What is Renal Failure?
Kidney failure occurs when your kidneys are functioning at only 10-15% of their capacity. This can be brought on by various factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and acute kidney injuries. Symptoms can include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, swelling, alterations in urination frequency, and experiencing mental fog. Treatment options revolve around either undergoing dialysis or opting for a kidney transplant. These interventions play a crucial role in managing the condition and enhancing the quality of life for individuals dealing with kidney failure.
What do kidneys do?
Kidneys are bean-shaped internal organs located under the ribcage, towards your back. Although most people have two functioning kidneys, one kidney is sufficient for living a healthy life.
These vital organs play a pivotal role in maintaining overall body balance by taking care of:
• Waste Removal: Filtering waste products and excess water from your body, a process essential for your well-being.
• Blood Cell Production: Contributing to the production of red blood cells, supporting your body’s oxygen supply.
• Blood Pressure Regulation: Serving as natural regulators to help control your blood pressure.
When kidneys aren’t functioning optimally, the buildup of waste can lead to illness. However, with proper treatment, many people effectively manage kidney failure, underscoring the resilience of the human body when supported appropriately.
The first warning signs
In the initial stages of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), it’s not uncommon for individuals to experience minimal or no symptoms, despite the underlying damage. CKD and the progression towards kidney failure manifest differently from person to person. Even if you’re feeling generally well, it’s important to be aware of potential signs:
- Extreme fatigue/tiredness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Confusion or concentration issues (mental fog)
- Swelling around hands, ankles or the face
- Increase in frequency of urination
- Muscle cramps or spasms
- Dry or itchy skin or changes in skin texture
- Poor appetite or a metallic taste when eating food
Understanding the causes
Diabetes and high blood pressure top the list as the primary causes of CKD and eventual kidney failure. Unmanaged diabetes can lead to elevated blood sugar levels (hyperglycaemia), posing a threat to your kidneys and other vital organs. Prolonged exposure to high blood sugar can inflict damage over time.
High blood pressure, characterised by forceful blood flow through your body’s vessels, can exert excessive pressure on your kidneys’ tissue. Without intervention, this heightened force becomes a catalyst for kidney damage.
Kidney failure doesn’t usually happen quickly. Additional contributors to CKD and potential kidney failure include Polycystic kidney disease (an inherited genetic condition), Glomerular diseases (affecting the kidney’s filtration capability) and Lupus (an autoimmune disease)
On the other hand, sometimes, kidney failure occurs abruptly. Acute kidney failure, marked by a sudden loss of kidney function, may result from:
- Autoimmune kidney diseases
- Certain medications (use of certain drugs can impact kidney function)
- Severe dehydration (inadequate fluid levels affect kidney performance)
- Urinary tract obstruction (blockages hindering the normal flow of urine)
- Untreated systemic diseases (conditions like heart disease or liver disease)
It is vital to recognise these factors, as early intervention and understanding can make a significant difference in managing kidney health.
How is renal failure treated?
Addressing renal failure involves a personalised approach, taking into account the underlying cause and the severity of the condition. For chronic medical conditions contributing to kidney disease, there are strategies to slow down its progression, by monitoring health and sustaining kidney function. These include regular blood tests, blood pressure checks and specific medications which can be used to mitigate the effect of kidney disease.
In cases where kidney function reaches a critical juncture, timely and decisive action is imperative for survival. The two primary treatments at this stage include: