Acute Renal Failure: What It Is, Symptoms And Treatment

Acute renal failure is a rapid decrease in the kidney’s ability to filter waste products from the blood and remove substances that can be toxic to the body, such as creatinine and urea, causing symptoms such as excessive tiredness, irregular heartbeat or shortness of breath, as well as swelling due to fluid retention in the body.

The leading cause of acute renal failure is the reduction of blood supply to the kidney, which can occur due to dehydration, cardiogenic shock, or medications, such as antibiotics or anti-inflammatories, for example. In addition, other conditions may also be related to acute kidney failures, such as a kidney infection or cancer.

Kidney failure must be identified by a nephrologist or general practitioner as soon as the first symptoms appear, as it is a severe condition that requires intensive treatment to increase the chances of a cure.

Main Symptoms

Symptoms of acute kidney failure are:

  • Decreased urine output;
  • Fluid retention;
  • Swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet;
  • Excessive tiredness;
  • A tremor in the hands;
  • A sensation of shortness of breath;
  • Nausea or vomiting;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Mental confusion;
  • irregular heartbeat;
  • Chest pain or pressure;
  • generalized itching;
  • A sense of metallic taste in the mouth.

In the presence of these symptoms, you should consult a nephrologist or general practitioner to make the diagnosis and start the most appropriate treatment.

How The Diagnosis Is Made

The nephrologist diagnoses kidney failure by assessing the symptoms and performing a 24-hour urine test, as well as the presence of sodium, potassium, calcium, or phosphate, for example, in addition to a blood test. To measure the amount of creatinine and urea.

Your doctor may also order imaging tests, such as an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI, to assess the size of your kidneys and bladder and check for blockages in the veins or arteries of your kidneys.

Possible Causes

Acute renal failure is caused by a decrease in blood flow to the kidneys, damage to the kidney itself, or a blockage of the channels through which urine is eliminated.

The main conditions that can cause acute renal failure are:

  • severe dehydration;
  • Severe bleeding or burns;
  • cardiogenic or septic shock;
  • massive pulmonary embolism;
  • Acute coronary syndrome;
  • Anaphylactic allergic reaction;
  • thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura;
  • Kidney inflammation, such as glomerulonephritis or acute interstitial nephritis;
  • Hemolytic uremic syndrome;
  • Blood clots in the veins and arteries, in and around the kidneys;
  • Breakdown of muscle tissue (rhabdomyolysis);
  • Generalized infection;
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus;
  • COVID-19;
  • Multiple myeloma;
  • Cancer of the bladder, prostate, cervix, or intestine;
  • Alcohol, heavy metal, or cocaine intoxication.

Also, anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin or ibuprofen; antibiotics, such as penicillin or amphotericin B; Antihypertensive medications, such as angiotensin blockers or angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, or iodine contrast agents used in imaging can also cause acute renal failure as a side effect.

How The Treatment Is Performed

Treatment of acute kidney failure is usually done in the hospital to restore kidney function and prevent complications. It should be aimed at treating the condition that has caused the decline in kidney function.

Some treatment options indicated by the doctor for acute renal failure are:

  • Serum administration is applied directly into the vein in the case of acute renal failure caused by a lower volume of blood in the body;
  • Use of diuretic medications to reduce swelling in the body;
  • Restriction of sodium intake, phosphorus, potassium, and liquids;
  • Control of the amount of potassium in the blood with medicines since the accumulation of potassium in the blood can cause cardiac arrhythmia or muscle weakness;
  • Hemodialysis helps eliminate toxic substances from the body.

Treatment of acute renal failure should continue at home after hospital discharge, following medical recommendations and following the diet recommended by the nutritionist, which should be rich in carbohydrates and low in protein, salt, potassium, and phosphorus since it is possible to prevent overload on the kidney in this way. 

Possible Complications

Complications of acute kidney failure include permanent kidney damage, which can cause chronic kidney failure, fluid buildup in the lungs or pulmonary edema, cardiac arrhythmia, muscle weakness, or metabolic acidosis.

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