What is renal failure?
Renal or kidney failure is a condition in which the kidney is unable to perform its function properly. This condition may be temporary or permanent. There are two different types of kidney failure:
- Acute kidney injury: It may start suddenly and may be reversible. It may occur due to injury, infections, medication side effects, or pre-existing diseases.
- Chronic/severe kidney disease: It progresses slowly over at least 3 months and can lead to permanent kidney failure. It may be caused by various medical conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, and hereditary kidney disease. It usually does not give any symptoms until it progresses to advanced stages.
- Stage 1: 90% kidney function is usually preserved.
- Stage 2: 60-89% kidney function is preserved.
- Stage 3: Symptoms may include tiredness, puffiness, changes in appetite, dull back pain, and urine changes. Kidney functioning may be reduced to 40-59%.
- Stage 4: Patients experience fatigue, swelling, changes in appetite, back pain, changes in urine, hypertension, and slowed digestion. Kidney function may be reduced to 15-29%.
- Stage 5: It is end-stage kidney failure. The kidneys are only functioning at 10-15%.
The early stages of renal failure are usually treated by lifestyle modifications and controlling underlying causes such as hypertension and diabetes.
When kidney function falls below 10% of normal, the following options may be used:
- Dialysis: It is a way to pump blood through a machine that filters out the waste and returns the blood to the body. There are two types of dialysis:
- Hemodialysis: The doctor inserts a tube into one of the veins (neck, an arm, or leg) of the patient to remove toxins from their blood. This is usually done three times a week for 3-4 hours at a time.
- Peritoneal dialysis: It is done through a tube permanently set in the belly.
- Kidney transplant: It is a procedure in which a surgeon replaces the kidney of a patient with kidney disease with that of a healthy person. A kidney transplant is the best way to treat many patients with end-stage kidney failure. The kidneys for a transplant come from people who have agreed to donate their kidneys when they die (deceased donors) or donated by healthy people (living donors). Living donors are most often family members of the patient. There is a shorter wait time to surgery for a transplant from a living donor. (This is because there is a waiting list for kidneys from deceased donors and not enough donors.) Additionally, patients with the kidneys donated by living donors live longer (and the kidneys last longer) than those with kidneys from deceased donors or who just stay on dialysis.