The symptoms of kidney failure vary with the cause and its severity.
In the early stages of the disease, most patients are asymptomatic as the kidneys possess tremendous reserve and are therefore resilient to the changes that are contributing to the kidney dysfunction. However, as the kidneys start to decompensate further, certain features will now show up. These could be:
- Fluid retention, which means that the body is unable to excrete fluid and this causes puffiness, swelling of the arms and legs and in more advanced cases, fluid buildup in the lungs, called pulmonary edema.
- Dehydration in its severe form will cause temporary renal dysfunction and manifests as thirst, dry mouth, rapid heart rate and weakness.
- Low urine output
- Urinary complaints like frequency and urgency
- Easy bruising of the skin and bleeding
- Fatigue and confusion
- Nausea with or without vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Pain in the muscles, joints and bones
Causes of kidney failure
Kidney failure could be temporary or permanent.
Temporary kidney failure is usually seen in hospitalized patients who are critically ill from some other cause. Examples include heart failure where the kidneys shut down temporarily because of low blood flow to the kidneys or severe infection in another organ system of the body that can trigger sepsis and cause all major organs, including the kidneys to start failing.
If the medical team feels that the kidney failure is temporary, the treatment is usually supportive and focuses on treating the cause of the kidney failure. If the kidneys are slow to recover, temporary dialysis might be instituted to tide over the acute phase till the kidneys gradually recover their function.
Chronic kidney failure is also known as end stage renal disease (ESRD) where there is irreversible and permanent damage to the kidneys and therefore the patient will now need some form of dialysis or need a kidney transplant to keep him alive.
Common causes of ESRD include:
- High blood pressure
- Glomerulonephritis, which is a chronic inflammation of the glomeruli, which are responsible for the filtering of the blood in the kidneys
- Other causes include causes from birth such as vesicoureteral reflux, chronic kidney stones, enlarged prostate or certain cancers