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World Kidney Day 2020: What Causes Kidney Failure And How It Can Be Treated

World Kidney Day is globally observed on 12th March every year. This day aims at focusing on the importance of kidneys and lowering the risk of kidney disease and the health problems associated with it.

Kidneys are one of the vital organs of the body that have several important functions, which include eliminating waste products and extra fluid, balancing water and minerals in the blood, controlling blood pressure and helping in the production of red blood cells.

If your kidneys are unable to perform any of these functions, it means that your kidneys are damaged and you have kidney failure. This article will talk about what causes kidney failure, its symptoms and how it's diagnosed and treated.

What Is Kidney Failure?

Kidneys are bean-shaped organs that are located towards your back and underneath the ribcage in the upper abdominal area. The kidneys filter blood and eliminate toxins from the body. When the kidneys lose the ability to remove toxins and waste from the body, it leads to kidney failure.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, when 85-90 per cent of your kidneys are not functioning normally, it means you have kidney failure.

Kidney failure is the last stage of chronic kidney disease [1].


Causes Of Kidney Failure

  • Urination problems

When the body is unable to eliminate urine, toxins start building up in the body and overload the kidneys. Conditions that can interfere with the elimination of urination are kidney stones, enlarged prostate, blood clots within the urinary tract and the damaged nerves that control your bladder.

  • Low blood flow to the kidneys

Kidney failure is also caused when there is low blood flow to the kidneys. Some conditions that affect the blood flow to the kidneys include heart attack, dehydration, heart disease, liver failure, sepsis, high blood pressure and a severe allergic reaction.

There are other causes of kidney failure, which include the following:

  • Overload of toxins due to heavy metals
  • Infection
  • Blood clot in and around your kidneys
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Lupus
  • Vasculitis
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Certain antibiotics
  • Diabetes
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Scleroderma
  • Hemolytic uremic syndrome
  • Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura

Types Of Kidney Failure

1. Acute prerenal kidney failure [2]

This type of kidney failure occurs when there is inadequate blood flow to the kidneys. The kidneys can't filter toxins from the blood without sufficient blood flow.

2. Acute intrinsic kidney failure [3]

When there is a direct injury to one or both the kidneys acute intrinsic kidney failure occurs. This leads to severe bleeding, renal blood vessel obstruction, shock and glomerulonephritis.

3. Chronic prerenal kidney failure [4]

When the kidneys are not receiving enough blood flow for an extended period of time, they begin to shrink and they are unable to function properly.

4. Chronic intrinsic kidney failure

When the kidneys have suffered long-term damage, it causes chronic intrinsic kidney failure.

5. Chronic post-renal kidney failure

Chronic post-renal kidney failure occurs when there is a blockage of the urinary tract that prevents urination, causing extreme kidney damage.


Stages Of Kidney Failure

  • Stage 1 - In this stage, you will not experience any symptoms and complications. Kidney failure can be managed by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
  • Stage 2 - In this stage, the physical damage to the kidneys becomes more visible but in a mild form.
  • Stage 3 - At this stage, the kidneys are in a moderate working condition, which means they are not working properly the way they should. Symptoms start appearing such as swelling in hands and feet and back pain.
  • Stage 4 - At this stage, the kidneys are not working properly and complications such as anaemia, bone disease and high blood pressure start occurring.
  • Stage 5 - At this stage, the kidneys fail to work completely and the symptoms become more evident which include, itchy skin, difficulty in breathing, vomiting and nausea.

Symptoms Of Kidney Failure

  • Less amount of urine
  • Confusion
  • Unexplained shortness of breath
  • Swelling in the legs, ankles and feet
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Pain in the chest
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fever
  • Nosebleed
  • Vomiting
  • Back pain
  • Weight loss

Risk Factors Of Kidney Failure

  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Family history of kidney disease

Complications Of Kidney Failure

  • Bone disease
  • Heart disease
  • Anaemia
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Damage to the central nervous system
  • Low immunity

Diagnosis Of Kidney Failure

  • Kidney tissue sample - Kidney tissue samples will be collected for examining abnormal deposits, scarring or presence of infectious organisms.
  • Urinalysis - Urine test will be done to check for any abnormalities.
  • Measurement of urine volume - To help diagnose kidney failure the urine output is measured.
  • Blood test - Blood tests will be done to measure substances like creatinine and blood urea nitrogen in the blood that are filtered by kidneys.
  • Imaging tests - MRIs, CT scan and ultrasound tests are done to diagnose kidney failure.

Treatment Of Kidney Failure

  • Dialysis

This treatment procedure filters and purifies the blood with the help of a machine, which performs the function of the kidneys. Dialysis doesn't cure kidney failure.

  • Kidney transplant

Kidney transplant is another treatment procedure. A kidney transplant surgery is performed for three to four hours. Once the surgeon places the healthy kidney in the body, it will start filtering wastes and toxins [5].

Prevention Of Kidney Failure

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle
  • Go for regular check-ups
  • Control diabetes and high blood pressure

Common FAQs

What happens to the body when the kidneys fail?

Once your kidneys stop working completely, your body fills up with excess water and waste products leading to a condition called uremia.

What is the first sign of kidney problems?

The early signs of kidney problems include a decrease in urine output, the accumulation of fluid in the limbs and shortness of breath.

What colour is the urine when your kidneys are failing?

The urine colour changes to pale yellow, dark yellow, orange, pink or red.

Can you die suddenly from kidney failure?

Dialysis and a kidney transplant can help you survive for some years.

How long can you live if your kidneys are failing?

The life expectancy of a person depends on the age, stage of kidney disease and other associated conditions.