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Kidney failure - Chronic Kidney Disease
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Kidney failure

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Healthy kidneys clean the blood by filtering out extra water and wastes. They also make hormones that keep your bones strong and blood healthy. When both of your kidneys fail, your body holds fluid. Your blood pressure rises. Harmful wastes build up in your body. Your body doesn't make enough red blood cells. You develop fatigue, nausea, and loss of appetite. When this happens, you need treatment to replace the work of your failed kidneys.

Your kidneys are two bean-shaped organs, each about the size of your fist. They're located at the back of your upper abdomen, one on either side of your spine. The kidneys' main function is to eliminate excess fluid and waste material from your blood. When your kidneys lose their filtering ability, dangerous levels of fluid and waste accumulate in your body - a condition known as kidney (renal) failure.

Sometimes kidney failure happens suddenly (acute kidney failure). This is most likely to occur after complicated surgery or a severe injury, or when blood vessels leading to your kidneys become blocked.

Chronic kidney failure, on the other hand, usually develops slowly, with few signs or symptoms in the early stages. Many people with chronic kidney failure don't realize they have a problem until their kidney function has decreased to less than 25 percent of normal. High blood pressure and diabetes - a disorder that causes high blood sugar levels - are the most common causes.

In end-stage renal disease, the kidneys function at less than 10 percent of normal capacity. At this point they simply can't sustain life. People with end-stage renal disease need either dialysis or a kidney transplant to stay alive. When a transplant isn't possible - often because of poor general health - dialysis becomes the only option.

Prevention 

It's often not possible to prevent kidney failure. But you may reduce your risk by following these suggestions:

  • Don't abuse alcohol or other drugs, including over-the-counter pain medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Avoid long-term exposure to heavy metals, such as lead, as well as to solvents, fuels and other toxic substances.

  • If you have a chronic medical condition that increases your risk of kidney failure, carefully follow all of your doctor's recommendations for managing your condition. The American Diabetes Association recommends albumin-specific urine tests every year for most people with diabetes.

  • If you have chronic kidney failure and are thinking of becoming pregnant, consider a pre-pregnancy consultation with a knowledgeable obstetrician or nephrologist to discuss your risks. If you're already pregnant, be sure to get comprehensive medical care — including prenatal visits every two weeks for at least the first 32 weeks.

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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