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Acute kidney failure

  • Overview


    If your kidneys cannot filter waste products from your blood, you may experience acute kidney failure. When your kidneys lose their filtering ability, it can lead to dangerous levels of waste accumulation and an imbalance in your blood’s chemical makeup.

    Acute kidney failure, also known as acute renal failure or acute kidney injury, develops rapidly, usually in less than a few days. This condition is most common in hospitalised individuals, critically ill patients requiring intensive care.

    Acute kidney failure can be a life-threatening condition that requires intensive treatment. However, it may also be reversible, and if you’re otherwise healthy, you may recover normal or nearly normal kidney function.

  • Symptoms


    The following signs and symptoms may indicate acute kidney failure:
    Decreased urine output, although in some cases, urine output may remain normal
    Swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet as a result of fluid retention
    Shortness of breath
    Irregular heartbeat
    Chest pain or pressure
    Seizures or coma in severe instances

    Occasionally, acute kidney failure can be asymptomatic and only diagnosed through laboratory tests for other reasons.

  • When to see a doctor


    It’s essential to take action right away if you notice any indications of acute kidney failure. Getting in touch with your doctor or seeking emergency care immediately can help ensure you receive the proper treatment and care as soon as possible. Remember, your health is a top priority, and it’s always better to err on the side of caution regarding your well-being.

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  • Causes


    Acute kidney failure may happen due to various reasons, such as reduced blood flow to the kidneys because of an underlying condition, direct kidney damage, or blockage in the urine drainage tubes (ureters), which can prevent the elimination of waste from the body through urine.

    Impaired blood flow to the kidneys
    Diseases and conditions that may slow blood flow to the kidneys and lead to kidney injury include:
    Blood or fluid loss
    Blood pressure medications
    Heart attack
    Heart disease
    Liver failure
    Use of aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve, others) or related drugs
    Severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
    Severe burns
    Severe dehydration

    Damage to the kidneys
    Various diseases, conditions, and agents can potentially harm the kidneys and cause acute kidney failure. Some of these include blood clots in the veins and arteries around the kidneys, cholesterol buildup that obstructs blood flow, inflammation of the tiny filters in the kidneys (glomeruli), hemolytic uremic syndrome, infections like COVID-19, lupus, medications such as chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics, and dyes used in imaging tests, scleroderma, thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, toxins like heavy metals, alcohol, and cocaine, muscle tissue breakdown resulting in kidney damage due to toxins from tissue destruction, and tumour lysis syndrome that involves the release of harmful toxins from the breakdown of tumour cells.

    Urine blockage in the kidneys
    Diseases and conditions that block the passage of urine out of the body (urinary obstructions) and can lead to acute kidney injury include:
    Bladder cancer
    Blood clots in the urinary tract
    Cervical cancer
    Colon cancer
    Enlarged prostate
    Kidney stones
    Nerve damage involving the nerves that control the bladder
    Prostate cancer

  • Risk factors


    Acute kidney failure typically happens alongside another medical condition or event. Factors that may heighten your chances of experiencing acute kidney failure include hospitalisation, especially for a severe infection requiring intensive care, advanced age, peripheral artery disease (blockages in blood vessels in the arms or legs), diabetes, high blood pressure, heart failure, kidney diseases, liver diseases, certain cancers, and their treatments.

  • Prevention


    Acute kidney failure is often difficult to predict or prevent. But you may reduce your risk by taking care of your kidneys. Try to:
    Pay attention to labels when taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications. Follow the instructions for OTC pain medications, such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve, others). Taking too many of these medications may increase your risk of kidney injury. This is especially true if you have pre-existing kidney disease, diabetes or high blood pressure.
    Work with your doctor to manage kidney and other chronic conditions. If you have kidney disease or another condition that increases your risk of acute kidney failure, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, stay on track with treatment goals and follow your doctor’s recommendations to manage your condition.
    Make a healthy lifestyle a priority. Be active; eat a sensible, balanced diet; and drink alcohol only in moderation.

  • *Please note that the information provided in the article is for reference purposes only. It is essential to consult a doctor before applying any of the suggestions mentioned.

Content Details

Medical info from Mayo Clinic, for reference only. Visit Hoan My for better advice.

Last updated on: 07/08/2023