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Home > Services > Kidney Care > Kidney Conditions > Chronic Renal Failure

Chronic Renal Failure

Chronic Renal Failure

Definition

Chronic renal failure occurs when a kidney is damaged and cannot work effectively. Kidneys clean waste from the blood, which passes out of the body in urine.

The Kidneys

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Causes

Chronic renal failure is often caused by diseases such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Vascular diseases
  • Kidney diseases
  • Obstructive diseases, such as kidney stones
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Acute tubular necrosis
  • Glomerular disease
  • Renal tubular disorders
  • Toxin/drug-induced kidney disease
  • Severe infection
  • Autoimmune diseases

Risk

The following factors increase your chance of developing chronic renal failure. If you have any of these risk factors, tell your doctor:

  • Race: African Americans more than Caucasians
  • Genetics: type 1 diabetes, polycystic kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Urinary reflux, also known as vesicoureteral
  • Chronic urinary tract infections
  • Exposure to high levels of lead
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Other family members with kidney disease
  • A previous kidney transplant

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Not sleeping well
  • Less desire to eat than usual
  • Nausea
  • Itching
  • Shortness of breath
  • Altered taste
  • Altered mental state

Diagnosis

Your doctors will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Biopsy

Images may be taken of your kidneys. This can be done with ultrasound.

Patients who are already at high risk for kidney disease should be tested more frequently so any damage can be diagnosed early. Patients with kidney disease will be referred to a specialist called a nephrologist, who is dedicated to managing kidney diseases.

Treatment

Although chronic kidney disease cannot be cured, it is possible to slow the damage to the kidney in most patients. Your doctor may recommend any of the following:

  • Controlling protein in the urine by restricting the amount of protein in the diet or medication
  • Taking ACE inhibitors or angiotensin II receptor antagonists to slow the progression to chronic renal failure
  • Reducing the use of and the dosages of drugs that may be toxic to the kidneys
  • Managing the complications of chronic renal disease such as fluid overload, high blood phosphate or potassium levels, low blood level of calcium, and anemia
  • Lowering high blood pressure
  • Controlling blood sugar and lipid levels
  • Staying hydrated
  • Controlling salt in the diet
  • Quitting smoking
  • Undergoing dialysis, a medical process that cleans the blood
  • Having a kidney transplant
  • Counseling for you and your family about dialysis and/or transplant options

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of chronic kidney failure, take the following steps:

  • Get a physical exam every year that includes a urine test to monitor your kidney's health.
  • Do not smoke. Stop smoking if you are a smoker.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Drink water and other fluids to stay hydrated.
  • People who have diabetes, previously known kidney disease, high blood pressure, or are over the age of 60 should be screened regularly for kidney disease.
  • People with a family history of kidney disease should also be screened regularly.

 

Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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