI clinical practice guidelines for bone metabolism and disease in chronic kidney disease. Am J Kidney Dis. 2003;42:S1-201.
Kidney Disease Outcomes Quality Initiative. K/DOQI clinical practice guidelines on hypertension and antihypertensive agents in chronic kidney disease. Am J Kidney Dis. 2004;43:S1-S9.
Kidney Disease Outcomes Quality Initiative. Kidney disease outcomes quality initiative (K/DOQI) clinical practice guidelines for chronic kidney disease: evaluation, classification, and stratification. Am J Kidney Dis. 2002;39:S1-266.
Snivel CS, Gutierrez C. Chronic kidney disease: prevention and treatment of common complications. Am Fam Physician. 2004;70:1921-1928.
Use of herbal supplements in chronic kidney disease. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at: http://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/herbalsupp.cfm . Accessed July 8, 2013.
The kidneys and how they work. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/yourkidneys/#10 . Updated March 23, 2012. Accessed July 8, 2013.
1/4/2011 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Deved V, Poyah P, James MT, et al. Ascorbic Acid for Anemia Management in Hemodialysis Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Am J Kidney Dis. 2009 Sep 22.
10/10/2013 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Di lorio B, Molony D, Bell C, et al. Sevelamer versus calcium carbonate in incident hemodialysis patients: results of an open-label 24-month randomized clinical trial. Am J Kidney Dis. 2013 Oct;62(4):771-8.
Last reviewed July 2013 by Adrienne Carmack, MD; Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © 2012 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.
What can we help you find?close ×