Kidney Failure (ESRD): Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment

kidney failure

Kidney Failure (ESRD)

Kidney failure is also known as end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and it is usually the last stage of chronic kidney disease. The inability of your kidney to remove waste products and fluids from the body and instead get accumulated in your body which could be harmful/life-threatening without dialysis or a kidney transplant is regarded as kidney failure. A study by the U.S. Renal Data System Annual Data Report (2015) shows that more than 660,000 Americans undergoes treatment for kidney failure (ESRD): Of these, 468,000 are patients with dialysis and more than 193,000 have an effective kidney transplant. All humans have two (2) kidneys which are found on either side of our spine and are above our waist.

Read Also: What Do You Know About High Blood Pressure(Hypertension)

What Are The Functions of The Kidney?

Here are the functions of the kidney to the human body:

  • Kidney helps remove waste product from your blood after digestion of foods, exposure to medications/chemicals, and muscle activity
  • It aids the production of erythropoietin making enough red blood cells to be produced in the human body
  • Also regulates the amount of water and minerals like potassium, sodium, and phosphorus in our body
  • Produces vitamin D which is essential for human health and to build strong bones
  • Rennin is also produced which aids the regulation of your blood pressure

Causes of Kidney Failure

The main causes of kidney failure are through other health disorders that have damaged the kidney little by little and if the damage on the kidney finally gets worse, then your kidneys would be less effective giving rise to chronic kidney disease. This is why kidney failure is often regarded as an end-stage renal disease because it’s the final (most severe) stage of chronic kidney disease in the human body.

Diabetes is one of the major health problems that lead to kidney failure. Also, high blood pressure can cause kidney failure in humans. Other health problems that can instigate kidney failure are:

  • Autoimmune diseases like IgA nephropathy and lupus
  • Prolonged viral illnesses like hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS
  • Genetic diseases like polycystic kidney disease which are genetically making fluid-filled sacs to be formed in the kidney
  • Inflammation around the glomeruli in your kidney which is often gotten as a result of contracting streptococcus infection
  • A urinary tract infection in your kidney in the case of pyelonephritis
  • Continuous usage of medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which might include naproxen, ibuprofen, and intravenous street drugs can also cause kidney failure not excluding toxins like lead poisoning

Types of Kidney Failure

We have basically two types of kidney failure namely:

Acute renal failure and chronic kidney failure

Acute Renal Failure

This occurs when the kidney suddenly stops functioning usually within two days or less than a few days. Also, this type of kidney is usually temporary and your kidney may return back to its normal functioning state or using treatments if its health problem isn’t severe. Its common causes include:

  • Insufficient flow of blood to the kidneys
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Urinary tract problems
  • Illegal use and abuse of drugs

Chronic Kidney Failure

Here your kidneys won’t function adequately well for more than three (3) months and its symptoms might not surface in the early stage which would have made it easier to be treated. Common causes of chronic kidney failure include:

  • Mainly diabetes types 1 and 2
  • High blood pressure
  • A urinary tract infection found within the kidneys
  • Disease associated with the immune system like lupus nephritis

Symptoms of Kidney Failure

Usually, a chronic kidney failure starts slowly and its symptoms might not be clear until your kidneys are extremely damaged. Towards the last stages of chronic kidney failure, the symptoms will start surfacing and you will discover the waste/extra fluid accumulate in your body which is very harmful.   

The following are the most common symptoms associated with your kidney not functioning properly or stops functioning accidentally:

  • Backache
  • Feelings of nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Swellings around your ankles and feet
  • Bleeding around the nose
  • Inability to breathe properly
  • Itching and rashes around your body
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Excessive or insufficient urination
  • Pains around the abdomen (belly)
  • Feelings of cramps around your muscles
  • Inability to sleep properly

Experiencing one or more of the following symptoms shows you have severe kidney problems and you should quickly consult your medical doctor for optimal treatment.

What Are The Treatments of Kidney Failure?

Although there is no cure for kidney failure (end-stage renal disease), many people can still live long while undergoing kidney transplant or using dialysis.

For effective treatment, your nephrologist (a doctor who treats problems associated with kidney diseases) will first deduce what causes your kidney disease whether high blood pressure or diabetes and you may be placed on a special diet, given special medications, undergo kidney transplant or may be required to use several dialysis machines to help filter your blood effectively.


Some kidney disease may affect your blood pressure and doctors may prescribe one of the following to curb blood pressure:

Angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors) like captopril, perindopril, fosinopril, ramipril, enalapril, lisinopril, zofenopril, and trandolapril.

Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) like candesartan (Atacand), azilsartan (Edarbi), irbesartan (Avapro), olmesartan (Benicar), telmisartan (Micardis), losartan (Cozaar), eprosartan (Teveten), and valsartan (Diovan).

The above drugs not only regulate blood pressure but also help reduce the amount of protein in your urine so as to make your kidneys more viable. It is also advisable to take drugs to boost the formation of red blood cells in your body like erythropoietin (Procrit, Epogen) or darbepoetin alfa (Aranesp) to control anemia effectively.

Consequently, you can avoid taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like celecoxib (Celebrex), ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen (Aleve) which are mainly associated with most kidney diseases. Never take drugs without the prescription from your doctor so as to avert drug abuse.


Dialysis is needed when your kidneys don’t function properly and hemodialysis could be carried out at home or a dialysis center to help purify your blood immensely. It is always recommended to undergo surgery first to make provision for the machine before you commence hemodialysis.

Another form of dialysis could be used like the peritoneal dialysis which uses the peritoneal membrane or lining of the abdomen to aid cleansing of your blood perfectly. Either hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis has its own side effects, so it’s advisable you have your doctor enlighten you more on them before making your choice.

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Placement On A Special Diet

You may be placed on special diets that are low in protein, phosphate, sodium, and potassium by your medical doctor. The level at which you consume water or inculcate water into your diets could also be limited. Most doctors would require you to take a particular amount of minerals and vitamins like vitamin D and calcium. People with high blood pressure must inculcate low salt in their diet so as to be able to manage their health.

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Use of Kidney Transplant

Kidney transplant usually arises from close relatives who are alive or from an organ donor who has recently died to give a matching kidney. When you have undergone a successful kidney transplant, you don’t need dialysis just that you’ll require some medicines to suit into the new kidney donated.

Although certain factors reduce your chances of having kidney transplant like your age or if you have some other health problems but while awaiting your kidney transplant you can be provided with dialysis to sustain your health.

Prevention of Kidney Failure

For optimal prevention of kidney failure, you have to watch closely for high blood pressure and diabetes which are the two (2) main conditions that give rise to kidney failure in the body. The following are ways to prevent kidney failure from occurring:

  • When you discover you have high blood pressure or diabetes, try to bring it under control so as to enjoy your health.
  • Try eating healthy foods that are suitable for your heart health and kidney.
  • Avoid excessive drinking of alcohol or smoking so as not to mar your kidney and heart health.
  • Never take medications without a prescription from your medical doctor.
  • Exercise regularly to enable your heart pumps more blood and also aid your kidney to function well.
  • Regular going for a medical test to monitor your high blood pressure or diabetes like:
  • Fasting blood sugar tests (FBS) to determine the level of sugar in your blood
  • Urine tests to ascertain if you have excessive glucose (sugar), protein, and blood in your urine
  • Creatinine tests to determine the amount of waste from muscle activity because an increase in creatinine level shows that your kidney does not function properly
  • Use of blood pressure monitor to know your precise blood pressure level
  • A blood test is also needed to know if the diabetes is a hemoglobin A1C, which depicts your average blood sugar level usually for a minimum of three (3) months

Read Also: Diabetic Kidney Disease

How To Adjust To Kidney Failure?

Most people feel frightened especially when told they have kidney failure and you can avert this by not thinking all hope is lost but regularly going for your treatments, taking your medications, eating healthy diets, and working closely with your medical doctor will definitely help you live a happy life.   

Complications Associated With Kidney Failure

Although dialysis is good it can’t just be compared to working kidneys. Therefore, you might be exposed to some complications of kidney failure like the disease of the bone, high potassium/accumulation of fluids, anemia, and several heart diseases. You can definitely prevent and treat these kidney failure complications effectively by working hand in hand with your medical doctor.

Treatment Centers For Kidney Failure In U.S.A

Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN 55902-1906

Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH 44195-5108

Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD 21205-1832

UCSF Medical Center, San Francisco, CA 94143-0296

Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN 37232-2102

Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02114-2696

UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA 90095-8358

The University of Michigan Hospitals-Michigan Medicine, Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Stanford Health Care-Stanford Hospital, Stanford, CA 94304-2203

Mayo Clinic-Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ 85054-4502

Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Saint Louis, MO 63110-1003

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA 90048-1865

Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, NY 10029-0310

The University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, Birmingham, AL 35249-1900

UC Davis Medical Center, Sacramento, CA 95817-2282

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