HealthTree Logo
search more_vert

What is Kidney Failure?

Kidney failure occurs when your kidneys have stopped working and their function cannot be completed which causes an accumulation of fluids and waste inside of your body. The loss of kidney function can happen suddenly in a matter of hours or days (acute renal failure or ARF) or over time. Sometimes occurring over multiple years of chronic kidney disease leading to renal failure or end stage renal disease (ESRD).

What causes kidney failure?

Kidney failure is caused by multiple factors that all can lead to an acute or chronic renal disease. The most common causes are diabetes, hypertension and some autoimmune diseases, such as lupus (SLE).

How can I know if I have renal failure?

There are a lot of symtoms that a patient with renal failure may have such as swelling, shortness of breath, a decrease in urination frequency, confusion, etc.

In order to know if you have renal failure, your doctor may perform a few tests:

  • eGFR blood test - An eGFR blood test is a test that gives your doctor an idea of your kidneys function based on your blood work, age, race, sex and body type 
  • Urine test - A urine test lets doctors know how effectively and efficiently your kidneys are removing waste from your body. It can also alert your doctor if you are losing abnormally high amounts of protein.

What can I do if I have a renal failure?

Getting a dianosis of kidney failure can feel very overwhelming. The first and most important thing you can do is schedule an appointment with a nephrologist. Nephrologists are doctors that specialize in kidney problems. Your nephrologists may run some additional tests; which can assist in knowing the cause of the renal failure. After testing and examination your nephrologist can recommend and advise on treatment options:

  • Dialysis: Is a process that uses a machine to pull your blood out of the body, clear it and put your blood back in your body.
  • Kidney transplant: Is a surgery which removes your dysfunctional kidney and replaces it with a healthy one. The healthy kidney is donated from a living donor, or from a diseased registered organ donor.
  • Specific treatments: Some patients may have renal failure caused by a disease or conditions that can impact the kidneys, but can be completely reversible. In these cases, the treatment needed will depend on the primary disease.
  • Palliative Care: you may decide not to go on dialysis or recieve a transplant or go through any other form of treatment. In that case, you can recieve palliative care to manage your kidney failure sympoms but this will not keep you alive.

On average, the life expectancy of patients on dialysis is approximately 5-10 years. However, there are other things that can help extend the duration of life. For people recieving a kidney transplant the life expectancy can reach 15-25 years, also depending on many other factors such as age and other medical conditions. 

Get the latest thought leadership on Kidney Disease delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to the weekly "HealthTree Community for Kidney Disease Newsletter" for Kidney Disease news, life with Kidney Disease stories, Kidney Disease clinical trials, Kidney Disease 101 articles and events with Kidney Disease experts.