Kidney Failure: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 9/10/2019

Kidney failure occurs when the kidneys are unable to fully function to filter waste and excrete fluids and waste. Initially, kidney failure may cause no symptoms. Many symptoms and signs of kidney failure are due to the buildup of waste products and fluid retention in the body. Symptoms and signs can include edema (swelling), weakness, shortness of breath, confusion, and lethargy. Arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) can occur due to an inability to remove potassium from the bloodstream. Kidney failure may be due to sudden (acute) events or may come on over the long term (chronic) as a complication of conditions like diabetes or hypertension.

Causes of kidney failure

Kidney failure can occur from an acute event (acute renal failure) or a chronic condition or disease (chronic renal failure). Prerenal kidney failure refers to causes of renal failure due to a decrease in blood supply to the kidney. These causes include blood loss, dehydration, or medications. Some of the causes of kidney failure related to problems with the kidneys themselves include sepsis, medications, rhabdomyolysis, multiple myeloma, and acute glomerulonephritis. Post-renal causes of kidney failure are conditions that cause obstruction to the outflow of urine and include bladder obstruction, prostate problems, tumors, or kidney stones.

Other kidney failure

Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.