More than 5 million Indians are living with kidney disease and most don’t know it. There are a number of physical signs of kidney disease, but sometimes people attribute them to other conditions. Also, those with kidney disease tend not to experience symptoms until the very late stages, when the kidneys are failing or when there are large amounts of protein in the urine. This is one of the reasons why only 10% of people with chronic kidney disease know that they have it. Here in this blog, we can go through the causes, symptoms and treatment of kidney failure.
What is kidney failure?
Kidneys are the organs that filter waste products from the blood. They are also involved in regulating blood pressure, electrolyte balance, and red blood cell production in the body. Kidney failure (also called renal failure) means one or both kidneys can no longer function well on their own. Sometimes, kidney failure is temporary and comes on quickly. Other times, it is a chronic condition that can get worse slowly over a long time.
Kidney failure may sound serious, and it is. But treatments such as dialysis and kidney transplant help many people with limited kidney function continue to live fulfilling lives.
What are the causes of kidney failure?
In most cases, kidney failure is caused by other health problems that have done permanent damage (harm) to your kidneys little by little, over time. When your kidneys are damaged, they may not work as well as they should. If the damage to your kidneys continues to get worse and your kidneys are less and less able to do their job, you have chronic kidney disease. Kidney failure is the last (most severe) stage of chronic kidney disease. This is why kidney failure is also called end-stage renal disease, or ESRD for short.
Loss of blood flow to the kidneys: A sudden loss of blood flow to your kidneys can prompt kidney failure. Some conditions that cause loss of blood flow to the kidneys include:
- A heart attack
- Heart disease
- Scarring of the liver or liver failure
- A severe burn
- An allergic reaction
- A severe infection, such as sepsis
Urine elimination problems: When your body can’t eliminate urine, toxins build up and overload the kidneys. Some cancers can block the urine passageways, such as prostate, colon, cervical, bladder
Diabetes: Unmanaged diabetes can lead to uncontrolled blood sugar levels. Consistently high blood sugar can damage the body’s organs, including the kidneys.
High blood pressure: High blood pressure (hypertension) means blood travels through your body’s blood vessels with increased force. Over time, untreated high blood pressure levels can damage the kidneys’ tissue.
Symptoms of Kidney Failure
Initially, kidney failure may not produce any symptoms (asymptomatic). As kidney function decreases, the symptoms are related to the inability to regulate water and electrolyte balances, clear waste products from the body, and promote red blood cell production. In the early stages of kidney disease, many people experience few or no symptoms. It’s important to note that chronic kidney disease can still cause damage even though you feel fine.
Chronic kidney disease and kidney failure can cause different symptoms for different people. If your kidneys aren’t working properly, you may notice one or more of the following signs:
- Fatigue (extreme tiredness)
- An upset stomach or vomiting
- Confusion or trouble concentrating
- Swelling, especially around your hands or ankles
- More frequent bathroom trips
- Muscle spasms (muscle cramps)
- Dry or itchy skin
- Poor appetite or metallic taste of food
- Fatal heart rhythm disturbances (arrhythmias) including ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation
- Rising urea levels in the blood (uremia) may lead to brain encephalopathy, pericarditis (inflammation of the heart lining), or low calcium blood levels (hypocalcemia)
Kidney failure is most often found with a blood test called a “creatinine level.” Creatinine is a molecule made by your muscles. A normal kidney will remove extra creatinine from the bloodstream and get rid of it in the urine. More creatinine in the blood is a sign that the kidneys aren’t cleaning the blood as well as they should. This test can spot something is wrong before a patient with kidney failure feels sick.
When kidney function falls below 10% of normal, dialysis or a kidney transplant is most often needed, especially if you have signs of uremia (a buildup of waste in the blood), like nausea and itching.
Dialysis: Dialysis filters and purifies the blood using a machine. The machine performs the function of the kidneys. Depending on the type of dialysis, you may be connected to a large machine or a portable catheter bag. You may need to follow a low-potassium, low-salt diet along with dialysis. Dialysis doesn’t cure kidney failure, but it can extend your life if you go to regularly scheduled treatments.
Kidney transplant: Another treatment option is a kidney transplant. A transplanted kidney can work normally, and dialysis is no longer needed. There’s usually a long wait to receive a donor kidney that’s compatible with your body. If you have a living donor the process may go more quickly. You must take immunosuppressive drugs after the surgery to prevent your body from rejecting the new kidney. These drugs have their own side effects, some of which are serious.
Transplant surgery might not be the right treatment option for everyone. It’s also possible for the surgery to be unsuccessful. Talk with your doctor about whether you’re a good candidate for a kidney transplant.
Acute kidney failure is often difficult to predict or prevent. But you may reduce your risk by taking care of your kidneys. If you have kidney disease or another condition that increases your risk of acute kidney failures, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, stay on track with treatment goals and follow your doctor’s recommendations to manage your condition. Visit Medisys Hospital for any similar problems as we are one of the Best Kidney Hospitals in Hyderabad with expert team of Kidney Specialists who give you the right treatment. Be active, stay healthy.