Kidney Failure

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Overview

Kidney failure refers to the condition in which the kidneys are suddenly unable to filter waste products from the blood. This causes the build-up of waste products in the blood that is potentially life-threatening, if not gotten rid of quickly. Although kidney failure may be fatal but is reversible if managed correctly and on time.

Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of this health condition may include:

  • Decreased urine output
  • Fluid retention (as kidney filters out excess water)
  • Swelling in your legs, ankles or feet (Because of the fluid retention)
  • Altered mental status (drowsiness, confusion, or even coma)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Seizures
  • Chest pain

Causes

There are three main mechanisms which lead to kidney failure:

  • Impaired flow of blood to the kidney
  • Damage to the kidney
  • Blockage of urine outflow from the kidneys

There are various conditions that can lead to the development of acute kidney failure via the mechanisms mentioned above. A few of them are listed below:

  • Impaired flow of blood to the kidney – blood/fluid loss, blood pressure medicine, severe burns, severe dehydration, liver disease
  • Damage to the kidney – glomerulonephritis, ischemia of the kidney, infection, lupus, multiple myeloma, scleroderma
  • Blockage of urine outflow from the kidneys – bladder cancer, obstruction by stone, colon cancer, enlarged prostate, prostate cancer, cervical cancer

Diagnosis

If the signs and symptoms suggest acute kidney failure, some of the following tests can be used to reach a conclusive diagnosis:

  • 24-hour urine output
  • Urinalysis
  • Blood urea nitrogen and creatinine measurement
  • Ultrasound KUB
  • Kidney biopsy

Treatment

After the diagnosis of kidney failure, the patient is immediately hospitalized, and tests are conducted to find out the cause of the condition. Once the cause has been established, it is treated, and so the kidney failure resolves. Until then, the patient undergoes dialysis to remove the harmful waste from the blood.

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