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Kidney Failure Overview
The kidneys are organs responsible for filtering blood and removing wastes, excess minerals and fluids from the body for elimination through the urine. They also produce hormones that play roles in red blood cell production, calcium regulation, and blood pressure control.
Kidney failure may occur suddenly, as in acute kidney failure, or it may be a result of long term kidney disease. Acute cases are usually caused by obstruction, infection, dehydration and bleeding. Causes of chronic kidney failure are uncontrolled diabetes and high blood pressure. As the kidneys suffer from damage due to these causes, there are some warning signs of kidney failure that can be observed in affected patients.
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Most kidney problems are asymptomatic during the early stages. But in some patients, fatigue or sudden weakness all over the body, accompanied by loss of appetite may already be early manifestations of the disease. Weakness can be due to anemia, or decrease red blood cells in the circulation, brought about by the kidney's inability to produce the hormone, erythropoietin. These symptoms however, are not specific to kidney disease alone, as it may also be observed in patients with infections and in other diseases.
In kidney failure, there is frequently a rise in blood urea levels due to the kidney's inability to excrete them out of the body. This may result in confusion, decrease muscle function and pericarditis, or inflammation of the heart's lining. Other symptoms of kidney disease are headache, nausea, shortness of breath, vomiting and unexplained weight loss.
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High Blood Pressure and Congestive Heart Failure
Many conditions and diseases can cause high blood pressure, so it is frequently hard to determine by this symptom alone if kidney failure is the cause. Because fluid accumulates inside the body, this may cause the rise in blood pressure. There is also the possibility that the lungs will present with excess fluid, and this can frequently lead to congestive heart failure.
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Swelling of Hands, Face or Feet
Edema, or the accumulation of excess fluid in the arms, hands, feet and eyelids, is also considered as a sign of kidney failure.
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Lack of Urine
Change in the pattern of urination is one of the early signs of kidney problem. Even by consuming regular amounts of liquids, the amount of urine can be reduced significantly if the kidneys are failing. As disease progresses, there may come a time that a person with kidney failure may no longer be able to eliminate urine and this may have fatal consequences.
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When any of these warning signs of kidney failure are experienced, it is important to seek medical evaluation for diagnosis and prompt treatment. There are also several laboratory tests that are available to help assess the function of the kidneys.
Most kidney problems, when diagnosed during the early stage, are curable and reversible. Upon treatment of the underlying cause, normal kidney functions may resume. In some patients however, the disease can be progressive and become irreversible. The best option against kidney failure, therefore, is prevention.