Kidney Failure FAQs

Kidney failure often results from other health problems that damage the kidneys over time. Find out what you can do to keep your kidneys functioning for years to come.

What causes kidney failure?

Kidney damage can be caused by physical injuries or diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and other disorders. High blood pressure and diabetes are the most common causes of kidney failure. Kidney failure is a gradual loss of kidney function.

How do you prevent kidney failure?

Ways to prevent kidney failure include:

  • Controlling your blood sugar – Diabetes raises your risk for kidney failure, so keeping blood sugar controlled is essential.
  • Cutting back on sodium – Too much salt in your diet causes high blood pressure, which sometimes leads to kidney failure.
  • Not smoking – Smoking reduces blood flow and can damage kidneys.
  • Eating heart-healthy foods – Diets low in cholesterol and high in fiber, whole grains, fruits and vegetables reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Getting fit – Regular exercise can help you control weight, reduce stress and protect your kidneys.
  • Avoiding alcohol – Alcohol increases blood pressure, causes weight gain and raises your kidney failure risk.
  • Limiting pain medication – High doses of aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen can reduce blood flow to your kidneys and damage them.
  • Reducing stress – Stress and anxiety can increase your blood pressure, which isn’t healthy for your kidneys.
  • Staying hydrated – Lack of fluids reduces blood flow to the kidneys.

If you’re concerned about kidney disease, talk with your Mercy doctor. Chronic kidney disease can’t be cured, but its progress can be slowed with treatment.

What are the signs of kidney failure?

Kidney failure signs may include:

  • Confusion
  • Decreased urine output
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling in the feet, ankles or legs
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness

What level of creatinine indicates kidney failure?

Creatinine levels of 5.0 or higher in adults may indicate kidney damage.

What are the five stages of kidney failure?

Doctors measure kidney function using the estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR). Your eGFR is based on blood tests for creatinine, a waste product in your blood when kidneys aren’t filtering well. Kidney disease stages are based on the eGFR number:

  • Stage 1: eGFR 90 or greater – Normal kidney function with signs of damage
  • Stage 2: eGFR 60-89 – Kidney damage with mild loss of function
  • Stage 3a: eGFR 45-59 – Mild to moderate loss of kidney function
  • Stage 3b: eGFR 30-44 – Moderate to severe loss of kidney function
  • Stage 4: eGFR 15-29 – Severe loss of kidney function
  • Stage 5: eGFR less than 15 – Kidney failure

Kidney failure is life-limiting without artificial filtering (dialysis) or a kidney transplant.

Is kidney failure reversible?

If you’re in good health otherwise, kidney failure may be reversed with intensive care and treatment. Some people recover normal or near-normal kidney function after failure.

Find a Urologist

Mercy has experienced urologists across most of our communities. 

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