Ref: CHB/HB/53/16                                                                           


Kidney failure is when your kidneys stop working well enough for you to live without dialysis or a kidney transplant.  Kidney failure can happen very suddenly (called acute renal failure) or slowly over time. In most cases, kidney failure is permanent.  This is called End-stage Renal Disease or ESRD.

What are the signs and symptoms of kidney failure?

Initially, kidney failure may be not produce any symptoms (asymptomatic). As kidney function decreases, the symptoms are related to the inability to regulate water and electrolyte balances, clear waste products from the body, and promote red blood cell production.

If unrecognized or untreated, the following symptoms of kidney failure may develop into life-threatening circumstances:-

  • Weakness
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Generalized Swelling
  • Generalized Weakness due to Anemia
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Metabolic acidosis

How is kidney failure diagnosed?

Often, a patient is seen for another medical condition and the diagnosis of kidney failure is a consequence of the patient's disease or injury. In patients with chronic kidney disease due to diabetes, High Blood Pressure, or another related medical condition; the patient's medical care team most likely monitors kidney function as part of the patient's routine long-term medical care plan.

Blood tests

Diagnosis of kidney failure can be confirmed by blood tests such as BUN, creatinine, and GFR; that measure the build-up of waste products in the blood.

Urine tests

Urine tests may be ordered to measure the amount of protein, detect the presence of abnormal cells, or measure the concentration of electrolytes.

Other tests

Other tests are used to diagnose the type of kidney failure such as: 

  • Abdominal Ultrasound
  • Kidney biopsy

What is the treatment for kidney failure?

Prevention is always the goal with kidney failure. Chronic diseases such as High Blood Pressure and Diabetes are devastating because of the damage that they can do to kidneys and other organs. Lifelong diligence is important in keeping blood sugar and blood pressure within normal limits. Specific treatments depend upon the underlying diseases.

Once kidney failure is present, the goal is to prevent further deterioration of renal function. If ignored, the kidneys will progress to complete failure, but if underlying illnesses are addressed and treated aggressively, kidney function can be preserved, though not always improved.


Diet is an important consideration for those with impaired kidney function. Consultation with a dietician may be helpful to understand what foods may or may not be appropriate.

In this state of impaired kidney function, the kidneys cannot easily remove excess water, salt, or potassium from the blood, so foods high in potassium salt substitutes may need to be consumed in limited quantities. Examples of potassium rich foods include:-

  • Bananas
  • Avocados
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Yogurt

How to prevent kidney failure?

The best way to prevent kidney failure is to prevent Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD).  If you have CKD, work with your doctor to slow it down.  You may not be able to fix the damage that is already done, but you might be able to keep the damage from getting worse.

If you have diabetes and high blood pressure, it is very important for you to manage these. Work with your doctor to learn how.

  • Eat a diet low in fat and salt
  • Exercise most days of the week
  • Have regular check-ups with your doctor
  • Avoid tobacco (smoking and chewing)

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