The Kidney Clinic

Early Symptoms of Kidney Failure

Early Symptoms of Kidney Failure

What are the Types and Causes of Kidney Failure?

Renal failure is an alarming medical condition that has two main types: acute kidney failure, which occurs quickly, and chronic kidney disease, which gets more dire over time.  Acute kidney failure is a very serious illness that usually appears in just a few days. Its presence is typically preceded by perplexing symptoms such as unexplained breathing difficulties, excessive fatigue, and decreased urine output.

Acute renal failure is often caused by situations that dramatically reduce blood supply to our kidneys, such as some strains of infection or urinary tract issues. It might be brought on on rare occasions by taking too much of a particular medicine. Chronic kidney disease, on the other hand, is a long-term condition that typically affects people over a long period. It is mainly brought on by diabetes or high blood pressure, which slowly but surely impairs the kidneys’ ability to operate. Many people with the disease may have no idea it’s even happening to them until it’s too late.

What Are the Symptoms of Kidney Failure?

Symptoms associated with kidney failure are unpredictable; they might creep up subtly over time or explode, dictated by whether the condition leans towards being chronic or acute. However, these are key symptoms of kidney failure that you should be aware of:

►  Fatigue: A person may feel unusually tired or weak. This is due to a decrease in red blood cell production, which can lead to anaemia, which causes fatigue and increases the risk of kidney failure.

Difficulty Concentrating: Kidney failure can cause toxins to build up in the bloodstream, affecting brain function and making it hard to focus or remember things.

► Loss of Appetite: People with advanced-stage kidney disease often experience loss of appetite as their body cannot eliminate waste products from food as efficiently as before.

► Sleep Disturbances: Insomnia or difficulty sleeping is another common symptom. The kidneys aren’t able to filter out toxins effectively, leading them back into the bloodstream and disrupting sleep patterns.

► Swelling in Feet and Ankles: Fluid retention caused by failing kidneys can result in swelling in the lower extremities, such as feet and ankles, and is a common cause of discomfort in patients with kidney issues.

In acute cases where renal damage happens swiftly, patients may experience Abdominal Discomfort or severe abdominal pain, which could indicate sudden inflammation or infection within the kidneys requiring immediate medical attention.

What Are the Early Stages of CKD?

CKD takes the course through several stages, with different degrees of kidney function at each stage. At the beginning of the CKD, kidneys are affected moderately and lightly, and patients may hardly notice any changes.

► Stage 1 CKD (Kidney Damage with Normal or High GFR): At this stage, kidney damage is present, and the glomerular filtration rate (GFR), a measure of kidney function, is either within normal limits or simply mildly reduced. Patients may not show any symptoms in this stage, but lab tests, including urine and blood tests, could reveal kidney abnormalities, signalling an increased risk of chronic kidney failure.

► Stage 2 CKD (Mild Reduction in GFR): In this stage, slight to moderate kidney function loss occurs, with GFR between 60-89 mL/min/1.73 m². Similar to Stage 1, symptoms may not be observable, but laboratory tests may demonstrate signs of kidney problems.

During these early stages, nephrologists monitor for signs of kidney damage through regular testing, including:

Blood tests: Whether serum creatinine and eGFR indicate kidney function can be revealed through this analysis, which is crucial for diagnosing conditions like polycystic kidney disease.

► Urine tests: The presence of proteins or albumins in urine (proteinuria or albuminuria) implies possible kidney injury.

► Blood pressure monitoring: CKD can both cause or happen due to high blood pressure (hypertension) and thus, regular healthy blood pressure monitoring is one of the key management strategies outlined for CKD.

► Other tests: Additional tests, such as kidney ultrasound, CT scan, and kidney biopsy, might be needed to include patient-specific disease characteristics and conditions.

How is Kidney Failure Treated?

Depending on the underlying reason, complex treatment plans are often necessary to alleviate the frustrating problem of renal failure, particularly in cases of end-stage renal disease. For example, controlling blood pressure or glucose levels may become an essential aspect of illness management when hypertension or diabetes is the cause of renal dysfunction.

On the other hand, more drastic measures like dialysis or transplantation may be considered as possible treatments for those who have acute symptoms that threaten their possibility of surviving or who have been diagnosed with end-stage kidney failure.

Additionally, alternative approaches are required to manage less serious kidney problems, such as urinary blockage caused by kidney stones. Those who are prone to renal problems should prioritise the prevention of chronic kidney disorders (CKD). You can protect yourself against these problems by making adjustments to your lifestyle and behaviour, such as changing your food, not smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation. However, keep in mind that symptoms may gradually become more noticeable; hence, it is absolutely necessary to consult a doctor as soon as possible. Prolonging renal health and avoiding severe measures could be significantly helped by prioritising early identification and intervention, particularly for those with a history of kidney diseases or at risk of kidney problems.

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