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

Chronic Renal Failure

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.

Chronic renal failure is often caused by:

  • 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

Are You at Risk?

The following factors increase your chance of developing chronic renal failure:

  • African-American ethnicity
  • 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
  • Family history of kidney disease
  • A previous kidney transplant


Symptoms include:

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

Diagnosis & Treatment at UVA

Your doctor may want to test your bodily fluids and tissues. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Biopsy

Your doctor may also want to take images of your kidneys with ultrasound.

Although chronic kidney disease cannot be cured, it's possible to slow the damage to the kidney. Your doctor may recommend any of the following:

  • Restrict the amount of protein in your diet or medication to control protein in the urine 
  • Take ACE inhibitors or angiotensin II receptor antagonists to slow the progression to chronic renal failure
  • Reduce the use of and the dosages of drugs that may be toxic to the kidneys
  • Manage the complications of chronic renal disease such as fluid overload, high blood phosphate or potassium levels, low blood level of calcium and anemia
  • Lower high blood pressure
  • Control blood sugar and lipid levels
  • Stay hydrated
  • Control salt in the diet
  • Quit smoking
  • Undergo dialysis
  • Consider a kidney transplant


You should get tested frequently if you're at high risk for kidney disease. This allows your doctor to diagnose any damage early. 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.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Drink water and other fluids to stay hydrated.


Call 434.243.3675


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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