Get exclusive member benefits & effect social change. Join Today
Acute kidney failure happens when your kidneys suddenly lose the ability to eliminate excess salts, fluids, and waste materials from the blood. This elimination is the core of your kidneys’ main function. Body fluids can rise to dangerous levels when kidneys lose their filtering ability. The condition will also cause electrolytes and waste material to accumulate in your body, which can also be life-threatening.
Acute kidney failure is also called acute kidney injury or acute renal failure. It’s common in people who are already in the hospital. It may develop rapidly over a few hours. It can also develop over a few days to weeks. People who are critically ill and need intensive care have the highest risk of developing acute kidney failure.
Acute kidney failure can be life-threatening and requires intensive treatment. However, it may be reversible. If you’re in good health otherwise, recovery is possible.
Acute kidney failure can occur for many reasons. Among the most common reasons are:
Reduced blood flow can damage your kidneys. The following conditions can lead to decreased blood flow to your kidneys:
Certain disorders can cause clotting within your kidney’s blood vessels, and this can lead to acute kidney failure. These conditions include:
The chances of acquiring acute kidney failure are greater if you’re an older person or if you have any of the following long-term health problems:
If you’re ill or being treated in a hospital’s intensive care unit, you’re at an extremely high risk for acute kidney failure. Being the recipient of heart surgery, abdominal surgery, or a bone marrow transplant can also increase your risk.
The symptoms of acute kidney failure include:
If you have acute kidney failure, you may have generalized swelling. The swelling is due to fluid retention.
Using a stethoscope, your doctor may hear crackling in the lungs. These sounds can signal fluid retention.
Results of laboratory tests may also show abnormal values, which are new and different from baseline levels. Some of these tests include:
An ultrasound is the preferred method for diagnosing acute kidney failure. However, abdominal X-ray, abdominal CT scan, and abdominal MRI can help your doctor determine if there’s a blockage in your urinary tract.
Certain blood tests may also reveal underlying causes of acute kidney failure.
Your treatment will depend on the cause of your acute kidney failure. The goal is to restore normal kidney function. Preventing fluids and wastes from building up in your body while your kidneys recover is important. In the majority of cases, a kidney specialist called a "nephrologist" makes an evaluation.
Your doctor will restrict your diet and the amount of liquids you eat and drink. This will reduce the buildup of toxins that the kidneys would normally eliminate. A diet high in carbohydrates and low in protein, salt, and potassium is usually recommended.
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat or prevent any infections that occur at the same time. Diuretics may help your kidneys eliminate fluid. Calcium and insulin can help you avoid dangerous increases in your blood potassium levels.
You may need dialysis, but it’s not always necessary, and it will likely only be temporary. Dialysis involves diverting blood out of your body into a machine that filters out waste. The clean blood then returns to your body. If your potassium levels are dangerously high, dialysis can save your life.
Dialysis is necessary if there are changes in your mental status or if you stop urinating. You may also need dialysis if you develop pericarditis or inflammation of the heart. Dialysis can help eliminate nitrogen waste products from your body.
Some of the complications of acute kidney failure include:
Preventing and treating illnesses that can lead to acute kidney failure is the best method for avoiding the disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, having a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and a sensible diet can help to prevent kidney failure. Work with your doctor to manage existing medical conditions that could lead to acute kidney failure.
Acute kidney failure can be a life-threatening illness. Chronic renal failure or end-stage renal disease can develop. There’s a greater risk of death if kidney failure is caused by severe infection, trauma, or surgery.
The following can also increase the risk of death:
With proper treatment and diligence, your chances of recovery are good. Seek immediate and regular medical care for acute kidney failure, and ask your doctor questions about what you can do to heal faster.
Written by: Bree Normandin and Winnie Yuon: Aug 23, 2017
Enter your symptoms in our Symptom Checker to find out possible causes of your symptoms. Go.
Enter any list of prescription drugs and see how they interact with each other and with other substances. Go.
Enter its color and shape information, and this tool helps you identify it. Go.
Find information on drug interactions, side effects, and more. Go.