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What is kidney failure?

Your kidneys are a pair of organs located toward your lower back. One kidney is on each side of your spine. They filter your blood and remove toxins from your body. Your kidneys send toxins to your bladder. Your body later removes toxins during urination.

kidney-failure

Kidney failure occurs when your kidneys lose the ability to filter waste from your blood sufficiently. Many factors can interfere with your kidney health and function, such as:

  • toxic exposure to environmental pollutants or certain medications
  • certain acute and chronic diseases
  • severe dehydration
  • kidney trauma

Your body becomes overloaded with toxins if your kidneys can’t do their regular job. This can lead to kidney failure and even be life-threatening if it’s left untreated.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of kidney failure?

Many different symptoms can occur during kidney failure. Usually someone with kidney failure will have a few symptoms of the disease, though sometimes none are present. Possible symptoms include:

  • a reduced amount of urine
  • swelling of your legs, ankles, and feet from retention of fluids caused by the failure of your kidneys to eliminate water waste
  • unexplained shortness of breath
  • excessive drowsiness or fatigue
  • persistent nausea
  • confusion
  • pain or pressure in your chest
  • seizures
  • coma

What causes kidney failure?

People who are most at risk for kidney failure usually have one or more of the following causes:

Loss of blood flow to the kidneys

A sudden loss of blood flow to your kidneys can prompt kidney failure. Some diseases and conditions that cause loss of blood flow to the kidneys include:

  • a heart attack
  • heart disease
  • scarring of the liver or liver failure
  • dehydration
  • a severe burn
  • an allergic reaction
  • a severe infection, such as sepsis

High blood pressure and anti-inflammatory medications can also limit blood flow.

Urine elimination problems

When your body can’t eliminate urine, toxins build up and overload the kidneys. Some cancers can block the urine passageways. These include prostate (most common type in men), colon, cervical, and bladder cancers.

Other conditions can interfere with urination and possibly lead to kidney failure, including:

  • kidney stones
  • an enlarged prostate
  • blood clots within your urinary tract
  • damage to the nerves that control your bladder

Other causes

Some diseases and conditions may lead to kidney failure, including:

  • a blood clot in or around your kidneys
  • infection
  • an overload of toxins from heavy metals
  • drugs and alcohol
  • vasculitis, an inflammation of blood vessels
  • lupus, an autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation of many body organs
  • glomerulonephritis, an inflammation of the small blood vessels of the kidneys
  • hemolytic uremic syndrome, which involves the breakdown of red blood cells following a bacterial infection, usually of the intestines
  • multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in your bone marrow
  • scleroderma, an autoimmune disease that affects your skin
  • thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, a disorder that causes blood clots in small vessels
  • chemotherapy drugs, medications that treat cancer and some autoimmune diseases
  • dyes used in some imaging tests
  • certain antibiotics
  • uncontrolled diabetes