Treatment for kidney failure

When you have kidney failure (also called end-stage renal disease, or ESRD), it means your kidneys have stopped working well enough for you to live without treatment. There is no cure for kidney failure, but with treatment many people with kidney failure are able to keep doing activities they want or need to do. Talk to your doctor about which treatment is best for you.


Dialysis is a treatment to clean your blood when your kidneys are not able to. It helps your body remove waste and extra fluids in your blood. It does some of the work that your kidneys did when they were healthy. A healthy, working kidney can remove fluid and waste 24 hours a day. Dialysis can only do 10-15% of what a normal kidney does.

You will need dialysis when you have kidney failure, also called end stage renal disease (ESRD). Kidney failure means your own kidneys no longer take care of your body's needs to remove waste or extra fluids from your blood. The waste and extra fluids can build up to make you feel sick.

There are 2 types of dialysis for kidney failure: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis (PD). Hemodialysis can be done in a dialysis center or at home. Learn more about the different dialysis treatment options.

Kidney transplant

A kidney transplant is a surgery to give you a healthy kidney from someone else's body. A kidney transplant may come from a living donor or from a deceased donor. The healthy kidney can do the job that your kidneys did when they were healthy. A kidney transplant is not a cure, but a treatment for kidney failure. You will need to take medicines and take special care of your transplanted kidney for the rest of your life.

Medical management

If you choose not to get dialysis or a transplant, medical management is a way to help you live comfortably and do some activities. Medical management uses medicine and kidney-friendly eating to lower the symptoms of kidney disease and help you feel better. Medical management is not a treatment for kidney failure and it will not keep you alive.

Medicine to manage kidney disease

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a medicine that has shown to help protect the kidneys. This medicine is a type of sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitor. It is an oral tablet that may reduce the risk of kidney failure in adults with chronic kidney disease. Talk to your doctor about whether this medicine could be an option for you.

Clinical trials for kidney disease

A clinical trial is a research study to see how well a medicine works and if it is safe. Clinical trials rely on volunteers to join, and researchers protect their safety using a research plan that is reviewed by experts. Clinical trials for kidney disease test things such as:

  • New treatments for kidney disease or ways of lowering symptoms 
  • Ways to improve current treatments
  • New ways of finding signs of kidney disease

Lifestyle and wellness with kidney disease

Kidney disease can often be prevented by making healthy life changes. If you already have kidney disease, you can take steps to keep your kidney damage from getting worse. Some of these steps include: