Why Do Kidneys Fail?

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Though all the organs of the body perform their unique functions, the functions of the kidneys are very significant to a human body. Kidneys play a role in purifying the blood in the body and filter wastes such as urea, uric acid, and wastes from protein metabolism. They control fluids and maintain the balance of electrolytes in the body, regulate the blood pressure of the body, and manage the production of red blood cells by supplying the protein erythropoietin.

Symptoms and Consequences of Kidney Failure:

Since kidneys purify the blood of wastes, failure of the kidneys to function would lead to the accumulation of wastes in the body. The blood pressure also shows an increase, and your body retains excess fluids without excreting them, causing bloating of the body. Not enough red blood cells are produced, which leads to the development of anemia in the patients. This is when it is said that the kidneys have failed.

Kidney failure in the initial stages does not exhibit any symptoms. However, as the condition deteriorates, the patient experiences weakness, shortness of breath, nausea, pain in the kidney area, confusion, laziness, and lack of appetite. The accumulation of potassium causes irregular heart rhythms and sudden death.

Diagnosis of Kidney Failure:

Diagnosis is often made through blood tests, which measure the Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN), creatinine levels, and glomerular filtration rate (GFR). Urine tests and blood pressure are other tests for kidney failure. Kidney biopsies and ultrasound tests are also done to confirm the kidney disease or failure.

Causes of Kidney Failure:

Kidneys can be damaged suddenly (acute renal failure) or slowly over a period of time (end-stage renal disease). The kidneys can also fail due to the progression of a chronic kidney disease.

Acute Kidney Failure: Acute kidney failure can occur in three stages: pre-renal, renal, and post-renal.

Pre-renal acute kidney failure happens when certain conditions such as heart attack, liver failure, medications, allergic reaction, and dehydration reduce the flow of blood to the kidneys.

Direct damage to the kidney occurs in the renal stage due to medications, blood clots, glomerulonephritis, lupus, and toxins.

Post-renal kidney failure occurs when the ureters, which carry urine to the bladder, are damaged due to cancer, enlarged prostate, and kidney stones.

Chronic Kidney Disease: In this condition, the kidneys are damaged, but the kidneys continue to function with a lower capacity. However, this leads to kidney failure when the disease progresses, and one third of the kidneys are damaged. People who suffer from diabetes, blood pressure, and obesity, as well as the elderly, are more susceptible to chronic kidney disease. Nephrotic syndrome, Alport’s disease, kidney stones, and prostate disease are also some other causes of chronic kidney disease.

End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD): End-Stage Kidney Disease is the damage to the kidneys leading to kidney failure that happens over a long period of time. Most cases of this type of kidney failure are caused due to diabetes and high blood pressure. Autoimmune diseases such as lupus, nephropathy, and polycystic kidney disease (a condition characterized by numerous cysts in the kidney) also cause ESRD.


In most cases, kidney failure is permanent, with the patient having to resort to kidney transplant or dialysis. However, in acute renal failure, the damage is short-lived, and treatment can be administered until the kidneys start working to their full potential. Chronic kidney diseases can be managed by controlling blood pressure and diabetes. This helps in delaying the further deterioration of the kidneys and, consequently, kidney failure. Failure of the kidneys is a life-threatening condition and requires immediate and continuous treatment.

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