How Bad is Renal Failure?

Renal failure is a serious medical condition that can be life-threatening.

Your kidneys are essential for life. Kidneys perform the important task of balancing fluids and removing toxins from your blood. Together, your kidneys filter about 150 quarts of blood each day and produce 1 to 2 quarts of urine, according to the National Institutes of Health. Without kidneys, these toxins and fluids would build up, which would prevent other organs from functioning properly.

Most people are born with two kidneys. These fist-sized, bean-shaped organs are located on each side of the spine, just below your ribcage. Blood flows into each kidney through a renal artery, which branches into smaller and smaller blood vessels until it reaches the minuscule blood vessels that filter out toxins and fluid. Filtered blood then flows out of the kidney and back into your body via the renal vein.

Kidney disease can cause kidneys to function poorly, which means they do not do a good job of filtering toxins and getting rid of excess fluids from the blood. Kidney disease can continue for a long time to become chronic kidney disease. Chronic kidney disease is common, affecting about 10 percent of the world’s population, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

About Chronic Kidney Disease and Renal Failure

Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and low blood pressure, can cause chronic kidney disease and renal failure.

Chronic kidney disease is a progressive condition, which means it gets worse over time. In other words, the kidneys become increasingly unable to filter toxins and fluids from the bloodstream. Renal failure is the final stage of chronic kidney disease, so doctors refer to renal failure as end-stage renal disease.

Renal failure is a serious condition where your kidneys stop working well enough to sustain life. There is no cure for renal failure. The only treatments for renal failure are kidney transplant and dialysis. It can take months or even years for a donor’s kidney to become available, so most people with renal failure go on dialysis.

Dialysis is a procedure in which a machine filters the patient’s blood and removes excess fluids. Most people have to go on dialysis when their kidney function drops down to 10 or 15 percent of its original function. The procedure does all of the important jobs normally performed by your kidneys. There are two types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Hemodialysis requires trips to the dialysis center about three times a week to receive treatments that typically last for about 4 hours. Peritoneal dialysis can be done at home 4 to 7 times each week, but each treatment is shorter.

A kidney transplant is the superior treatment, as patients no longer need dialysis. The average waiting time for an available kidney is 3 to 5 years.

Renal failure is serious because, without treatment, toxins and fluids build up in the body to cause major problems with your organs and tissues. Renal failure is also challenging because treatment can take valuable time each week.

For more information on the seriousness of renal failure, talk with your doctor or renal specialist.