Acute Renal Failure
Date: 18 Mar 2016
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This topic provides information about sudden kidney failure. If you are looking for information about long-term kidney disease, see the topic Chronic Kidney Disease.
What is acute renal failure?
Acute renal failure means that your kidneys have suddenly stopped working. Your kidneys remove waste products and help balance water and salt and other minerals (electrolytes) in your blood. When your kidneys stop working, waste products, fluids, and electrolytes build up in your body. This can cause problems that can be deadly
What causes acute renal failure?
Acute renal failure has three main causes:
A sudden, serious drop in blood flow to the kidneys. Heavy blood loss, an injury, or a bad infection called sepsis can reduce blood flow to the kidneys. Not enough fluid in the body (dehydration) also can harm the kidneys.
Damage from some medicines, poisons, or infections. Most people do not have any kidney problems from taking medicines. People who have serious, long-term health problems are more likely than other people to have a kidney problem from medicines. The medicines that can sometimes harm the kidneys include:
Antibiotics, such as gentamicin and streptomycin.
Pain medicines, such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
Some blood pressure medicines, such as ACE inhibitors.
The dyes used in some X-ray tests.
A sudden blockage that stops urine from flowing out of the kidneys. Kidney stones, a tumor, an injury, or an enlarged prostate gland can cause a blockage.
You have a greater chance of getting acute renal failure if:
You are an older adult.
You have a long-term health problem such as kidney or liver disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart failure, or obesity.
You are already very ill and are in the hospital or intensive care (ICU). Heart surgery or belly surgery or a bone marrow transplant can make you more likely to have kidney failure.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of acute renal failure may include:
Little or no urine when you urinate.
Swelling, especially in your legs and feet.
Not feeling like eating.
Nausea and vomiting.
Feeling confused, anxious and restless, or sleepy.
Pain in the back just below the rib cage. This is called flank pain.
Some people may not have any symptoms.
How is acute renal failure diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask about symptoms you may have, what medicines you take, and what tests you have had. Your symptoms can help point to the cause of your kidney problem.
Blood and urine tests can check how well your kidneys are working. A chemistry screen can show if you have normal levels of sodium (salt), potassium, and calcium. You may also have an ultrasound. This imaging test lets your doctor see your kidneys.
If you are already in the hospital, tests done for other problems also may find kidney failure.
How is it treated?
Your doctor or a kidney specialist (nephrologist) will try to treat the problem that is causing your kidneys to fail. At the same time, the doctor will try to:
Help your kidneys rest. You may have dialysis. This treatment uses a machine to do the work of your kidneys until they recover. It will help you feel better.
Prevent other problems. You may take antibiotics to prevent or treat infections. You also may take other medicines to get rid of extra fluid and keep your body’s minerals in balance.
You can help yourself heal by taking your medicines as your doctor tells you to. You also may need to follow a special diet to keep your kidneys from working too hard. You may need to limit sodium, potassium, and phosphorus. A dietitian can help you plan meals.