Kidney Failure

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Kidney failure facts

  • Kidneys are the organs that filter waste products from the blood. They are also involved in regulating blood pressure, electrolyte balance, and red blood cell production in the body.
  • Symptoms of kidney failure are due to the build-up of waste products and excess fluid in the body that may cause weakness, shortness of breath, lethargy, swelling, and confusion. Inability to remove potassium from the bloodstream may lead to abnormal heart rhythms and sudden death. Initially kidney failure may cause no symptoms.
  • There are numerous causes of kidney failure, and treatment of the underlying disease may be the first step in correcting the kidney abnormality.
  • Some causes of kidney failure are treatable and the kidney function may return to normal. Unfortunately, kidney failure may be progressive in other situations and may be irreversible.
  • The diagnosis of kidney failure usually is made by blood tests measuring BUN, creatinine, and glomerular filtration rate (GFR).
  • Treatment of the underlying cause of kidney failure may return kidney function to normal. Lifelong efforts to control blood pressure and diabetes may be the best way to prevent chronic kidney disease and its progression to kidney failure. As we age kidney function gradually decreases over time.
  • If the kidneys fail completely, the only treatment options available may be dialysis or transplant.
Reviewed on 10/27/2016
References
Medically reviewed by Michael Wolff, MD; American Board of Urology

REFERENCE:

Longo DL, et al. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. 18th edition. McGraw Hill Professional. 2011.

Medscape. Renal Failure, Acute.

NIH. Amyloidosis and Kidney Disease. IMAGES:

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13.National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), National Institutes of Health (NIH)

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