Kidney failure

What is the kidney?

The Kidney is an organ in the body that is responsible for filtering the blood and making urine. Most people have two kidneys located at the back of the body in the abdomen as shown in the picture below.

The kidneys help to remove waste from the body through the urine by filtering the blood. In addition, they help in regulating the blood pressure, keep the bones healthy and aid the production of blood cells.

What is Kidney failure?  

Kidney failure occurs when the kidney is no longer able perform its functions as it should and this can occur due to a number of reasons, some of which are listed below:

  • Dehydration
  • Severe infection
  • Some medications such as pain-killers
  • Chronic medical conditions like hypertension, Diabetes, heart failure
  • Prostate problems

What are the types of Kidney failure

There two main types of Kidney failure, namely Acute Kidney failure and Chronic kidney failure.

Acute Kidney failure: This is when the kidneys are suddenly unable to perform their functions, particularly that of removing waste from the body. It can develop within hours to a few days causing the build up of unwanted waste in the body. Fortunately, with intensive treatment, in normally fit and healthy individuals it is possible for the kidney at this stage to recover to its usual state.

Chronic kidney failure: This refers to the gradual loss of the kidney functions, usually over months or years. In the early stages, the kidneys are still able to perform their function and for some people, the problem only progresses slowly and does not cause any signs or symptoms. However, in some others the kidneys are not able to function well enough to remove waste from the body and in such cases people require adequate treatment.

What are the symptoms of kidney failure?

In the early stages of kidney failure, there are usually no symptoms but it can be picked up through blood test. As the problem progresses, people can begin experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • General weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Passing excessive or too little amount of urine
  • Swelling of the legs
  • Difficulty in breathing

What are the treatments for kidney failure?

The treatment for Kidney failure depends on whether it is acute or chronic and also on the stage of the disease.

Acute Kidney failure usually requires admission in hospital for intravenous fluids (Drip) treatment and monitoring. If treatment is successful, the kidney function could go back to normal but if not successful it could progress to chronic kidney failure.

Treating chronic kidney failure is usually a long term process and it involves treatment any other medical condition that might be causing or aggravating the kidney failure.

It also involves avoiding any medication that may worsen the condition and also avoiding excessive alcohol intake and smoking.

In advanced stages of kidney failure, people will usually need dialysis to take over the function of the kidneys as the kidneys are no longer able to function. Kidney transplant is also an option in advanced end-stage kidney failure.

If you think you are at risk of developing kidney failure you should speak to your doctor who would be able to assess you further.

Read about How to keep your kidneys healthy here