What Is Kidney Failure?
Your kidneys are pair of organs located toward your lower back. One kidney is on each side of your spine. They filter your blood and remove toxins from your body. Your kidneys send toxins to your bladder. Your body later removes toxins during urination.
Kidney failure occurs when your kidneys lose the ability to filter waste from your blood sufficiently. Many factors can interfere with your kidney health and function, such as:
- toxic exposure to environmental pollutants
- certain acute and chronic diseases
- severe dehydration
- kidney trauma
Your body becomes overloaded with toxins if your kidneys can’t do their regular job. This can lead to kidney failure and even be life-threatening if it’s left untreated.
What Causes Kidney Failure?
People who are most at risk for kidney failure usually suffer from one or more of the following causes:
Loss of Blood Flow to the Kidneys
A sudden loss of blood flow to your kidneys can prompt kidney failure. Some diseases and conditions that cause loss of blood flow to the kidneys include:
- a heart attack
- heart disease
- scarring of the liver or liver failure
- a severe burn
- an allergic reaction
- a severe infection, such as sepsis
Blood pressure and anti-inflammatory medications can also limit blood flow.
Urine Elimination Problems
When your body can’t eliminate urine, toxins build up and overload the kidneys. Some cancers can block the urine passageways. These include prostate (most common type in men), colon, cervical, and bladder cancers. Other conditions can interfere with urination and possibly lead to kidney failure, including:
- kidney stones
- an enlarged prostate
- blood clots within your urinary tract
- damage to the nerves that control your bladder
Some diseases and conditions may lead to kidney failure, including:
- a blood clot in or around your kidneys
- an overload of toxins from heavy metals
- drugs and alcohol
- vasculitis, which is an inflammation of blood vessels
- lupus, which is an autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation of many body organs
- glomerulonephritis, which is an inflammation of the small blood vessels of the kidneys
- hemolytic uremic syndrome, which involves the breakdown red blood cells following a bacterial infection, usually of the intestines
- multiple myeloma, which is a cancer of the plasma cells in your bone marrow
- scleroderma, which is an autoimmune disease that affects your skin
- thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, which is a disorder that causes blood clots in small vessels
- chemotherapy drugs, which are medications that treat cancer and some autoimmune diseases
- dyes used in some imaging tests
- certain antibiotics
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.
What Are the Symptoms of Kidney Failure?
Many different symptoms can be signs of kidney failure. No symptoms are present sometimes, but usually someone with kidney failure will see a few signs of the disease. Possible symptoms include:
- a reduced amount of urine
- swelling of your legs, ankles, and feet from retention of fluids caused by the failure of your kidneys to eliminate water waste
- unexplained shortness of breath
- excessive drowsiness or fatigue
- persistent nausea
- pain or pressure in your chest
- a coma