Acute Kidney Failure

Acute Kidney Failure

What is acute kidney failure?

Acute kidney failure is the same as acute kidney injury and acute renal failure.
Your kidneys are always busy ensuring that substances that are not needed by your body or those that are needed but are in excess amounts are removed from the blood and discarded in the urine. The kidneys do this by filtering the blood, reabsorbing useful substances into the body, and secreting harmful substances into the urine.
When the kidneys fail to do these, especially when it happens suddenly, it will cause what is called acute kidney failure. Substances i.e. electrolytes, creatinine, urea, etc. will then pile up in the body in toxic amounts that can affect overall body functions.
In many cases, it develops so fast, like in a couple of hours, especially in hospitalized patients who have been placed under an intensive care unit. It could also manifest over a couple of days or weeks.
Acute kidney failure, though reversible when quickly diagnosed, is a life-threatening health state that calls for urgent medical attention.

The causes of acute kidney failure

Acute kidney failure often results from the following reasons;

  • acute tubular necrosis – ATN
  • severe and sudden dehydration
  • Toxic injury to the kidneys due to poisons and medications.
  • Autoimmune disease of the kidney e.g. interstitial nephritis, urinary tract obstruction, and acute nephritic syndrome
  • Surgery, injury, serious illness,  low blood pressure, dehydration, burns, septic shock, hemorrhage, etc. have been indicated to induce damage to the kidneys as they tend to reduce blood flow to the kidneys

Acute kidney failure could also be caused by some health disorders. These disorders have the ability to induce blood to clot within the blood vessels in your kidney.
They are; scleroderma, malignant hypertension, idiopathic thrombocytopenic thrombotic purpura (ITTP), transfusion reaction, and hemolytic uremic syndrome.
Also, certain infections like acute pyelonephritis and septicemia can have direct injurious effects on your kidneys.
Pregnant women who develop placenta previa (placenta abruption) can also be at risk of developing acute kidney failure. This is because this condition can cause complications to arise in her kidneys.

Risk factors for acute kidney failure

Age and general status of your health will determine your risk of having acute kidney failure. If you are in your mid-adult years, you are more prone to it. The following diseased conditions are also risk factors; high blood pressure, kidney disease, morbid obesity, heart failure, liver disease, and poorly managed diabetes.
Patients in the ICU are at very high risk.
Also if you have previously undergone a heart, abdominal, or bone marrow surgery, you are at risk of having sudden kidney failure.

Symptoms of acute kidney failure

  • Stools become blood-stained.
  • Bad breath
  • Sluggish movements
  • Widespread swelling (fluid retention) in the body.
  • Feeling of pain in the hips and ribs
  • Vigorous shaking of the hands.
  • High predisposition to sustaining bruises.
  • Mood swings particularly in older adults
  • Poor appetite
  • Numbness of the hands and feet
  • Contracted bleeding
  • Seizures
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • High blood pressure
  • Metallic taste in your taste buds

How is acute kidney failure diagnosed?

Having generalized fluid retention (i.e. swelling) in your body is one very good sign that you might have acute kidney failure.
Your doctor can use a stethoscope to hear crackling sounds in your lungs. These sounds can be distinguished from the normal and it can tell when you have fluid retention somewhere in your body.
He or she will also run some diagnostic tests on you. From the tests, substantial results will be gotten via looking for their abnormal values. Some of the tests are;

  • blood urea nitrogen (BUN) test
  • serum potassium test
  • serum creatinine test
  • serum sodium test
  • creatinine clearance test and estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) test

An ultrasound is the choice way of diagnosing this condition. But to check whether any of your kidneys has a blockage, an abdominal X-ray, abdominal CT scan, or an abdominal MRI will be used.
Blood tests can also be used in revealing what the underlying causes are.

Treatments for acute kidney failure

You will be treated when the cause of the condition has been properly diagnosed. But the ultimate goal of the treatment is to restore kidney functions to normal.
Prevention of the accumulation of wastes and water in your body is vital in the recovery process.
A kidney specialist known as a nephrologist will be the one to evaluate your recovery process in most instances. Let’s look at some of the treatments available.

Diet control

What you eat and drink especially their amounts, will be controlled by your doctor. This is to ensure that the accumulation of toxic substances in your blood is reduced. Diet rich in carbohydrates and low in potassium, sodium, and protein will form the bulk of your food.


Antibiotics, diuretics, calcium, and insulin are some of the medications your doctor might administer to you. Antibiotics will handle any infections. Diuretics will take care of the removal of excess fluid in your body. Insulin and calcium will help to reduce your potassium levels.


The use of dialysis will be for a short while. And it might not even be needful sometimes. But it will be especially useful when; your blood potassium levels are extremely high when you have stopped urinating, when an inflammation of the heart (pericarditis) is present, or when your mental health has been grossly affected.
Dialysis uses a machine connected to your body to filter waste substances particularly nitrogen waste substances out of your blood. The filtered blood that is free of those harmful substances then returns to your body.


  • Chronic failure of the kidneys
  • High blood pressure
  • Damages to the heart
  • Damages to the nervous system
  • End-stage renal insufficiency

Preventing acute kidney failure

How healthy and disease free you will be is largely determined by your choice of lifestyle which includes your attitude to exercise as well as the food you eat.
You can hence prevent developing an acute kidney failure by preventing as well as treating sicknesses that can lead to acute kidney failure. Mayo Clinic has suggested that having a healthy lifestyle where regular physical activities and healthy diets are the norms are the best ways to avoid having kidney failure.
And if you already have a medical condition that can put you at risk of having acute kidney failure, kindly speak to your doctor on how to effectively manage it.

What the long-term outlook entails

Acute kidney failure if not quickly treated will lead to the development of chronic renal failure otherwise called end-stage renal diseases.
There’s even a higher chance of death ensuing if an acute renal failure is caused by hemorrhage, stroke, lung diseases, old age, surgery, serious trauma, or infections.
When you seek medical help on time and you are properly treated, your chances of a quick recovery and rescue from death are high.

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