Renal Failure

Renal failure is a medical condition where the balance of water, salt and other minerals in the blood is impaired due to kidney malfunction.
When the kidneys fail to function properly, minerals and metabolic waste fluids accumulate in the body and excessive amounts result in dangerous consequences.

Absence of urine production, decreased urine production and swelling of legs and feet are among primary symptoms of renal failure. 

Symptoms of renal failure

Symptoms might be subtle in early stages of renal failure. 
When kidneys fail to function properly, water and electrolyte balance in the body deteriorates.

As kidney failure progresses, shortness of breath and  weakness become noticeable. There might be swelling throughout the body, particularly on the legs and feet.

As kidneys fail to function properly, decreased or absent urine  is observed.
Other symptoms are loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. Additionally, it might lead to mental confusion, anxiety, irritability and sleep disorders.

Other symptoms of kidney failure include hiccups, muscle cramps, twitching muscles, itching, chest pain, uncontrolled blood pressure.
Symptoms for renal failure may vary from person to person or can be confused with symptoms of another disorder.

As the kidneys adapt to any condition very well, severe symptoms of kidney failure might not be noticeable until kidneys are irreversibly damaged.
Even if the symptoms are mild, when you notice an abnormal condition it is recommended that you consult a physician and take necessary tests.

Renal failure is classified in 5 main groups by its causes;

1) Acute Renal Failure due to Prerenal causes: This type of failure occurs due to decreased kidney blood flow. When the blood flow decreases, kidneys cannot filter blood properly. This type of renal failure can usually be cured with the treatment of underlying disorder reducing the blood flow.

2) Acute Renal Failure: This type of failure occurs after traumas directly affecting the kidneys. The causes of such renal failure are accidents, crush injury, toxin overload, lack of oxygen in the kidneys, excessive blood loss and kidney infections.

3) Chronic Renal Failure due to Prerenal causes: If acute prerenal failure is left untreated and the kidneys cannot filter the blood, the condition turns into acute renal failure. When that occurs, the kidneys begin to shrink and lose function over time.

4) Chronic Renal Failure: Crush injury, trauma, and untreated kidney infections can cause acute renal failure to turn into chronic renal failure.

5) Chronic Renal Failure due to Postrenal causes: This type of kidney failure occurs when the urinary tract remains obstructed for a long period and the urine can not be voided completely.

Risk Increasing Factors

In addition to major causes of  renal failure, excessive dehydration, medications for hypertension, heart failure, heart attack, infections, hepatic failure, frequent use of particular medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, advil, etc., lupus disease, bone marrow cancer, vascular occlusion due to hypercholesterolemia, excessive alcohol consumption, use of stimulant drugs, infections in blood vessels, serious burns resulting in water and protein loss also are among the causes of kidney failure.

How is it diagnosed?

Once disturbing symptoms emerge, your physician will perform a physical examination. S/he may ask about your daily urine volume, whether you have experienced any problems during urination or you have had problems with blood pressure and ask about other symptoms that you might not have recognized.

Various tests and procedures are to be applied to ensure complete diagnosis of renal failure. Urine and blood tests help your physician to determine if your kidneys function properly.

Imaging methods such as ultrasound and / or tomography might be applied to see if there is a change in the size and shape of the kidneys.

Rarely, kidney biopsy might be required.

How is it treated?

Treatment depends on the cause and stage of the kidney failure.

For instance, if renal failure is due to the fluid depletion in blood, your physician might administer intravenous therapy as fluid support.

On the contrary, if renal failure is due to fluid overload, diuretics might be prescribed.

The level of various minerals (calcium, potassium, etc.) found in the patient’s blood  Might return to normal levels with medication.

Dialysis treatment might be applied to remove toxins increased due to renal insufficiency. The dialyzer, that acts as an artificial kidney, filters the blood, cleans the toxins and returns the cleaned blood to the body.

What is the proper diet?, How should we eat?

Proper diet is very important to protect the kidneys during and after renal failure therapy.

Your physician might refer you to a dietitian to form an appropriate diet plan.

Patients with renal failure should restrict intake of potassium-rich vegetables, such as banana, orange, potato, spinach and tomato; sodium-rich food such as canned, frozen, ready-to-eat and fast foods; phosphorus-rich nutrients such as milk and nuts.

How should you protect from renal failure?

To be protected from kidney failure, it is required to strictly abide by the diet to avoid harmful effects of food on kidneys.

Reducing sodium intake, avoiding foods with high amounts of fat, limiting alcohol intake, reducing and/or quitting smoking will help kidneys function properly. The more you consume these products, the more your kidneys have to struggle to clear their adverse effects.

The kidneys that have constantly overexerted might get exhausted.

Patients with hypertension and diabetes should abide by their prescribed medications and keep their blood pressure and blood glucose under control in order to prevent developing renal failure in future.
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