Facts about Kidney Failure or Kidney Damage
- 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.
- Symptoms of kidney damage are due to the build-up of waste products and excess fluid in the body that may cause weakness, shortness of breath, lethargy, swelling, and confusion. Inability to remove potassium from the bloodstream may lead to abnormal heart rhythms and sudden death. Initially, kidney damage may cause no symptoms.
- There are numerous causes of kidney damage, and treatment of the underlying disease may be the first step in correcting the kidney abnormality.
- Some causes of kidney damage are treatable and the kidney function may return to normal. Unfortunately, kidney damage may be progressive in other situations and may be irreversible.
- The diagnosis of kidney damage usually is made by blood tests measuring BUN, creatinine, and glomerular filtration rate (GFR).
- Treatment of the underlying cause of kidney damage may return kidney function to normal. Lifelong efforts to control blood pressure and diabetes may be the best way to prevent chronic kidney disease and its progression to kidney damage. As we age kidney function gradually decreases over time.
- If the kidneys fail completely, the only treatment options available may be dialysis or transplant.
Five Types of Kidney Failure
There are five different types of kidney failure:
Acute Prerenal Kidney Failure
Insufficient blood flow to the kidneys can cause acute prerenal kidney failure. The kidneys can’t filter toxins from the blood without enough blood flow. This type of kidney failure can usually be cured once the cause of the decreased blood flow is determined.
Acute Intrinsic Kidney Failure
Acute intrinsic kidney failure can be caused by direct trauma to the kidneys, such as physical impact or an accident. Causes also include toxin overload and ischemia, which is a lack of oxygen to the kidneys. Ischemia may be caused by:
- severe bleeding
- renal blood vessel obstruction
- glomerulonephritis, which is an inflammation of the tiny filters in your kidneys
Chronic Prerenal Kidney Failure
When there isn’t enough blood flowing to the kidneys for an extended period of time, the kidneys begin to shrink and lose the ability to function.
Chronic Intrinsic Kidney Failure
This happens when there is long-term damage to the kidneys due to intrinsic kidney disease. Intrinsic kidney disease is caused by a direct trauma to the kidneys, such as severe bleeding or a lack of oxygen.
Chronic Post-Renal Kidney Failure
A long-term blockage of the urinary tract prevents urination, which causes pressure and eventual kidney damage.
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10 Common Lifestyles That Will Cause You Serious Kidney Failure
- Not Drinking Enough Water
One of the important functions of the kidneys is to filter blood and get rid of toxins and waste materials that can harm the body. When you don’t drink enough water, those toxins and waste materials start to accumulate, eventually causing severe damage.
- Consuming Too Much Salt
The body does need sodium to work properly, but an excess of sodium can cause damage. Most people consume too much, which can raise blood pressure and put stress on the kidneys.
- Consuming Too Much Sugar
Studies have shown that people who consume two or more sugary drinks a day are more likely to have protein in their urine. Protein in urine is an early sign that the kidneys are not doing their job properly.
- Holding Urine
This might sound odd, but almost everyone does it. The urge often comes during a car ride, in the middle of a phone call, or when there isn’t a bathroom nearby. Holding in urine on a regular basis increases pressure, which can lead to kidney failure and kidney stones. When nature calls, it’s best to listen.
- Being Deficient in Vitamins and Minerals
Eating a healthy diet is important for overall health, including kidney function. There are multiple deficiencies that can increase the risk of kidney stones or kidney failure, such as Vitamin B6 and magnesium.
- Drinking Coffee in Excess
Caffeine can raise blood pressure and put extra stress on the kidneys, just as salt can. Over time, excess coffee consumption (or caffeine consumption) may lead to kidney damage.
- Consuming Too Much Animal Protein
Consuming an excess of animal protein (especially red meat) increases the metabolic load on the kidneys. The more animal protein one consumes, the harder the kidneys have to work, which can cause stress and lead to kidney damage.
- Not Getting Enough Sleep
Chronic sleep deprivation is linked to many health problems, including kidney disease. The body works while sleeping to repair kidney tissue that may be damaged, so depriving the body of sleep makes it harder to heal.
- Abusing Pain killers
Both over-the-counter and prescription drugs are commonly taken for aches and pains without concern about the harmful side effects that may arise. Excessive use or abuse of painkillers can lead to severe kidney and liver damage.
- Drinking Excess Alcohol
Most people enjoy a glass of wine or a beer here and there, but more than one drink several times a week can raise the risk of kidney damage. Alcohol puts stress on the kidneys and the liver.
Symptoms of Kidney Failure or Damage
You might not notice any problems if you have kidney damage that’s in the early stages. Most people don’t have symptoms at that point. That’s dangerous, because the damage can happen without you realizing it.
If your kidney damage or failure is already more advanced, you may:
- Be vomiting or often feel like you’re going to
- Pee more often than normal, or less often
- See “foam” in your pee
- Have swelling, particularly of the ankles, and puffiness around the eyes
- Feel tired or short of breath all the time
- Not feel like eating
- Not be able to taste much
- Have muscle cramps, especially in your legs
- Have very dry, itchy skin
- Sleep poorly
- Lose weight for no obvious reason
A child with chronic kidney disease may also feel worn out and sleepier than usual, have less appetite than normal, and not be growing as expected.
When to See Your Doctor
Make an appointment if you notice any of the symptoms listed above. There could be other possible causes, but you’ll need to see your doctor to find out what the problem is and what treatment you need.
If you’re at risk — you have high blood pressure or diabetes, or if kidney disease runs in your family, for instance — ask your doctor how often you’ll need to get tested. It’s very important to do this so your kidneys can work as well as possible.
Sources and References:
- National Kidney Foundation. K/DOQI clinical practice guidelines for chronic kidney disease: evaluation, classification, and stratification. Am J Kidney Dis. 2002; 39: S1–266
- Levey, AS, Coresh, J, Balk, E…, and for the National Kidney Foundation. National Kidney Foundation practice guidelines for chronic kidney disease: evaluation, classification, and stratification. Ann Intern Med. 2003; 139: 137–147
- Levey, AS, Eckardt, KU, Tsukamoto, Y et al.Definition and classification of chronic kidney disease: a position statement from Kidney Disease: Improving Global Outcomes (KDIGO). Kidney Int. 2005; 67: 2089–2100
- Kidney disease: Improving Global Outcomes (KDIGO).Nephrology guideline database.http://www.kdigo.org/nephrology_guideline_database/index.php; 2008.