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.

What causes kidney failure? (Continued)

Renal causes of kidney failure (damage directly to the kidney itself) include:

Sepsis: The body's immune system is overwhelmed from infection and causes inflammation and shutdown of the kidneys. This usually does not occur with simple urinary tract infections.

Medications: Some medications are toxic to the kidney including:

Rhabdomyolysis: This is a situation in which there is significant muscle breakdown in the body, and the damaged muscle fibers clog the filtering system of the kidneys. Massive muscle injury may occur because of trauma, crush injuries, and burns. Some medications used to treat highcholesterol may causerhabdomyolysis.

Multiple myeloma

Acute glomerulonephritis or inflammation of the glomeruli, the filtering system of the kidneys. Many diseases can cause this inflammation including:

Hemolytic uremic syndrome: This condition results from abnormal destruction of red blood cells. It most often occurs in children after certain infections, but also may be caused by medications, pregnancy, or can occur for unknown reasons.

Post renal causes of kidney failure (post=after + renal= kidney) are due to factors that affect outflow of the urine:

  • Obstruction of the bladder or the ureters can cause back pressure because the kidneys continue to produce urine, but the obstruction acts like a dam, and urine backs up into the kidneys. When the pressure increases high enough, the kidneys are damaged and shut down.
  • Prostatic hypertrophy or prostate cancer may block the urethra and prevents the bladder from emptying.
  • Tumors in the abdomen that surround and obstruct the ureters.
  • Kidney stones. Usually, kidney stones affect only one kidney and do not cause kidney failure. However, if there is only one kidney present, a kidney stone may cause the remaining kidney to fail.

Chronic renal failure develops over months and years. The most common causes of chronic renal failure are related to:

Less common causes of chronic renal failure include:

  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Reflux nephropathy (damage caused by urine backflow from the bladder into the ureters and kidney)
  • Nephrotic syndrome
  • Alport's disease
  • Interstitial nephritis
  • Kidney stones
  • Prostate disease
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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