Also called acute renal failure, or ARF, acute kidney injury (AKI) is a serious health condition that affects the kidneys and secondarily, other major bodily organs, such as the heart, lungs and liver. AKI usually starts quickly, limiting the kidneys’ ability to filter toxins in the bloodstream. Read here about the symptoms, causes and treatment options for acute kidney injury.
Symptoms of Acute Kidney Injury
Many health and lifestyle factors can cause the symptoms of acute kidney injury. Kidneys can fail very rapidly over the course of a few days or even a few hours. In fact, acute kidney failure, if untreated, can be irreversible in some cases. Accordingly, your symptoms must be checked and treated by your primary care physician or nephrologist (kidney specialist).
Symptoms of AKI include:
- Noticeably reduced urine output and build-up of waste products in the bloodstream (as revealed through blood tests)
- Swelling in the lower extremities–feet, ankles and legs
- Shortness of breath
- Fatigue (with or without any exertion)
- Mental confusion and disorientation
- Loss of consciousness and coma
- Dark urine
- Continual and intense thirst
- Puffiness around the eyes
- Frequent urination
While these symptoms are obvious, some cases of acute kidney injury show up on blood tests only. So, it is important for people with a history of kidney disease, and other serious health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, congestive heart failure, hypertension or diabetes, to have regular check-ups and blood draws with their primary care providers.
Causes of Acute Kidney Injury
Damage to other major body organs, such as through a heart attack, can lead to AKI. Congestive heart failure, low blood pressure and liver failure can precipitate it also.
Other causes of acute renal failure include:
- Severe dehydration due to diarrhea or vomiting
- Sepsis, or a body wide infection
- Allergic reactions, such as anaphylaxis (from food allergies or insect stings)
- Urinary tract blockages from kidney stones, an enlarged prostate and blood clots
- Vasculitis, or inflammation of the blood vessels
Recovery From Acute Kidney Injury
While some causes of kidney failure may be readily apparent–poisoning, for instance–others may not be. So, an episode of AKI generally requires hospitalization and extensive medical testing to determine the causes behind this serious kidney condition and to develop a care plan to:
- Treat the underlying reasons for AKI (diabetes or hypertension, as examples)
- Restore normal kidney function
- Treat any urinary tract infection with antibiotics
- Improve fluid and electrolyte balance (lower phosphorous and potassium levels if elevated)
- Remove any urinary tract obstructions, such as kidney, ureter or bladder stones
- Filter waste through use of dialysis, a mechanism which removes accumulated toxins from the blood and then returns the filtered blood to the patient
Most patients undergo extensive lab tests, imaging, such as CT scans, and even needle biopsies of the kidneys. The findings gathered from these assessments help nephrologists and their patients treat the current issues and then to prevent future episodes of acute kidney injury if possible.
Keeping Your Kidneys Healthy
Thankfully, it’s not as hard as you may think. Steps you take to keep your heart, digestive system and bones and joints healthy also promote healthy kidneys and good kidney function.
These practices include:
- Routine exercise
- Getting an annual physical with your primary care provider
- Lowering salt and sugar intake
- Consumption of plenty of water daily
- Avoiding all tobacco products
- Limiting alcoholic beverages
- Keeping within ideal weight range
- Avoiding processed foods
- Choosing low-fat dairy and meat products
- Increasing fiber in your diet
- Eating protein in moderation
- Understanding your family medical history, such as kidney problems, and their underlying causes, because they tend to run in families
Highly Skilled Nephrologists in Syracuse, NY
At Upstate Medical University Department of Medicine, we have an exceptional nephrology team composed of experienced board-certified kidney doctors and support staff who deliver the highest levels of kidney care.
To learn more about acute kidney injury or other diseases and conditions of the kidneys and urinary tract, contact us at Upstate Medical University Department of Medicine by emailing at DeptMedicine@upstate.edu. Additionally, you may reach your provider directly to book a consultation.