Renal failure is a serious medical complication in which the kidneys fail to function properly or at all. Renal failure can be a progressive disease or a temporary condition based on severity and treatment. Renal failure interferes with the body’s ability to filter waste and maintain essential fluid balances that remove toxins from the body. Chronic renal failure can be life threatening and cause permanent damage to the kidneys.
Chronic renal failure can be caused by diabetes, high blood pressure or other long-term diseases that place prolonged strain on the kidneys. Due to its long-term progression, chronic renal failure is most likely to occur in people middle-aged and older. Certain cancers, auto immune disorders and obstructions to the urinary tract are also contributing factors to renal failure.
Chronic renal failure is insidious and gradual in its onset, with symptoms often not occurring until serious kidney damage is present. Some common signs that there may be problems with the kidneys are: decrease in volume or frequency of urination, discoloration of the urine, nausea, sudden changes in weight, malaise, decreased mental clarity, pain in the side or mid to low back, discolored stool and skin issues such as discoloration or itching.
Blood and urine samples can detect levels of waste products, potassium and sodium in the bloodstream. An ultrasound or MRI may also be necessary to obtain a visual aid in diagnosis. Waste levels of creatinine and urea are high in patients with renal failure, and blood tests that show consistently high levels of the toxins will usually determine that the kidney has incurred permanent and severe damage.
Methods of treatment for renal failure are often dependent upon the underlying cause. In conjunction with medication for the underlying disease, dietary changes that decrease the intake of sodium and proteins may also be implemented by the doctor. End stage kidney disease is classified as the kidneys functioning at less than 10 to 15 percent capacity. In this case, where severe kidney damage is present, dialysis or a transplant may be necessary.
Life expectancy varies dependent upon the stage and is most accurately determined after discussion with several physicians. Dialysis does not treat renal failure but can prolonging life expectancy. According to data published by Dr. Andy Weinstein in 2002, 42 percent of patients on dialysis have heart disease, and death will occur as the result of the compounded illness or infections caused by the dialysis. Those without prior complications have a 70 percent chance of survival after five years on dialysis. Those with pre-existing illness range between a 46 percent and 29 percent chance of survival after five years on dialysis.