Renal Failure – Symptoms and Prevention of Kidney Failure

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Renal failure is also commonly known as kidney failure. While most people are well aware of the name of the disease, most of us do not know the reasons behind it. Renal failure is often found in animals like cats, dogs, tortoises and even in elephants leading to their death due to untimely diagnosis and treatment. In many cases it occurs due to heredity, choosing the wrong types of foods and from not drinking enough fluids.

Definition
Renal failure is a medical condition in which kidneys, which acts like a strainer in our body, fails to filter waste materials from the blood. The kidneys basically regulate the amount of water and various other electrolytes like sodium and potassium along with filtering out other waste materials from of our bodies. The kidneys also maintain the acid base balance and blood pressure.

Mechanism of Blood Filtration
In the human excretory system, kidneys play the main role. They are two small bean shaped structures located towards the back of the abdomen. Each kidney consists of three parts. The outer part is called as renal cortex, the middle part is called as renal medulla and the inner part is called as renal pelvis. In the cortex, blood filtration takes place, the medulla contains the collecting ducts for carrying the filtrate (filtered substance) to the pelvis and the pelvis is the hollow cavity where the urine is accumulated for draining to the ureter.

Each kidney consists of approximately one million smaller units called nephrons which are responsible for the filtration process. The nephrons are located between the cortex and the medulla in each kidney. There are tubes attached to nephrons that are surrounded by a network of blood vessels within the tissues of the cells. The material that leaves the nephron enters the surrounding cells and returns to the blood stream by a network of blood vessels in the body.

Each Nephron Consists of These Parts:

  • parts-kidneyGlomerulus – these are a mass of thin capillaries.
  • Bowman’s Capsules – this is a double walled cup shaped structure.
  • Proximal Tubule – this arises from the Bowman’s capsule and extends up to the Loop of the Henile.
  • Loop of the Henile – this is a long loop extending into the medulla.
  • Distal Tubule – this connects the Loop of Henile to the collecting duct.

Each of these parts play a vital role in the filtration process and also in the choice of the material needed by the body and thus controls what remains and what leaves the kidneys and circulates back to the blood stream. Any harmful material in our body can damage the kidney’s function and may cause renal failure.

Renal failure may occur due to any one or a combination of these reasons:

  • Reduction in the glomerular filtration rate.
  • Decreased levels of calcium.
  • Increased levels of potassium or sodium.
  • Increased acid levels.
  • Increased levels of phosphate.

Types of Renal Failures
There are basically two different types of renal failure:

  • Acute Kidney Disease
  • Chronic Kidney Disease

These can discovered by checking the creatinine content in the serum. Other ways to find issues with the kidneys include anaemia and an ultrasound examination to check the size of the kidneys.

#1. Acute Kidney Disease
This is also known as acute kidney injury or acute renal failure. This can develop when the kidneys suddenly stop the filtration of waste material from the blood and the supply of blood is hampered due to different reasons. When this situation arises the amount of waste materials, like harmful toxins, increases excessively thereby causing an imbalance in the body. Once a person’s kidney stops functioning, this can rapidly cause dangerous problems which could lead to death. This is commonly observed in those patients who are already hospitalized due to accidents, injuries, or complicated surgeries like a heart by-pass where normal blood flow to kidneys are restricted for longer periods of time. Other reasons could be due to an overdose of any drug, chemotherapy, and an overdose of antibiotics. However, acute kidney failure may be controlled and treated if timely medication is administered and the person is in fairly good health.

Symptoms of Acute Kidney Failure
Many times this type of kidney disease may not show any symptoms and the patient may remain untreated until a critical situation arises but in most cases a few significant symptoms are found in patients. They include:

  • Decreased frequency of urination or it may even remain normal in some cases
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Breathlessness
  • Fluid retention leading to swelling of ankles or feet
  • Chest pain
  • Drowsiness
  • Seizures or coma if normal blood flow is stopped for long period during surgery, etc.

#2. Chronic Kidney Disease
This type of renal failure occurs slowly and progressively. Initially, it may only show a few typical symptoms. This can develop due to many reasons which include hypertension, diabetes, and heredity. It may also develop due to an overdose of different drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin which most people take without a medical prescription. This type can be treated while the patients are kept on dialysis.

Symptoms of Chronic Kidney Disease
Symptoms may occur very slowly for this type of kidney disease which is quite unspecific as these could be the symptoms for many other diseases also. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Sleeping disorders
  • Frequent muscle cramps
  • Drowsiness
  • Persistent itching of body parts
  • Temporary memory loss
  • High blood pressure
  • Chest pain
  • Accumulation of fluid around the lining of the heart
  • Breathlessness

Steps To Prevent Kidney Failure:

  • Drink plenty of water (at least 2 liters per day) to flush out your system and help with kidney function.
  • Quit smoking and stop drinking alcohol to help put less pressure on the kidneys.
  • Control issues with high blood pressure by watching your diet and doing regular exercise.
  • Check for blood in your urine on a regular basis and get medical attention immediately if found.
  • Know your family history about similar ailments and consult with your physician.

Having some basic knowledge about the vital organs of your body and how they work is important so you can watch out for signs and symptoms of possible issues and treat them as quickly as possible to stay in good health.

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About Author

Suparna Sil

I have a post graduate in Organic Chemistry from Mumbai University in India. I have also completed my Master of Philosophy in chemistry. I finished my MBA in Human Resources and Finance in 2008 and I've also finished several certification courses from various reputable institutes. See my profile page for more information!

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