What is renal failure?

Renal failure, also known as kidney failure or end-stage renal disease (ESRD), is a condition in which your kidneys have lost between 85 and 90% of their function, meaning they are no longer able to do their essential jobs. Those jobs include removing waste products and extra water from your body, helping make red blood cells, and helping control your blood pressure.

Left untreated, renal failure can be fatal. That’s why it is important to be familiar with the signs and symptoms, which include:

  • Fluid retention, which leads to swelling in the feet, ankles, or legs
  • Occasional Decreased urine output
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Chest pain or pressure

What causes renal failure?

Renal failure doesn’t happen overnight. It is the end result of a gradual loss of kidney function over time. Given that symptoms often appear late into the progression of the disease, people often don’t know they have kidney disease at all until their kidneys fail.

While the most common causes of renal failure are diabetes and high blood pressure, there are a number of other possible causes. These generally fall into one of three broad categories:

  • Conditions that slow blood flow to your kidneys, like fluid or blood loss, heart attack, heart disease, liver failure, the use of blood pressure medications, or certain infections.
  • Conditions that cause direct physical damage to your kidneys, like blood clots in the arteries and veins in and around your kidneys, cholesterol deposits that block blood flow in your kidneys, infections (including from the coronavirus), certain medications such as chemotherapy drugs, or muscle tissue breakdown.
  • Conditions that block your kidneys’ urine drainage tubes (ureters), including blood clots in the urinary tract, kidney stones, enlarged prostate, or cervical or colon cancer.

How is renal failure treated?

In most cases, renal failure can’t be reversed or cured on its own. Extending your life means engaging in treatment that will fulfil the work usually performed by healthy kidneys. Renal failure treatment consists of one of two treatments: dialysis and kidney transplant. Each of these treatments has its benefits, and while one may be the right fit for some patients, the other may be better for others. In addition to the treatment itself, it is important to think about the changes to diet and medication that you will need to adopt alongside the treatment when you are considering your options.

Dialysis: In dialysis, a machine performs the function of your kidneys by filtering and purifying your blood for you. Depending on the dialysis type, you may be connected to a large machine or to a portable catheter bag. While dialysis can’t cure renal failure, it can extend your life if you go to your regularly scheduled treatments.

Kidney transplant: A kidney transplant is the only way to cure renal failure. A transplanted kidney will work exactly like a normal kidney and will remove the need for continued dialysis. The wait to receive a donor kidney is usually very long, so it’s best to use a living donor if at all possible.

Keep your kidneys as healthy as possible. Schedule an evaluation today.

At Southeastern Massachusetts Dialysis Group, providing top-quality, compassionate care is our #1 priority. We know that understanding your condition and picking the right treatment option can be tough. That’s why our doctors work closely with each patient to help them understand their care options so they can feel comfortable and confident every step of the way.

Our doctors are leaders in kidney disease diagnosis and management. They help patients throughout the southeastern Massachusetts area learn about the best ways to manage their disease to maximize their health. Keeping your kidneys as healthy as possible begins with an office visit and evaluation. Give us a call today or use our online contact form and we’ll get in touch with you.