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What is Acute Kidney Failure?

The primary function of the kidneys is to remove waste products from the blood so that they can be eliminated from the body via urine. When kidneys fail to perform their function properly and shut down completely leading to extremely poor urine production, it is termed acute renal (kidney) failure.

What are its main signs and symptoms?

The common signs and symptoms of acute kidney failure include:

  • Decreased urine output and fluid retention in the body. This presents as swelling in the hands and feet, or even the face.
  • Breathlessness, nausea, and vomiting are also common.
  • Decreased appetite, mental confusion, and weakness are other symptoms that a person may show.
  • The person may also have a high blood pressure, reduced sensation in the hands, and delayed wound healing.

What are the main causes?

The main causes of the condition are as follows:

  • Acute kidney failure can occur if there is a decreased blood supply to the kidneys leading to kidney damage.
  • Blockage in the ureters prevents smooth passage of urine from the kidneys to the urinary bladder. Over time, urine can accumulate in one or both the kidneys making them swollen (hydronephrosis). This can also cause renal failure.
  • Any injury to the kidneys due to chemicals or heavy metals or autoimmune conditions like glomerulonephritis where the body’s immune system attacks the kidney tissues can also cause kidney failure.
  • Some factors that increase the risk of developing acute kidney failure include:

How is it diagnosed and treated?

The diagnosis of acute kidney failure involves the following investigations:

  • The physician examines for swelling and other symptoms on different parts of the body.
  • Blood and urine investigations are performed to assess the level of urea, potassium, and sodium. Estimating creatine levels is also crucial.
  • If you show signs of kidney failure, your physician will also order investigations to check the Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR). This is the rate at which blood is filtered from your kidneys and reduces dramatically in kidney failure.
  • Other tests include a kidney ultrasound, MRI, CT scan, and abdominal X-ray.

Treatment of acute kidney failure:

  • The treatment of kidney failure focuses on treating the underlying cause and improving the overall health of the kidneys.
  • Primarily, the doctor will recommend a change in diet to reduce the fluid, salt, and protein intake.
  • Diuretics are medicines that prevent fluid retention in the body. Calcium supplements help to keep the blood potassium levels in check.
  • Dialysis is a procedure in which blood is filtered via a machine. Depending on the severity of the condition, dialysis may be needed several times a week.
  1. Medicines for Acute Kidney Failure
  2. Doctors for Acute Kidney Failure
Dr. Vijay Kher

Dr. Vijay Kher

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Dr. Shyam Bihari Bansal

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Dr. Manish Jain

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  1. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Acute kidney failure
  2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases [internet]: US Department of Health and Human Services; Kidney Failure
  3. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Kidney Failure
  4. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) Surveillance System
  5. Rinaldo Bellomo, Claudio Ronco, John A Kellum, Ravindra L Mehta, Paul Palevsky. Acute renal failure – definition, outcome measures, animal models, fluid therapy and information technology needs: the Second International Consensus Conference of the Acute Dialysis Quality Initiative (ADQI) Group. Critical Care20048:R204; 24 May 2004

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