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What causes kidney failure?

There are a number of known causes of kidney failure but in quite a lot of people the cause is never found. The commonest causes are diabetes, high blood pressure and a painless inflammation of the kidneys called glomerulonephritis. There is a progressive loss of the filtering units (nephrons) in the kidney.

Other common causes are the inherited condition of cysts in the kidneys (polycystic kidney disease); repeated kidney infections or kidney infections (pyelonephritis) in childhood; and obstruction to the urine flow.

A quick summary of the common causes of kidney failure:

What happens when the kidneys fail?

If the kidneys are damaged, they may carry on producing urine but become less efficient at removing waste products from the blood. Instead, the waste products continue to circulate and build up in the bloodstream.

At the same time, without the hormones that a healthy kidney would produce, the bone marrow becomes less efficient at producing red cells, so anaemia develops.

For some patients, this may be a very gradual process. Over time, however, it can cause quite a wide range of symptoms. Not everyone will experience all the symptoms. Also, because it can be such a gradual process, some people don’t even realise the effect the symptoms are having until – with treatment – they begin to feel better.

Once the kidney problem has been diagnosed, regular blood tests will be required. Treatment with a variety of drugs may be needed, for example, to control blood pressure.

Remember, your treatment may be changed quite frequently based on the results of your blood tests. You may require dialysis at some time in the future.

What are the symptoms of kidney failure?

Some of the symptoms are:

What are the treatments for kidney failure?

Kidney failure is treated by a combination of methods which include diet, medication, and possibly dialysis. Another option which may be possible for you is to be considered for a kidney transplant.

Diet:
Your kidneys have to remove the left-over waste products from your blood. If they are not working properly, however, the waste products can build up, causing many of the symptoms described in The symptoms of kidney failure.

By altering what you eat, you may be able to reduce the levels of certain waste products and reduce the severity of some symptoms. The key points are to eat healthily and to keep well nourished.

Depending on your condition, altering your diet could:

  • Help keep you feeling well
  • Affect the medication you may need to take
  • Influence dialysis

However, the need for a change in diet is largely based on your blood results and is only advised once these results become raised above the norm. You should not alter your diet without advice from your doctor or a Renal Dietitian.