Kidney Failure

Kidney failure refers to the condition when the kidneys stop functioning normally. At this stage, the kidneys are not well enough to work without a kidney transplant or dialysis treatment. Kidney failure can happen either slowly over time or very suddenly. ESRD, or end-stage renal disease, is the case where the failure is permanent.

Difference between Chronic Kidney Disease & Kidney Failure

Chronic kidney disease, or CKD, is a disease where the kidneys are functionally damaged but are not failing. In this case, the kidneys may be working to some extent but not to their full potential. Kidney failure refers to the stage when the kidneys stop functioning – it is the extreme stage of CKD.

Causes/Symptoms of Kidney Failure The most common causes of kidney failure are high blood pressure and diabetes. Symptoms of kidney failure include:
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in urination
  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Trouble catching breath
When the kidneys fail, there is a change in urination. The person suffering from kidney failure:
  • Urinates at frequent intervals at night
  • May have to urinate in greater amounts or more often than usual, with bubbly, foamy, and/or pale urine
  • May urinate in smaller amounts or more often than usual, with dark-coloured urine
  • May have difficulty or pressure when urinating

The urine of someone with kidney failure may contain blood. In addition, their kidneys stop removing extra fluid that is built up in the body, which can lead to swelling in the ankles, legs, face, hands, and/or feet.

Healthy kidneys eliminate wastes from the blood. Kidney failure causes severe itching due to the build-up of wastes in the blood. This is also a cause of ammonia breath or metallic taste in the mouth, which can cause bad breath and deplete taste bud functionality. Generally, people suffering from kidney failure stop eating meat, or don't feel like eating at all, which leads to weight loss.

Shortness of breath can be related to kidney failure in two ways. First, an accumulation of extra fluid in the body can build up in the lungs. Second, anaemia can leave the body short of breath and oxygen depleted.

How Can Kidney Failure Be Prevented?

There are many causes of kidney failure. The first step is to find out the underlying disease and ensure its proper treatment in order to correct the kidney abnormality. Some of the kidney failure cases are treatable but others are not. In treatable cases, the kidneys may return to their normal functionality with proper treatment. Unfortunately, in other situations, kidney failure may be irreversible or progressive.

Usually, the diagnosis of kidney failure is made by measuring creatinine, glomerular filtration rate, and blood urea nitrogen by blood tests. Lifelong efforts to control diabetes and blood pressure may be the best way of treating chronic kidney disease. In case of complete kidney failure, transplant or dialysis are the only two treatment options.