The kidneys remove waste in the form of urine from the body. They also balance the water and electrolyte content in the blood by filtering salt and water. When one or both of the kidneys are not able to perform these functions, kidney failure may result.
Kidney failure is divided into 2 categories:
Kidney disease occurs when nephrons lose their ability to function normally. Nephrons are cells in the kidney that filter the blood. Damage to the nephrons may occur suddenly after an injury or poisoning. Many kidney diseases take years or even decades to cause damage that is noticeable.
The 2 most commons causes of kidney disease are:
Others causes include:
Factors that increase your chance of kidney failure include:
Some kidney diseases begin without any symptoms. As the disease progresses, some of the following symptoms may develop:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:
Most chronic kidney diseases are not reversible, but there are treatments that may be used to help preserve as much kidney function as possible. In the case of acute renal failure, treatment focuses on the illness or injury that caused the problem.
Medications used in acute or chronic kidney failure may include:
Talk to your doctor about other medications you are taking. These include prescribed and over-the-counter medications, as well as herbs and supplements. Since the kidneys are no longer working properly, waste can build up in your body.
This may be the right option for some people. Having a successful transplant depends on many factors, such as what is causing the kidney damage and overall health.
You can take the following steps to help your kidneys stay healthy longer:
In some cases, you cannot prevent kidney failure, but there are some steps you can take that will lower your risk:
National Kidney Foundation
National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse
Canadian Diabetes Association
The Kidney Foundation of Canada
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Use of herbal supplements in chronic kidney disease. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/herbalsupp. Published 2015. Accessed June 1, 2016.
The kidneys and how they work. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/Anatomy/kidneys-how-they-work/Pages/anatomy.aspx. Updated May 2014. Accessed June 1, 2016.
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10/10/2013 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed Di lorio B, Molony D, Bell C, et al. Sevelamer versus calcium carbonate in incident hemodialysis patients: Results of an open-label 24-month randomized clinical trial. Am J Kidney Dis. 2013;62(4):771-778.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Adrienne Carmack, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.