Acute Renal Failure

Acute renal failure (ARF) occurs when the kidneys suddenly stop filtering waste products from the blood. This sudden loss of function can result from injury, trauma or infection, or from complications during surgery. It usually affects people who have additional health-related conditions.

Causes of Acute Renal Failure

Acute renal failure can be caused by a loss of blood flow to the kidneys, or when blocked or damaged kidneys prevent urine from flowing. Although ARF can affect anyone, it is more common in older people, and those who suffer from underlying conditions that include the following:

  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure

Acute renal failure is also more common in people who are obese.

Symptoms of Acute Renal Failure

Unlike chronic renal failure, in which symptoms develop slowly and over time, acute renal failure causes sudden symptoms that include the following:

  • Swelling
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Fluid retention
  • Internal bleeding

If a person lapses unexpectedly into a coma, ARF may be the reason.

Diagnosis of Acute Renal Failure

Acute renal failure is diagnosed through a complete review of symptoms and a physical examination by a doctor. Additional tests include the following:

  • Urinalysis
  • Blood tests
  • X-rays or other imaging tests

A kidney biopsy may also be performed to further determine the cause of ARF.

Treatment of Acute Renal Failure

Treatment for ARF aims to restore kidney function, and prevent waste from building up in the body. Treating the underlying cause or illness can help the kidneys to regain function. Other methods of treatment include dialysis, which is often administered for a few days or weeks before the kidneys again function on their own, or medication. In severe cases, a kidney transplant may be necessary.

After treatment, patients need to make dietary adjustments, and may also be prescribed antibiotics to prevent or treat infection. Left untreated, acute renal failure can be fatal.

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