Kidney Failure: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

Symptoms kidney failure will be different depending on whether it's chronic or acute. Know them well to identify the failure and get treatments early.

Every organ in your body has a unique purpose that works in tandem with all of your other organs. The kidney is used to filter waste products from the blood, regulate blood pressure, balance electrolytes, and regulate red blood cell production. While you can live with just one kidney, it is important to watch out for signs of chronic or acute kidney failure.

  • Chronic kidney disease or failure occurs when there is a general loss in kidney function. Chronic kidney disease may not become so obvious until the function is seriously damaged.
  • Acute kidney failure happens when the kidney is suddenly unable to remove waste products from your blood. Sudden acute kidney failure can then result in the dangerous accumulation of waste and a chemical imbalance in your blood.

Causes of Kidney Failure

Some diseases and conditions may cause kidney failure, and these diseases and conditions may be various according to the types of kidney failure.

Kidney Failure Types

Possible Causes

Chronic Kidney Failure

  • Glomerulonephritis-the inflammation of the kidney filters
  • Prolonged urinary tract obstruction
  • Vesicoureteral reflux-urine backed up into your kidneys
  • Constant kidney infection-pyelonephritis
  • A polycystic kidney
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 1 or 2 Diabetes
  • Inflammation of the tubules and surrounding structures in the kidney – interstitial nephritis

Acute Kidney Failure

Blood Flow Slowly

  • Loss of fluid or blood
  • Blood pressure medications or use of aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, MotrinIB,etc.), naproxen (Aleve), and others
  • Heart attack or heart disease
  • Any type of infection
  • Failing liver
  • Anaphylactic reactions to common allergens
  • Harsh burns
  • Dehydration

Kidney Damage

  • Blood clots around the kidneys
  • Cholesterol deposits blocking flow within the kidneys
  • Inflammation of the kidney filters, formed from Lupus
  • Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, or prematurely destroyed red blood cells
  • Any type of infection
  • Plasma cell cancer
  • Scleroderma, a rare disease that affects the skin and connective tissues
  • A rare blood disorder known as TTP
  • Alcohol, heavy metals, cocaine, or other toxins
  • Inflammation of the blood vessels


  • Cancer in the bladder, cervix, colon, or prostate
  • Large chemical deposits in the kidney – typically referred to as kidney stones
  • Damage to the bladder controlling nerves
  • Urinary tract blood clots
  • Kidney stones
  • Enlarged prostate

Symptoms of Kidney Failure

Kidney failure symptoms have been listed in the following form. They will be different according to the types of kidney failure.

Acute Kidney Failure

Chronic Kidney Failure (CKF)


Symptoms of CKF at early stage

Symptoms of CKF at late stage

  • Decrease in output of urine
  • Swelling in your extremities caused by fluid retention, specifically in the legs, ankles, and feet
  • Sleepiness
  • Lethargic
  • Easily confused
  • Constantly feeling nauseous
  • Severe cases may have seizures or end up in coma
  • Pressure or pain in the chest
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Not very hungry
  • Nauseous and lethargic
  • Itching dry skin
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Generally feeling ill
  • Headaches
  • Abnormal skin color
  • Pain in the bones
  • Difficulty thinking, excessively lethargic
  • Swelling and/or numbness in the extremities, specifically hands and feet
  • Cramps
  • Bad breath
  • Blood in the stool
  • Constantly thirsty
  • Amenorrhea – the absence of menstrual periods
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Morning sickness
  • Lack of sex drive and function
  • Bruising easily
  • Difficulty breathing

Treatments of Kidney Failure

Kidney failure symptoms can sometimes be very uncomfortable and sometimes serious. And it's important to get treatments early to avoid unnecessary complications.

1. Medical Treatments

Hemodialysis is the process of using a dialyzer, a canister connected to the hemodialysis machine. The dialyzer functions as an artificial kidney that your blood travels through, after flowing through a series of tubes, to remove wastes, extra salt and extra water before returning back to your body through another series of tubes. Usually three times a week, the treatment can last from three to five hours or longer, during which you can read, write, sleep, talk, watch TV, do crossword puzzles, or even do a simple craft like cross-stitch or knitting.

  • Peritoneal Dialysis

A small catheter is placed into your belly, through which a mixture of minerals and sugar—called dextrose—dissolved in water draw wastes, chemicals, and extra water from your blood into the peritoneal membrane, and then into the dialysis solution. The entire process requires an exchange of draining and refilling, which means that waste would be drained out through a tube before refilling your abdomen with a fresh dialysis solution.

  • Transplantation

Sometimes the best treatment for end-stage kidney failure is to receive a new kidney from either a living or deceased donor. Due to development of specific and less toxic immunosuppressant drugs during the last decade, a higher success rate has come with kidney transplants nowadays. A kidney transplant means that the donated kidney is placed into your body and the failing kidney is removed. After surgery, you will be provided with medications to prevent the new kidney from being rejected by your body.

2. Avoid or Limit the Following Foods

Besides medical treatments dietary changes are also necessary to relieve kidney failure symptoms.

  • Salted Foods

Watch out for foods with added salt or naturally high in salt, such as canned vegetables, processed meats, cheese, frozen dinners, and fast food. Eating less salt will prevent complications in your blood vessels, allowing the kidney to do its work. Foods with less salt will include most naturally organic products.

  • Potassium Foods

Low potassium foods include apples, cabbage, green beans, grapes and strawberries. Be sure to avoid potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, oranges and bananas, as these foods are typically higher in potassium and can be difficult for the kidney to process.

  • Protein Foods

While most health conscious eaters find it important to eat a lot of protein, those at risk of chronic kidney failure should avoid foods high in protein. Foods high in protein will be eggs, lean meats, beans, cheese, milk, etc. Low protein foods will be fruits, vegetables, and grains.

  • Phosphorus Foods

Lastly, you should avoid phosphorous, which is a mineral found in some foods that can weaken your bones and cause itchiness when you have too much in your blood. Foods that have phosphorus are dairy, nuts and nut butters, and dried beans.

Want to know more information on how to take care of your kidney? You can watch the video: 

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