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Kidney Failure

Kidney failure is when your kidneys stop working well enough for you to live without dialysis or a kidney transplant.  Kidney failure can happen very suddenly (called acute renal failure) or slowly over time.  In most cases, kidney failure is permanent.  This is called end-stage renal disease or ESRD.
 
How is kidney failure (ESRD) different from chronic kidney disease (CKD)?
What causes kidney failure?
How can I prevent kidney failure?
What are the tests for kidney failure?

How is kidney failure (ESRD) different from chronic kidney disease (CKD)?

CKD means that your kidneys are damaged.  With CKD, your kidneys may still be working some, but they’re not working as well as they should. 
Kidney failure is the most severe stage of CKD.  Kidney failure is when your kidneys are no longer working well enough for you to live without dialysis or a kidney transplant.

What causes kidney failure?

Diabetes and high blood pressure cause most cases of ESRD.  Other causes include:

  • Autoimmune diseases (like lupus, HIV and IgA nephropathy)
  • Genetic diseases (like polycystic kidney disease)
  • Injuries
  • Some medicines or other drugs

How can I prevent kidney failure?

The best way to prevent kidney failure is to prevent CKD.  If you have CKD, work with your doctor to slow it down.  You may not be able to fix the damage that is already done, but you might be able to keep the damage from getting worse.
 
If you have diabetes and high blood pressure, it is very important for you to manage these.  Work with your doctor to learn how.

Other ways to help protect your kidneys are to:

  • Eat a diet low in fat and salt
  • Exercise most days of the week
  • Have regular check-ups with your doctor
  • Avoid tobacco
  • Limit alcohol

Get more healthy living tips here

What are the tests for kidney failure?

The tests for kidney failure are the same as the tests for CKD.  If you think that you may be at risk for kidney failure, ask your doctor about these tests:

eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate)

  • This test tells your doctor how well your kidneys clean your blood.
  • Your doctor tests your blood for a kind of waste called creatinine.  Healthy kidneys filter creatinine out of your blood.  Your doctor will then use your creatinine test result to figure out your eGFR.
  • An eGFR less than 60 for 3 months or more may be a sign of kidney disease.

Urine Test

  • This test tells your doctor if there is blood or protein in your urine.
  • Your doctor may test your urine in the office or ask you to collect your urine at home.
  • Protein or blood in your urine may be a sign of kidney disease.

Blood Pressure

  • This test tells your doctor how hard your heart is working to pump your blood.
  • High blood pressure can cause kidney disease, but kidney disease can also cause you to have high blood pressure.
  • For most people, a normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 (120 over 80).  Ask your doctor what your blood pressure should be.
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