Kidney failure, also known as end-stage kidney disease, is the condition in which a person’s kidneys have stopped working. It’s divided into 2 types: acute kidney failure and chronic kidney failure.

Types and Causes of Kidney Failure

1. Acute Kidney Failure – This refers to a rapid decrease in the functioning of the kidneys caused by various factors, including, septicemia (blood infection), urinary tract diseases, ingestion of harmful substances, as a side effect from medication, or overdosing on medication. Acute kidney failure may also occur as a side effect of another condition. In these cases, if the condition is immediately treated, the chances of the kidneys being restored to its former state are high.

2. Chronic Kidney Failure – This refers to the gradual deterioration of the kidneys over time. The main causes of this type of kidney failure are diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, obesity, and other conditions, which may take as long as one year to present any symptoms such as inflammation of the kidneys or polycystic kidney disease. Most patients are only diagnosed with this condition once their kidney function has been significantly reduced, leading to kidney failure. In these cases, treatments are unable to restore the kidneys to their former state.

With kidney failure, waste and fluids will remain stored in the body. This could lead to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, decreased appetite, insomnia, dry and itchy skin, muscle cramps, urine reduction, puffy eyelids, fluid in the lungs, difficulty breathing, being unable to lie down, high blood pressure, paleness, and anemia. Symptoms may be so severe as to cause loss of consciousness or even death.

Accurately diagnosing kidney failure can be carried out in the following ways:

  • Urine assessments to identify protein and red blood cell levels – Normally, proteins and red blood cells are not passed through the urine, but in cases where the kidneys are not functioning normally, proteins and red blood cells may be found in the urine of the patient.
  • Blood tests to assess creatinine levels – Creatinine levels signify the amount of waste products present in the bloodstream which can be used in assessing the efficiency of kidney function, or the kidney’s GFR (glomerular filtration rate). The lower the GFR rating, the less effectively the kidneys are functioning.
  • Other types of evaluations – These include, for example, carrying out an ultrasound assessment of the kidneys and the urinary tract, or in some cases, taking a kidney sample for analysis.

The stages of chronic kidney disease are categorized as follows:

Stage 1: A normal GFR rating of 90 or above; however, if proteins are showing up during urine analysis, it means the kidneys are beginning to deteriorate.

Stage 2: GFR rating of 60-89. The slightly reduced GFR rating shows that the patient is at the stage whereby the kidneys have already deteriorated.

Stage 3: GFR rating of 30-59.

Stage 4: GFR rating of 15-29.

Stage 5: GFR rating of lower than 15. This finding signifies kidney failure in both chronic and acute types of kidney disease.

Treating kidney failure can be done through the following methods:

1. Hemodialysis – A treatment which removes the waste and fluids from the blood by taking the patient’s blood, filtering out the waste, then balancing the blood’s mineral levels and acidity through an artificial kidney so that better quality blood can be returned to the patient’s bloodstream. This process takes around 3-4 hours per session and should be carried out at least 2–3 times per week. Patients are required to undertake blood vessel surgery to gain an entrance into the bloodstream before going through the dialysis treatment.


2. Peritoneal Dialysis – A procedure whereby the kidney is cleansed and filtered using a special fluid that enters the body via a catheter inserted into the patient’s abdomen. This technique needs to be carried out daily so patients will usually learn how to perform the procedure themselves at home. However, it’s important to keep in mind that carrying out peritoneal dialysis at home has its risks in regards to cleanliness and infection. Patients need to make sure they learn the methods in performing the procedure at home safely and correctly.


3. Kidney Transplantation – The surgical removal of a donor’s healthy kidney in order to be transplanted into the body of the patient suffering from kidney failure. The new kidney may have been removed from a patient who has suffered irreparable brain damage, or from a healthy person who has a kidney that is compatible with the receiver’s body. This technique is only available to those suffering from the final stages of kidney failure, as they have no other choice available. For those patients, choosing not to undergo a kidney transplant will most likely result in death.

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