Acute renal failure, or acute kidney failure, is a sudden loss of kidney function. The kidney has a critical job filtering out the blood from toxins and chemicals, and when the kidney is unable to function properly, the body may become overloaded with toxins, creating an imbalance in chemical makeup in the bloodstream. Acute renal failure occurs over a few hours or days unlike chronic renal failure, which occurs over a number of years. It is more common among people who are hospitalized and individuals who have compromised immune systems or are critically ill. These ten symptoms of acute renal failure may help you determine whether you or a loved one are experiencing kidney failure.
Swelling and fluid retention
The kidneys flush out excess fluids and electrolytes from the body, and pass them on to the bladder to eventually be eliminated. If this is not possible due to kidney failure, the fluids may be retained in the body leading to swelling—especially in the legs, ankles, and feet.
Decreased urine output
The kidneys take in blood and filter it out—they get rid of excess fluids, waste products, and electrolytes which then get made into urine and passed on to the bladder. When the kidneys are not doing their job properly, they cannot filter out the toxins and produce urine. As a result, people who are experiencing acute renal failure, or who are the end stages of renal disease may urinate less often.
Metallic taste in mouth
When the kidneys are not functioning properly, they are unable to remove toxins and waste matter from the body. This leads to a buildup of toxins in the system including urea, a nitrogenous waste product produced by the liver and eliminated by the kidneys. The buildup of toxins such as these can cause an overflow into the intestinal tract, which then leads to bacterial overgrowth. This is why a person with acute renal failure or renal disease may have a metallic taste in the mouth and bad breath.
Pain in the chest or between the ribs and hips
Acute renal failure patients may suffer from chest pain for a number of reasons. One reason is that excess fluid in the body may accumulate in the pleural cavity—or the chest—causing hydrothorax. This can be a very painful and life-threatening condition. Renal failure also increases the chance of pulmonary embolism, which is another life-threatening condition that can cause chest pain. Abnormal kidney function can lead to a high potassium level in the body. Since potassium regulates the heartbeat, too much of it can cause arrhythmia with symptoms of fatigue and chest pain. Kidney failure can also cause pain in the kidneys which are located toward your back between the ribs and the hips.
A person with acute renal failure may experience fatigue for a number of reasons. Kidney failure often comes hand-in-hand with anemia. An individual who has anemia is not receiving the proper oxygen supply throughout the body, leading to fatigue. Kidney failure can also cause arrhythmia—or abnormal rhythm of the heartbeat—which also causes fatigue.
Shortness of breath
Kidney failure causes excess fluid buildup in the body—including in the lungs. When the lungs contain fluid, they cannot take in as much air, causing a person to feel short of breath. Kidney failure can also cause anemia, which means that your body is not receiving the proper oxygen supply, also leading to shortness of breath.
Easy bruising and bleeding
The buildup of toxins in the body due to abnormal kidney function can affect the platelets in the blood. The platelets may be prevented from sticking together which causes easy bruising and bleeding.
High blood pressure
One of the kidneys’ main jobs is blood pressure regulation. Because the kidneys balance out the makeup of your blood, they ensure that the volume of liquids in the body is stable. They remove waste products, toxins, and excess electrolytes from the blood, regulating your blood pressure. The force at which your heart pumps blood—or, your blood pressure—is determined by the blood volume among other things. When your kidneys are not functioning properly, it directly affects your blood pressure.
Seizures are common in End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) and serious cases of acute renal failure. They are especially common among those on dialysis. Seizures occur when there is abnormal electrical activity in the brain. During kidney failure, there is an imbalance in electrolytes—like calcium and potassium—in the body. Patients on dialysis may suffer from seizures due to hemodynamic instability, aluminum intoxication, or dialysis disequilibrium syndrome.
Uremia is the condition in which there is excess urea in the blood. Because the kidneys can no longer flush out the nitrogenous waste compounds in your body due to kidney failure, they may flood the system and lead to a coma. A patient with ESRD or acute renal failure is in danger of going into a coma if that patient does not receive the proper treatment. Dialysis or kidney transplant can prevent the disease from reaching this stage.
Acute renal failure is a serious condition that most commonly affects people who suffer from kidney disease. The best way to prevent acute renal failure is to prevent and treat diseases which can lead to acute renal failure. Living a healthy lifestyle and going to yearly check-ups are the best ways to ensure good health.