How Long Do You Have To Live If Your Kidneys Are Failing?

Renal failure – the medical term for failing kidneys – is a complex process that typically occurs over a period of months to years. Occasionally, an individual may develop acute renal failure, which occurs within a few days to a week. In either case, the condition may shorten your lifespan, especially if not treated. Here’s some information on how long you may live if your kidneys are failing, courtesy of Dr. Allen Lauer of Associates in Nephrology.

Renal Failure Basics

Kidney failure begins with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Damaged kidneys can’t filter the blood the way they are supposed to and waste products such as ammonia begin to build up in the bloodstream. Doctors divide CKD into stages that indicate how much kidney function you have. Stage 1 and 2 indicate some degree of kidney damage. By the time you reach stage 3, you’ve lost about half your kidney function. Stage 4 indicates severe kidney damage and stage 5 is complete kidney failure.

Primary Causes of Renal Failure

Diabetes is far and away the most common cause of renal failure in the US. Chronic high blood sugar damages all of the cells in the body. Proper treatment, however, can prevent much of this damage. High blood pressure (hypertension) is another common cause of CKD and kidney failure. Low blood pressure can also cause problems, as the kidneys need a certain level of blood flow to filter waste from the blood. Low blood pressure is more likely to be a factor in acute kidney failure. Although less common, toxins, autoimmune diseases and conditions such as a heart attack can also result in kidney failure.

Renal Failure and Longevity

There is no question that kidney disease can affect the lifespan. Putting a time frame on an individual case is much more complex. In acute failure, death may occur within a few days to a week without treatment. If the progress of CKD is rapid and the patient opts not to have treatment, life expectancy may be a few years at most. However, even people who have complete renal failure may live for years with proper care and regular dialysis treatments. A kidney transplant may also result in a longer survival period.

Treating Kidney Failure

In the initial stages of CKD, the emphasis is on medical management – such as dietary changes, fluid restriction, and medications. It is also important to treat contributing conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Once the kidneys fail completely, dialysis or a kidney transplant is the only treatment options. With proper treatment, people with renal failure often live for decades after diagnosis. Many continue to work, raise families and enjoy their lives to the fullest.

A diagnosis of renal failure certainly isn’t good news, but there is always hope. You can continue to enjoy your life with proper treatment and medical management. If you have questions or concerns about CKD and kidney disease, please contact our office. We serve the Taunton and Brockton areas of Massachusetts.