Acute kidney failure
Acute kidney failure occurs when your kidneys suddenly become unable to filter waste products from your blood. When your kidneys lose their filtering ability, dangerous levels of wastes may accumulate, and your blood’s chemical makeup may get out of balance.
Signs and symptoms of acute kidney failure may include:
- Decreased urine output, occasionally urine output remains normal
- Fluid retention, causing swelling in your legs, ankles or feet
- Shortness of breath
- Seizures or coma in severe cases
- Chest pain or pressure
Sometimes acute kidney failure causes no signs or symptoms and is detected through lab tests done for another reason.
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms of acute kidney failure.
Acute kidney failure can occur when:
- You have a condition that slows blood flow to your kidneys
- You experience direct damage to your kidneys
- Your kidneys’ urine drainage tubes (ureters) become blocked and wastes can’t leave your body through your urine
Conditions that can increase your risk of acute kidney failure include:
- Being hospitalized, especially for a serious condition that requires intensive care
- Advanced age
- Blockages in the blood vessels in your arms or legs (peripheral artery disease)
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure
- Kidney diseases
- Liver diseases
Potential complications of acute kidney failure include:
- Acute kidney failure may lead to a buildup of fluid in your lungs, which can cause shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Muscle weakness
- Permanent kidney damage
- Acute kidney failure can lead to loss of kidney function and, ultimately, death
Tests and diagnosis
If your signs and symptoms suggest that you have acute kidney failure, your doctor may recommend certain tests and procedures to verify your diagnosis. These may include:
- Urine output measurements
- Urine tests
- Blood tests
- Imaging tests
- kidney biopsy
Treatments and drugs
Treatment for acute kidney failure typically requires a hospital stay. Most people with acute kidney failure are already hospitalized. How long you’ll stay in the hospital depends on the reason for your acute kidney failure and how quickly your kidneys recover.
In some cases, you may be able to recover at home.
Treating the underlying cause of your kidney failure
Treatment for acute kidney failure involves identifying the illness or injury that originally damaged your kidneys. Your treatment options depend on what’s causing your kidney failure.
Treating complications until your kidneys recover
Your doctor will also work to prevent complications and allow your kidneys time to heal. Treatments that help prevent complications include:
- Treatments to balance the amount of fluids in your blood
- Medications to control blood potassium
- Medications to restore blood calcium levels
- Dialysis to remove toxins from your blood
Lifestyle and home remedies
- Choose lower potassium foods
- Avoid products with added salt
- Limit phosphorus
- Pay attention to labels when taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications such as aspirin (Ecosprin), acetaminophen (Napa, others) and ibuprofen (Inflam, others). Taking too much of these medications may increase your risk of acute kidney failure.
- If you have kidney disease or another condition that increases your risk of acute kidney failure, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, stay on track with treatment goals and follow your doctor’s recommendations to manage your condition.
- Make a healthy lifestyle a priority. Be active; eat a sensible, balanced diet.