Acute Kidney Failure

1 What is Acute Kidney Failure?

Acute kidney failure or acute kidney injury results from the sudden loss of the kidney’s functions. This may happen over a few days or within hours in some patients.

The kidneys become unable to filter out waste, excess salts and fluid from the body. This leads to an increase in the body's fluid levels, and also in the accumulation of waste materials.

This also affects other organs such as the heart, brain and lungs, and is considered life-threatening.

People who are hospitalized or are critically ill have an increased risk of developing acute renal failure. This requires immediate medical attention.

In people who are otherwise healthy, kidney failure is reversible.

2 Symptoms

In the early stages of Acute kidney failure, the conditions may remain asymptomatic.

Urine production may be subnormal in that stage, a symptom which is often ignored. In some cases, urine production may remain normal.

As more fluid is retained in the body, legs and feet may have swelling. Some other common symptoms include:

  • Blood in stool
  • Decrease in appetite and sensations
  • Seizures
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Metallic taste in mouth
  • Tremors in hands
  • Chest pain
  • Drowsiness

3 Causes

The most common causes of Acute kidney failure include:

  • Acute tubular necrosis
  • Sudden dehydration
  • Kidney injury due to poison
  • Kidney injury due to certain medications
  • Autoimmune diseases like acute nephritic syndrome
  • Blockage in the urinary tract

Damage may also occur due to reduced flow of blood through the kidneys. Severe dehydration and low blood pressure leads to reduced blood flow into the organs.

It may also result from:

  • Shock
  • Burns
  • Hemorrhage
  • Other medical conditions
  • Surgery

Blood clots formed in the kidneys also lead to loss of kidney function.

Conditions like hemolytic uremic syndrome, idiopathic thrombocytopenic thrombotic purpura (ITTP), reactions to transfusions, and scleroderma may lead to blood clots.

Certain infections like septicemia and acute pyelonephritis also lead to blood clots in the organs. They are most commonly found among elderly people, particularly those who have kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, and heart failure.

People who are in an intensive care unit also have an increased risk of getting this condition.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Diagnosis of acute kidney failure is based on the symptoms and signs noted after a thorough physical examination.

The body may show generalized swelling due to retention of fluid. A number of tests are also conducted to verify the diagnosis such as:

  • Blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
  • Serum potassium glomerular filtration rate
  • Creatinine clearance
  • Serum creatinine
  • Serum sodium
  • Urinalysis

Imaging techniques like ultrasounds, X-rays, abdominal CT scans, and abdominal MRIs are also useful in diagnosing kidney failure and in locating blocks in the urinary tract.

5 Treatment

The focus of Acute kidney failure treatment strategy is to improve the functioning of the kidneys and to prevent accumulation of fluid and waste materials in the blood.

The amount of fluid and food intake is restricted. The recommended diet is low in sodium, potassium and protein.

Infections, if any, are treated with antibiotics. Diuretics help in eliminating fluid and preventing its accumulation.

Calcium and insulin are used to prevent the accumulation of potassium in the blood. Infusion of calcium helps to restore normal levels of this element in the blood when it falls below the normal mark.


In many cases, dialysis may be needed to clear the waste materials.

Dialysis is recommended when potassium levels are very high and also if the patient starts showing changes in mental status.

Symptoms of inflammation in the heart also call for dialysis treatment.

6 Prevention

Treating medical conditions that may lead to acute kidney failure is the most ideal way to prevent it.

An overdose of certain medications is known to lead to kidney failure. This is particularly true if the patient has underlying diabetes or hypertension.

One should strictly follow their physician’s instructions regarding the dose of medication.

Having a healthy diet, developing a habit of regular exercise and following a healthy lifestyle also goes a long way in preventing acute renal failure.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Dandelion, herbal tea, cranberry juice, parsley juice, and aloe vera juice are used as alternate home remedies for the treatment of acute kidney failure.

Apple cedar vinegar and extra virgin oil are also used to relieve the symptoms of kidney failure.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

There are different ways to adapt your lifestyle in coping with Acute Kidney Failure.

Avoiding phosphorous, meat, and taking probiotics are beneficial in controlling the symptoms.

Cutting down on salt and choosing options with low amounts of potassium also help in coping with the conditions.

9 Risks and Complications

The most common complications associated with acute kidney failure are chest pain,weakness of the muscles, permanent damage to the kidneys and fluid accumulation in the lungs.

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