Acute kidney failure
Acute kidney failure
Acute kidney failure is the sudden loss of your kidneys' ability to perform their main function of eliminating excess fluid and salts (electrolytes) as well as waste material from your blood. When your kidneys lose their filtering ability, dangerous levels of fluid, electrolytes and wastes accumulate in your body.
Acute kidney failure, which is also called acute kidney injury, develops rapidly over a few hours or a few days. Acute kidney failure is most common in people who are already hospitalized, particularly in critically ill people who need intensive care.
Acute kidney failure can be fatal and requires intensive treatment. However, acute kidney failure may be reversible. If you're otherwise in good health, you may recover normal kidney function.
Kidney cross section
All your blood flows through your kidneys, which are the key organs in the complex system that removes excess fluid and waste material from the blood. Blood that flows into your kidneys is diffused ...
Signs and symptoms of acute kidney failure may include:
Sometimes acute kidney failure causes no signs or symptoms and is detected through laboratory tests done for another reason.
When to see a doctor
Acute kidney failure occurs when your kidneys suddenly become unable to filter wastes from your blood. Acute kidney failure can occur when something damages your kidneys, or it can occur when another condition slows blood flow to your kidneys. Acute kidney failure can also occur when the wastes filtered by your kidneys aren't able to leave your body through your urine.
Diseases and conditions that slow blood flow to the kidneys
Diseases and conditions that may damage the kidneys
Diseases and conditions that block urine from leaving the body
Acute kidney failure almost always occurs in connection with another medical condition or event. Conditions that can increase your risk of acute kidney failure include:
Potential complications of acute kidney failure include:
Preparing for your appointment
Most people are already hospitalized when they develop acute kidney failure. If you or a loved one develops signs and symptoms that worry you, bring up your concerns with the doctor or nurse who is overseeing care.
If you aren't in the hospital, but have signs or symptoms that worry you, make an appointment with your family doctor or a general practitioner. If your doctor suspects you may have kidney problems, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in kidney disease (nephrologist).
Before your meeting with the doctor, write down any questions. Questions to consider asking may include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment anytime you don't understand something.
Tests and diagnosis
If your signs and symptoms suggest you may have acute kidney failure, your doctor may recommend tests and procedures to verify your diagnosis. Tests and procedures may include:
Treatments and drugs
Treatment for acute kidney failure typically requires a hospital stay. Most people with acute kidney failure are already hospitalized. How long you'll stay in the hospital depends on the reason for your acute kidney failure and how quickly your kidneys recover.
Treating the underlying cause of your kidney failure
Treating complications until your kidneys recover
Lifestyle and home remedies
During your recovery from acute kidney failure, your doctor may recommend a special diet to help support your kidneys and limit the work they must do. Your doctor may refer you to a dietitian who can analyze your current diet and suggest ways to make your diet easier on your kidneys.
Depending on your situation, your dietitian may recommend that you:
As your kidneys recover, you may no longer need to eat a special diet.
Acute kidney failure is often impossible to predict or prevent. But you may reduce your risk by taking care of your kidneys. Try to:
Last Updated: 2011-10-18
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