The kidneys are responsible for filtering and eliminating the waste products of the body. In the last stages of kidney failure, the kidneys are no longer able to perform this function. This can lead to other complications in the body. According to the Mayo Clinic, the last stages of kidney failure require prompt and consistent treatment to ensure a chance of survival.
Humans have two kidneys and, while optimal performance is with two kidneys, humans can live with only one functioning kidney. The kidneys maintain the balance of fluids, electrolytes and waste products within the body. By filtering and excreting these elements, proper bodily functions are maintained. When the kidneys are damaged, dangerous levels of these elements can build up in the body. When kidney failure occurs, medical intervention is needed to assist the body in performing these functions.
Risk factors for kidney failure include older age, chronic infections, immune disorders, kidney or liver disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Proper diagnosis and management of these risk factors by following the instructions of the doctor can alleviate some of the risk that is brought on by these conditions.
The symptoms of kidney failure mimic other complications and can easily go unnoticed. If risk factors for kidney failure exist, it is important that kidney function is monitored as a part of routine physical exams. The main symptoms of kidney failure can include decreased urination, seizures, confused state and fatigue. As fluid builds in the body, extreme swelling may be noticed, particularly in the extremities. In the last stages, pericarditis may also be diagnosed as the excess fluid places increasing pressure on the heart muscle.
While kidney damage and failure may be reversible with prompt treatment, when the patient reaches the last stages of kidney failure, damage is likely permanent. For patients in the last stages of kidney failure, dialysis must be started until a donor kidney can be located for transplant. Once dialysis is started for end stage kidney failure, this is a permanent treatment plan until a transplant can be completed. Most patients undergo dialysis treatments three to four times per week.
If you are at risk of kidney failure, the Mayo Clinic recommends avoiding alcohol and drugs, including over-the-counter drugs. Regular abuse of these substances can damage the kidneys and ultimately lead to kidney failure. This includes avoiding excess use of acetaminophen, aspirin and ibuprofen.