Kidney Failure


Kidney failure, also called renal failure, occurs when your kidneys are not able to properly filter waste from your blood. If waste isn’t being flushed out of your body, it can build up and make you sick.

There are two main types of kidney failure – acute kidney injury or chronic kidney disease.

Acute Kidney Injury

If treated, acute kidney injury can sometimes be corrected and your kidneys can return to functioning correctly. It’s usually caused by three things:

  • A sudden, serious drop in blood flow to the kidneys
  • Damage from medicines, poison or an infection
  • A sudden blockage that keeps urine from leaving the kidneys

Symptoms can include swelling, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, confusion, anxiousness, little to no urine when trying to urinate or pain in your back underneath your rib cage.

Treatment options vary depending on the seriousness of the injuries. Your doctor may need to restore blood flow to your kidneys, stop any medicines that could be contributing to the problem or get rid of a blockage in your urinary tract.

Some people will recover and return to normal after experiencing acute kidney injury. In others, the damage may be permanent and lead to chronic kidney disease.

Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease is often not reversible. It’s typically caused by damage to the kidneys done over many years from uncontrolled high blood pressure or high blood sugar that happens with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms don’t usually show up in the early stages of kidney failure. In fact, many people don’t experience symptoms for as long as 30 years or more. As your kidney function continues to worsen, you may:

  • Urinate less
  • Notice swelling
  • Feel tired
  • Lose your appetite
  • Feel sick to your stomach
  • Have trouble sleeping
  • Have headaches

Simple blood and urine tests can help your doctor determine how well your kidneys are working. Your doctor may also recommend an ultrasound or CT scan.

Since chronic kidney disease is usually caused by an underlying condition, the first step will be to treat the condition causing kidney damage. Treatment can include medicines, lifestyle changes, dialysis or even a kidney transplant.

It’s important to work closely with your doctor to develop a treatment plan that works best for you. You can rest assured knowing Mercy has the expertise to handle whatever kidney issue you’re having.

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