Two Parts:Recognizing SymptomsKnowing the Causes of Renal Failure

Renal failure, also known as kidney failure, is a condition that can happen slowly over the course of many years, which is known as chronic renal failure, or very suddenly, which is known as acute renal failure. During renal failure your kidneys aren’t able to perform necessary functions your body needs to stay healthy. If you think you might be at risk of kidney failure, scroll down to Step 1 to learn more about the symptoms and causes of this health issue.

Part 1 of 2: Recognizing Symptoms

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    Keep track of sudden feelings of exhaustion. One of the first signs of kidney failure is tiredness. This is because you’re experiencing anemia. Anemia is when you don’t have enough blood cells in your body. This causes you to feel tired. Because of renal failure, your kidneys can no longer produce the hormone erythropoietin; this hormone triggers your bone marrow to make red blood cells, thus you can become anemic.[1]

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    Look out for shortness of breath. As your kidney begins to fail, metabolic waste products that are mostly acidic begin to accumulate in the body. The lungs will try to compensate for this high acidity by removing carbon-dioxide through hyperventilation. This will cause you to feel like you cannot catch your breath.[2]

    • There may also be water accumulation in the lungs, which makes it difficult to breathe normally. This is because the lungs cannot expand adequately during inspiration due to thef surrounding fluid.
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    Take note if you suddenly become very itchy. Renal failure causes pruritus; pruritus is the medical term for itchiness. This itchiness is created phosphorus builds up in your blood. All foods contain a certain amount of phosphorus but some foods, such as dairy products, contain more phosphorus than others. Healthy kidneys are able to filter and remove phosphorus from your body. However, during renal failure, phosphorus stays in your body and causes crystals to form on the skin, resulting in itching.[3]

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    Keep track of any urinary changes. Renal failure causes urinary changes. Damage to the renal tubules results in polyuria, which means excess production of urine and usually occurs in the beginning stages of renal failure. Renal failure can also cause decreased amounts of urine, which usually occurs from more advanced renal failure. Other urinary changes may include:

    • Proteinuria: During renal failure protein and red blood cells leak in the urine. Protein in the urine causes foamy urine
    • Hematuria: Dark orange urine is the result of red blood cells in the urine.
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    Notice if any of your body parts are swollen. Edema is the medical term for fluid buildup in your body. When your kidneys are no longer functioning as they should, fluid builds up in the cells and causes swelling, mostly in the hands, feet, legs and face.[4]

    • If too much fluid builds up it the body it can cause fluid to build up in the lungs resulting in congestive heart failure.
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    Keep track of any heart palpitations you may feel. During kidney failure, potassium cannot be excreted properly. High potassium is bad for the heart and may cause fatal arrhythmia and ventricular fibrillation. The initial symptom of arrhythmia and other cardiac problems is heart palpitation.[5]

    • Many fruits contain potassium so it is not recommended that renal failure patients eat fruit.
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    See a doctor if you feel dizzy or mentally sluggish. Urea is an important waste product. During kidney failure, it accumulates in the body and can reach the brain. You may then feel dizziness, poor concentration and mental apathy.

    • If the level of urea is high enough the condition is called uremia. It may damage brain and can lead to coma.
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    Watch out for a metallic taste in your mouth. Ammonia is produced from the breakdown of proteins in your body. During renal failure your kidneys can no longer properly filter and remove ammonia from your body. High levels of ammonia in your blood can cause a metallic taste and bad breath. You may also experience a loss of appetite and weight loss.

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    Monitor any nausea you may feel. Renal failure causes nausea because your kidney stops working, which creates a buildup of toxins in your body. The term uremic refers to the occurrence of high levels of toxins in your body, which can make you feel tired, sluggish, and confused.

    • Uremia requires immediate medical attention such as dialysis
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    Keep track of any lower back, leg, or side pain you may feel. A genetic condition known as polycystic diseases causes fluid filled cysts to build up in the kidney and sometimes the liver. The fluid in the cysts contains toxins that can injure the nerves in the lower extremities, resulting in neuropathy, the disfunction of one or more of the peripheral nerves. Neuropathy, in turn, causes pain in the lower back and legs.[6]

    • This pain can feel like numbness, a tingling sensation, or a burning sensation.
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    Be aware that in some cases, there may be no symptoms. Sometimes, particularly when it involves chronic renal failure, no symptoms will occur. This is why it is so important to visit your doctor regularly to make sure that everything is operating smoothly. Symptoms will only appear when the kidney can no longer remove waste products from the body or maintain water balance.


Part 2 of 2: Knowing the Causes of Renal Failure

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    Be aware of acute renal failure. Acute means sudden onset. Here the kidney function is rapidly lost and symptoms show up promptly. Fortunately the rapidity of recovery is also amazing if the cause is identified and appropriate measures are taken right away.

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    Know that damage to your kidneys can cause acute renal failure. Examples of issues that could lead to kidney damage include severe sepsis, where the infection sets up widespread inflammation and toxin production that directly damages the kidney; certain medications that are known to cause kidney damage like painkillers, some antibiotics, anticancer drugs; or extensive muscle damage.[7]

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    Learn about Issues with the processing of urine that can cause acute renal failure. These issues are due to an inadequate blood supply to the kidneys. This could happen when the blood volume itself is low, such as large scale bleeding; severe fluid loss through vomiting, diarrhea, or sweating; poor water intake; medications that increase urine volume (such as diuretics); or an obstruction of the main renal blood vessels

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    Find out if you have something blocking the flow of urine out of the kidney that could cause acute renal failure. Tumors or kidney stones may obstruct the ureter (the passage between kidney and bladder) or bladder outlet. An enlarged prostate gland may also impede urine flow. In all cases, there is a urine backflow towards the kidney that impairs its normal function.

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    Learn about chronic renal failure. This type of renal failure develops over many years. It silently kills the victim. Unfortunately often there are no initial symptoms. Most of the cases are progressive and irreversible. Common causes of chronic renal failure are[8]:

    • Poorly controlled diabetes.
    • Long standing hypertension, which is high blood pressure.
    • Chronic glomerulonephritis, which is the inflammation of tiny filters in the kidney.[9]
    • Some genetic diseases like polycystic kidney disease, Alport’s syndrome, Systemic Lupus.
    • Erythematosus, which is the inflammation of the skin.[10]
    • Kidney stones.
    • Reflux nephropathy, which is the backwards flow of urine back into the kidneys.

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