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Signs of Kidney Failure & the Chances of Recovering From It

Kidney failure is an advanced stage of chronic kidney disease and is also known as an end-stage renal disease. In kidney failure, the kidneys stop working, and you need dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive. In this article, we look at what are the signs of kidney failure and what are the chances of recovering from it.

What are the Signs of Kidney Failure?

What are the Signs of Kidney Failure?

A kidney is an organ which filters out waste from the blood, regulating electrolyte balance, and the blood pressure. They also help make red blood cells and activate vitamin D.

A sudden loss of blood flow to the kidney caused by conditions like changes in blood pressure, heart disease, dehydration, allergic reaction, high blood pressure, and anti-inflammatory medications, or liver failure, can lead to kidney failure. Certain urine elimination problem such as kidney stones, recurrent kidney infections, enlarged prostate, blood clots in the urinary tract, damage of the nerves which control the bladder, can increase the possibility of kidney failure. These conditions lead to toxin build up and overload on the kidney. Other causes include alcohol intake, multiple myeloma, glomerulonephritis, scleroderma, blood clots in an around the kidney, uncontrolled diabetes, and certain antibiotics.

The causes of acute renal failure are classified1 as-

Prerenal Causes – Hypotension, heart or liver failure, pain killers, ACE inhibitors.

Intrarenal Causes – Acute tubular necrosis, nephritis, connective tissue disorders, raised uric acid production or tumor lysis syndrome.

Postrenal Causes – Compression due to prostatic hypertrophy, carcinoma or internal obstruction due to tumor, clot, calculus or decreased bladder function.

If the kidneys are beginning to fail you would notice some early symptoms. What are the signs of kidney failure? Let us look at it in detail.

Fatigue– Healthy kidneys produce hormone erythropoietin which produces red blood cells. Kidney failure leads to a fall in RBC, which carry oxygen to muscles and brain. This leads to muscle and brain to tire easily.

Nausea and Vomiting– It is caused to waste build up in the blood (uremia). There is also a loss of appetite and weight loss.

Shortness of Breath– Extra fluid in the body leads to build up in the lungs. Also, the shortage of oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells leaves the body oxygen-starved and short of breath.

Ammonia Breath- Buildup of waste in the blood leads to an offensive odor in the mouth. Most of the people even find a different taste in food.

Swelling in Feet and Ankles- As the kidneys are not able to remove excess fluid, it leads to a build-up in legs, feet, and ankles.

Swollen and Puffy Face- Extra fluid build-up in the body and face leads to swollen face.

Itching– Build-up of waste in the blood can lead to itching all over the body.

Too Much or Very Less Urine- Kidneys produce urine, a kidney failure may lead to changes in urine. The urine may be foamy, bubbly, large quantities or less in quantity. The person might either feel pressure or difficulty in urinating.

Also, if the kidneys have suddenly stopped working one or more of the following symptoms would be observed-

If the following symptoms are noticed it would be advisable to consult a doctor right away.

Based on the possible signs of kidney failure, investigations to evaluate renal function are performed. The diagnostic criteria for chronic kidney disease (CKD) includes the presence of either of important parameters to be present for at least 3 months. These include reduced glomerular filtration rate, albuminuria, abnormalities in urine, structural abnormalities in kidney imaging studies, electrolyte problems, histological abnormalities or a history of kidney transplantation.2

What Are The Chances Of Recovering From A Kidney Failure?

A commonly asked question is what are the chances of recovering from a kidney failure. Simply said, recovering from kidney failure varies from person to person. It depends on how severe the condition is and what are the other health problems a person is suffering from. It also depends on the age, associated health problems, and renal function parameters. Studies have shown that prerenal acute kidney injury may recover soon, even as early as seven days. However, post renal kidney damage due to other reasons may take more time to recover. Conditions with renal acute kidney injury may not recover completely.3 Proper treatment, care and follow-up is needed as the chances of progression to chronic kidney disease and end stage renal failure are high.

In chronic kidney failure there are very low chances of complete recovery.

The treatment choices are-

  • Dialysis
  • Kidney transplantation
  • Non-dialysis supportive care

In cases where less than 10 percent of kidney functions, dialysis and kidney transplantation are the only option.

Dialysis for Kidney Failure – Dialysis is the artificial removal of the waste from the blood. Its choice depends on factors such as age, health, and lifestyle.

Kidney Transplant – The kidney transplant is a treatment of kidney failure but not a cure, as a transplanted kidney might require lifetime management and care. A transplant offers a more active life, freedom from dialysis, and certain restrictions on fluid and dietary intake.

Non-Dialysis Supportive Care – When the kidney transplant and dialysis are not appropriate for a person, non-dialysis supportive care is a treatment of choice. The patient is prescribed medications and a diet to improve the quality of life. It might not artificially prolong life if the kidney’s fail completely.

Now that you are aware of what the signs of kidney failure are and what are the chances of recovering from it, you can take the necessary action.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519012/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5087766/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3872460/

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 11, 2019

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