A Comprehensive Overview Of Renal Condition

Your kidneys perform a crucial role in your body. For instance, it aids in the removal of waste and excess water from your body. Additionally, it aids in blood pressure regulation and the production of red blood cells.

Thus, kidney failure or renal disease is stated to exist if your kidney function falls below 15% of normal.¹ If you have kidney failure, you've probably lost 85% to 90%² of your kidney function. Most individuals have trouble understanding kidney diseases or wonder if renal and kidney are the same.

If you are one of those, look to find out more.

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What does renal mean?

Renal is related to or located in the region of the kidneys. In the short term, renal refers to the kidney; hence, renal failure is the same as kidney failure. At the same time, renal function describes the most influential roles kidneys play in your body.

Kidneys help your body balance chemicals like calcium, sodium, and potassium. Through the kidney, your body can also produce hormones that stimulate the bone marrow to make red blood cells.

What is end-stage kidney disease or renal failure?

Renal failure, also known as an end-stage renal disease (ESRD), kidney failure, or end-stage kidney disease (ESKD), is the fifth and final stage of chronic kidney disease (CKD).

It is a condition in which the kidneys can no longer perform their usual function. Chronic kidney failure has no cure, but you may live longer with treatment.

It is also important to note that if you are diagnosed with kidney failure, you can still lead a full life and pursue your interests. However, if it is not addressed, it can be fatal. Kidney failure can occur suddenly and be brief.

This kind of kidney failure may be reversible depending on the cause. It can sometimes develop as a long-term chronic condition that might deteriorate gradually.

Types of kidney failure

Kidney failure occurs in two different types, namely acute and chronic conditions. While chronic kidney failure proceeds slowly over at least three months and can become a permanent illness, acute kidney failure develops suddenly and may be curable.

What causes kidney failure?

Most individuals suffer from kidney failure due to high blood pressure and diabetes. But other causes result in the renal condition. For instance, acute kidney failure may be due to the following:

  • A kidney stone that results in sudden blockage

  • Low blood flow from surgery or accident

  • Kidney inflammation due to drug reaction or infection

Generally, some of the causes of chronic kidney failure are:

  • Diabetes

  • Blocked urinary system

  • High blood pressure

  • Kidney damage or chronic glomerulonephritis

  • Polycystic kidney disease

Common symptoms of kidney failure

In earlier stages, kidney failure often causes unnoticeable signs and symptoms. Almost 90%³ of people with chronic kidney failure fail to identify the condition. But as the symptoms develop, they become noticeable, which may include:

  • Anemia or a low blood count

  • Poor sleep

  • Loss of appetite and nausea

  • Excessive fatigue

  • Muscle cramps, particularly in the legs

  • An all-over itch 

  • Weight loss

  • Excess fluid accumulation—swelling in the legs or breathing difficulties 

Wastes and excess fluid are removed from your blood by healthy kidneys. However, when you experience kidney failure, waste and too much fluid can accumulate in your blood and give you flu-like symptoms. You may recover from these symptoms once you begin renal failure treatment.

Treatment options

There are various treatment options for kidney (renal) failure. But the one you will need highly relies on the cause of your kidney failure, comorbidities, and stage. Some of the available treatment options are:

Dialysis

Your doctor will use a machine to filter and purify your blood. The machine acts as your kidney, although it will not bring it back to normal function.  There are two forms of dialysis—hemodialysis (blood dialysis) or peritoneal dialysis (abdominal dialysis). 

A hemodialysis machine is about the size of a small fridge, and a peritoneal dialysis machine is the size of your carry-on hand luggage. If you follow the regular treatment schedule, this treatment will lengthen your life even though the renal failure is not cured.

However, your quality of life may worsen depending on your other medical conditions; thus, it may not be appropriate for everyone with the condition.

Kidney transplant

You could get a kidney transplant, enabling it to work normally as your body needs. However, not every person will have a living donor, making the procedure drawn out and complicated. People with living donors complete the process quicker since they can potentially identify a kidney compatible with their body. Otherwise, there is a deceased donor list, but the waiting time maybe years.

Transplantation has many risks, so it may not be appropriate for everyone. Following surgery, you must undergo immunosuppressant medications to stop your body from rejecting the replacement kidney. These medications have their own potential side effects, including gastrointestinal upset, severe infections, etc.

Before the process, ensure that you discuss your eligibility for a kidney transplant with your doctor.

When to see a doctor

Kidney failure treatment relies on various elements like age, other health concerns, and your lifestyle. Your option should be based on your medical history and doctor’s guidance to consider your life values.

You might need to visit a doctor if you notice changes in your urine output. It may signify that you should seek medical assistance since it could mean you have kidney disease. Urinating less often or never at all and having foamy or blood-stained urine are unique variations in urination.

The sooner you seek medical care, the better because you'll have more time to decide on the best course of action in terms of treatment.

The lowdown

Kidney failure is when your kidneys cannot perform their normal bodily role. This condition develops in two types, acute and chronic kidney failure. When it comes to signs and symptoms, chronic kidney failure is unnoticeable, and most individuals fail to recognize the illness.

But as the symptoms progress, you will notice excessive fatigue, poor sleeping habits, low blood count, and much more. Kidney failure can develop suddenly or due to long-term damage.

Kidney failure can have a variety of causes, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney injury, or other conditions. Dialysis and kidney transplants are common treatment options for renal conditions. Seek medical attention when you notice a change in your urine pattern since it could imply that you have a renal condition.

Your doctor will be at the forefront to help you choose the best treatment option.

  1. What is kidney failure? | NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

  2. Kidney failure | National Kidney Foundation

  3. Chronic kidney disease in the United States, 2021 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Other sources:

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