The Basics of Acute Renal Failure

The Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment of Acute Renal Failure

The location of the kidneys.
The location of the kidneys. Science Photo Library - SCIEPRO/Getty Images

Acute renal failure, also known as kidney failure, is the rapid loss of your kidneys' ability to function. The build-up of waste in your body will affect the balance the fluids and electrolytes which can be fatal if left untreated.

What Your Kidneys Do

Your kidneys clean your blood by filtering out fluids, minerals, and eliminate toxins. The kidneys also produce hormones, which stimulate the production of red blood cells and keep your bones strong.

If your kidneys lose their ability to function, either from injury, trauma, infection, or as a complication from surgery, harmful waste products will begin to build up in your body.

Causes of Acute Renal Failure

Renal failure is caused by many different conditions, including:

Patients with acute renal failure may also develop a low blood count and weakened bones.

Symptoms of Acute Renal Failure

Symptoms of acute renal failure occur rapidly. There are many symptoms of acute renal failure, some of the most common include:

  • Retention of fluids
  • Fatigue
  • Bloody stools
  • Shortness of breath
  • High blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Bruising
  • Change in urinary flow

Other more serious symptoms you may experience due to acute renal failure include seizures, nosebleeds, flank pain, and a loss of appetite.

Diagnosis of Acute Renal Failure

After an examination by your doctor, diagnostic imaging and blood tests will be conducted to confirm the diagnosis, these tests may include:

The blood tests will measure the levels of urea nitrogen and creatinine in the blood as well as the amount of potassium in the blood serum.

Treatment of Acute Renal Failure

Treatment options for acute renal failure will vary, depending on the cause. You can expect to stay in the hospital during treatment. Treatment will be focused on addressing the cause of your renal failure or replacing your renal function.

Treating the underlying causes of renal failure involves determining the original cause of damage to your kidneys. It will also involve changing your diet to reduce the levels of toxins in your blood. You will need to reduce your intake of protein, salt and potassium and increase your levels of carbohydrates. You may need antibiotics to treat or prevent an infection. In order to remove the fluids in your body you may need to start a regimen of diuretics, or water pills.

If you have a blockage in the ureters, you may need the insertion of a small stent into the ureter in order to allow urine to flow. If a kidney stone is the cause of your renal failure, a procedure to remove it will be performed.

Dialysis, including hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis may be used to replace some of the renal functions of the kidney.

This is a short-term solution. Dialysis is performed on a permanent basis only if there is an extreme amount of damage to the kidney.


Medline Plus

Urology Care Foundation

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

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