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Understanding Kidney Failure: Symptoms, Stages, and Treatment Options

Understanding Kidney Failure: Symptoms, Stages, and Treatment Options

Understanding Kidney Failure: Symptoms, Stages, and Treatment Options
28 Aug 2023

Your kidneys filter out the blood and eliminate unwanted toxins from the body. These toxins then go to the bladder which gets eliminated at the time of urination. When this does not seem to work properly, chances are you may suffer from kidney failure.

If your kidneys cannot function properly, the toxins may overwhelm your body. This can be the reason for kidney failure, which can be risky for life when you do not treat it on time. Go through this blog post to know about kidney failure which includes – symptoms, treatment and outlook.

Who can suffer from kidney failure?

People of all age group may develop kidney failure but the risk increases with age. You can be at greater risk when you have:

  • diabetes
  • high pressure
  • family history of kidney failure
  • heart disease

Symptoms of kidney disease and failure

With the progression of kidney disease, you will notice these symptoms:

  • less urine
  • chest pain
  • swelling of ankles, feet and legs from fluid retention
  • trouble sleeping
  • confusion
  • shortness of breath
  • muscle cramps at night
  • excessive fatigue or drowsiness
  • seizures
  • persistent nausea
  • coma

Different stages of kidney disease

Kidney disease can be categorised into five stages. These may range from mild to complete kidney failure. The possible complications and early symptoms of kidney disease increase with the progression of the stage.

Stage 1

You may have no symptoms and no complications. But there can be some damage to the kidneys.

Stage 2

Stage 2 kidney ailment is mild though there can be detectable problems like physical damage to your kidneys or protein in the urine. It is a good idea to speak with the doctor about risk factors that can progress the disease rapidly including:

  • blood disorders
  • inflammation
  • heart disease

Stage 3

When you are in Stage 3, your kidneys are not working properly like they should be. Stage 3 kidney ailment may sometimes be divided into stages 3a and 3b. Conducting a blood test measures waste products in your body and enables the doctor to distinguish between them.

Symptoms can get apparent such as – back pain, swelling in the feet and hands, and changes to urinate often. The doctor may give certain medications for the treatment of underlying conditions which can speed up kidney failure.

Stage 4

Stage 4 kidney disease is usually moderate to severe. Your kidneys are not working well though they are not in complete renal failure. Some symptoms include complications such as:

  • high blood pressure
  • anemia
  • bone disease

The doctor will develop a treatment plan in order to slow down further damage to your kidneys.

Stage 5

In stage 5, the kidneys are already nearing or in complete failure. Symptoms of the loss of kidney functioning will be visible such as – nausea, vomiting, itchy skin and trouble breathing. You need to conduct dialysis on a regular basis or undergo kidney transplantation.

Diagnostic tests for renal failure

The doctors conduct different tests for the diagnosis of renal failure symptoms. Common tests are the following:

  • Urinalysis: The urine sample shows the amount of sugar or protein present in your urine. By conducting urinary sediment examination, the doctor detects white and red blood cells, higher number of cellular casts and high amount of bacteria.
  • Urine volume measurements: Measuring your urine output will diagnose kidney failure. Low output suggests kidney disease occurs due to urinary blockage.
  • Blood samples: The blood tests measure substances filtered by your kidneys, such as creatinine, blood, nitrogen and urea. The rapid increase in these levels may denote acute kidney failure.
  • Imaging: Certain tests such as – MRIs, ultrasounds and CT scans provide images of your urinary tract and kidney to identify the issues.
  • Kidney tissue sample: The doctors use kidney biopsy for examining and collecting tissue samples.

Different treatment options for the signs of kidney failure

The treatment to perform will depend on the cause and stage of your kidney failure. Some treatment options are:


Dialysis will be filtering and purifying your blood with the help of a machine to perform kidney functioning. Based on the kind of dialysis to perform, you may get connected to a portable catheter bag or large machine. You have to follow a diet which has low intake of salt and low potassium. It is possible to treat kidney failure with dialysis but going to scheduled treatments may help to extend your life.

Kidney transplant

A transplanted kidney will work fully and so, you will not need to do dialysis. There is a long waiting time for receiving donor kidney which has to be compatible with your own body. When you find a living donor, there is the possibility for the process to go quickly. The transplant surgery may not be the right treatment option for everyone and it is not successful all the time. You need to take immunosuppressant drugs after surgery to prevent body from rejecting new kidney. Speak with the doctor to know whether you are the right candidate for a kidney transplant.

Certain changes in lifestyle

You need to make some changes in your diet plan and lessen the intake of alcohol. This can prevent failure of your kidneys from progressing further. It is quite possible to manage and slow down the progression of kidney diseases at the early stage by making certain lifestyle changes such as:

Dietary changes

What you can eat usually depends on the stage of kidney disease you have and overall health condition. Some recommendations include:

  • Limit the intake of sodium and potassium: You should include less than 2,000 milligrams of potassium and sodium in a day.
  • Restrict phosphorus: You need to remain below 1,000 milligrams of phosphorus.
  • Take necessary protein: You may need to lessen the intake of protein in your early and moderate kidney disease. But you can eat more amount of protein during the end-stage kidney failure, as per the recommendations of your doctor.

The doctor may ask you to avoid eating certain foods which are the following:

Lessen the intake of alcohol

If your kidneys are not working anymore and you are addicted to drinking, then the kidneys should work harder than they do. Alcohol won’t metabolize out of your system and when your kidneys are no more functioning, you can feel the effects till you perform dialysis for filtering it from your blood. Beer and wine have large amount of phosphorous. Severe heart problems and death are possible when the kidneys cannot filter it out.

If you are suffering from kidney failure or late-stage kidney disease, then the doctor may suggest limiting the intake of alcohol. Eliminating alcohol might be the best option from your diet.

How diabetes and failure of kidneys are related to each other?

Diabetes is among the common cause why your kidneys are not working properly. Nearly one-third of the people who have diabetes will suffer from kidney disease. Having high sugar may cause damage to kidneys when they are not in control. The damage can become worse in due course. It is not possible to reverse kidney damage signs or diabetic nephropathy which occur due to type 1 or type 2 diabetes. There are steps to limit further damage to your kidneys and these are:

  • managing blood pressure
  • taking medications according to the doctor
  • managing sugar level


If you are a diabetic patient, then the doctor will conduct routine screenings to detect whether your kidneys have stopped working. The risk for diabetic nephropathy increases with your lifespan for diabetes.

Possible complications with kidney failure

Kidney failure may cause several complications and some of these are:

  • edema or retention of fluid
  • anemia
  • metabolic acidosis when your blood becomes too acidic
  • bone weakness for the imbalance of calcium and phosphorous
  • hyperkalemia or high potassium level
  • heart ailment

People who suffer from kidney failure might even develop secondary complications which include the following:

  • damage to your nerves
  • depression
  • gout
  • buildup of fluid in your lungs
  • liver failure
  • skin infections

How to lessen the risk of your kidney failure

  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Maintain proper weight
  • take over-the-counter medications as directed by the doctor
  • keep diabetes and pressure under control by following the advice of doctor

Kidney failure may develop all of a sudden or cause damage for a long term. Some of the causes include – trauma to kidneys, high pressure and diabetes. The kidney disease falls under five stages which ranges from mild to complete failure. The complications will increase with the progression of the stage for kidney. Thus, if you want to know about your chances of kidney failure, then book a kidney function test today at the London GP Clinic and know about the right treatment option for your case.