Acute kidney failure


Acute kidney failure is a medical condition in which the kidney suddenly decreases in the ability to excrete waste product, balance fluid and electrolyte in the body. If the kidneys are not functioning well, the waste products build up in the body and cause the blood’s chemical component to be out of its normal range.

Acute kidney failure, which is often referred to as acute renal failure or acute kidney injury, occurs suddenly, typically within a few days. Patient who needs intensive care due to serious medical condition tend to have higher risk of developing acute kidney failure.

Acute kidney injury can be very serious and needs aggressive management. However, it is not always permanent and may still be curable. It is possible to regain normal or almost normal kidney function if you are treated early.


The common symptoms of acute kidney failure vary in every individual. Common signs that you may notice includes:

  • Fluid retention that causes swelling of the extremities
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing
  • Fatigues or weakness
  • Decreased urine output
  • Irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Nausea and vomiting

In some cases, no noticeable signs or symptoms may occur. It is usually discovered by doctors in laboratory results requested from the patient for a different purpose.

It is advised to seek the doctor immediately if the patient noticed any of the signs or symptoms.


Acute kidney failure is often associated with:

  • A condition that disrupts blood flow to the kidneys
  • Direct damage to your kidneys
  • Obstruction on urine drainage tubes (ureters) which prevents wastes to leave the body through your urine

Impaired blood flow to the kidneys

There are several illnesses and disorders that can reduce the amount of blood that enters the kidneys, resulting in kidney damage. These includes:

  • Heart disease or heart attack
  • Liver failure
  • Fluid loss or severe dehydration
  • Extreme blood loss
  • Medications such as aspirin, pain medication, or blood pressure medication.
  • Allergic reaction
  • Burns

Damage to the kidneys

These illnesses, conditions and substances may harm the kidney and cause acute renal failure:

  • Blood clots in and around kidney’s veins and arteries
  • Cholesterol buildup in the kidney that obstructs blood flow
  • Glomerulonephritis is an inflammation to the glomeruli or tiny filters inside the kidneys
  • Hemolytic uremic syndrome, a disorder that happens when the red blood cells are destroyed
  • Infection, like from the virus that cause COVID-19 disease
  • Lupus, is an autoimmune disease that causes glomerulonephritis
  • Medications including certain chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics, and imaging test dyes
  • Scleroderma, an uncommon condition that involves the skin, internal organs, and connective tissues
  • Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, a rare blood disease
  • Toxins like cocaine, heavy metals, and alcohol
  • Kidney injury brought on by toxins produced by the breakdown of muscular tissue (rhabdomyolysis)
  • Tumor lysis syndrome, caused by the disintegration of tumor cells, results in the release of toxins that can harm the kidneys

Urine blockage in the kidneys

Several illnesses and disorders that causes urinary blockages and can result in an acute kidney injury:

  • Blood clots in the urinary tract
  • Bladder cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Kidney stones
  • Nerve damage responsible for bladder control

Risk factors

Acute kidney failure usually cause by a result of a complication from other serious medical condition. There are several factors that increases the risk of acute kidney failure. These includes:

  • Hospitalized due to serious illness that needs intensive treatment
  • Advanced age
  • Peripheral artery disease, obstruction in the blood vessels that restricts blood flow in the arms or legs
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart failure
  • Kidney diseases
  • Liver diseases
  • Certain cancers and their treatments