Your kidneys may be a small pair of organs, but their function is very important for your overall health. The kidneys are located toward the lower back, one on each side of the spine. The main function of the kidneys is to filter your blood and to get rid of toxins from your body. They also function to remove excessive fluid from the body. The kidneys send toxins and excess fluid to the bladder, and the toxins and extra fluid are then removed from the body through urination.
The body becomes overloaded with toxins if the kidneys fail to perform their functions, and this can lead to kidney failure that can be life-threatening if left untreated.
Acute Kidney Failure and its Causes
Acute kidney failure occurs when your kidneys stop functioning suddenly. As mentioned earlier, kidney function is critical for the removal of excess fluids and toxins from the body, along with the maintenance of electrolyte balance. When your kidneys stop functioning suddenly, waste products, fluids and electrolytes build up in your body, and this condition can prove to be deadly.
Acute kidney failure has 3 main causes:
- A sudden drop in the blood flow to the kidneys: This may occur due to heavy blood loss due to an injury or blood infection, known as sepsis affecting the entire body. The absence of adequate fluid in the body, causing dehydration may also affect the kidneys and cause damage to them.
- Kidney damage from long-term use of certain medication: People with serious, chronic health problems using medication for many years may encounter acute kidney failure. Some medicines which cause acute renal failure include: antibiotics such as gentamycin and streptomycin, pain-killers like naproxen and ibuprofen, and some blood pressure medicines such as ACE inhibitors.
- A sudden blockage to the flow of urine out of the kidneys: This can be caused by kidney stones, a tumor in the urinary tract, an injury, or an enlarged prostate gland.
Older adults and people with long-term health problems such as kidney or liver disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart failure and obesity are more likely to develop acute kidney failure. A heart surgery or a surgery involving the stomach and bone marrow transplants can also make people susceptible to acute kidney failure.
Chronic Kidney Disease and its Causes
Chronic kidney disease or CKD is a condition characterized by the gradual loss of kidney function over time. When your kidneys fail to function properly for longer than 3 months, the doctors refer to the condition as Chronic Kidney Disease. These patients usually don’t show any symptoms in the early stages.
The causes for CKD are many and they include:
- Diabetes: Both, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes cause renal failure. Uncontrolled high blood sugar levels maintained over long periods of time cause damage to the kidneys and it may end up in kidney failure.
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure causes wear and tear of the blood vessels in the body, including those supplying blood to the kidneys, and this may cause renal failure.
- Long-lasting viral infections including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and hepatitis C
- Pyelonephritis: These are urinary tract infections within the kidneys which cause scarring of the kidneys as the infections heal, leading to the damage of the kidneys and disturbance in their function, especially if the infections keep recurring.
- Glomerulonephritis: This is an infection of the small blood vessels in the kidney which affects the function of the kidneys.
- Lupus: It is an autoimmune disease that can cause an inflammation of many body organs and lead to kidney disease. Kidney disease occurring due to lupus is called lupus nephritis.
- Polycystic kidney disease: This is a genetic disease where fluid-filled sacs form in the kidneys, causing damage to kidney function.
The other causes of kidney disease include:
- A blood clot present in and around the kidneys
- Overuse of drugs and alcohol
- An overload of toxins from heavy metals
- Scleroderma, an autoimmune disease affecting the skin
- Multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow
- Dyes used in imaging tests