Acute kidney failure develops when the kidneys stop working suddenly and lose the ability to excrete excess salts, fluids and waste from the blood. The main function of kidneys is to eliminate unwanted waste and if the kidneys lose its filtering potential body fluids begin to rise and blood’s chemical levels go out of balance. This can eventually lead to electrolyte imbalance and waste materials start to build up in the body which can be fatal. Also Read: Kidney Disease: Signs & Symptoms

Acute kidney failure, also known as acute kidney injury or acute renal failure and more common in people who are sick or hospitalized and may rapidly develop over a few days to a week. Seriously sick patients have the highest risk of developing acute renal failure.


Acute kidney failure can develop due to several reasons which include:

  • Certain disease conditions that may hinder the blood flow to the kidneys and lead to kidney injury include:
  • Fluid or blood loss
  • Intake of hypertensive drugs
  • Cardiovascular disease and heart attack
  • Liver failure
  • Infection
  • Long-term usage of certain medicine
  • Severe burns
  • Dehydration
  • Severe anaphylaxis reaction

Damage to the kidneys

Conditions that may damage the kidneys and lead to acute renal failure:

  • Blood clots in the veins and arteries in the kidneys
  • Deposits of cholesterol that hinders blood flow in the kidneys
  • Inflammation the tiny filters in the kidneys (glomerulonephritis)
  • Haemolytic syndrome
  • Lupus, autoimmune disorder damaging glomerulus
  • Scleroderma
  • Chemotherapy drugs and dye used for imaging tests
  • Heavy metals, alcohol and cocaine use
  • Muscle tissue breakdown where toxins from muscle destruction damage the kidneys.

Conditions that block the passage of urine which lead to kidney injury include:

acute kidney failure
Risk Factors

The risk factors for developing acute kidney failure increase in older people and individuals with long-term health problems such as:

  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Uncontrolled diabetes and high blood pressure
  • Heart failure
  • Morbid obesity


Signs and symptoms of acute kidney failure include:

  • Blood in stools
  • Bad odour
  • Edema or fluid retention
  • Pain in the ribs and hips
  • Weakness
  • Hand tremor
  • Bruising
  • Poor appetite
  • Mood disorder
  • Poor sensation in the hands and feet
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • High blood pressure

Diagnosis And Treatment

If signs and symptoms suggest acute kidney failure, then the doctor may suggest certain blood work and procedure to confirm the diagnosis which includes:

Urine tests –urinalysis may determine abnormalities caused due to kidney failure.

Blood work – the doctor may recommend certain blood tests such as urea nitrogen, serum potassium and sodium, estimated glomerular filtration rate, creatinine clearance, serum creatinine to measure kidney function.

Imaging Tests such as abdominal CT scan, MRI and X-ray are also done to determine any blockage in the urinary tract.


The main strategy of treatment depends on treating the underlying cause of acute kidney failure and to restore the normal functioning of the kidney. It is crucial to avert fluids and wastes to build up in the system while the kidneys recover.


The doctor will restrict the amount of fluids intake during the day which helps to lessen the toxins build up and enable the kidneys to normally excrete the waste. A low protein, salt and potassium and high carbohydrate diet are generally recommended. Also Read: World Kidney Day 2020: Top 5 Foods For Enhanced Renal Function - Infographic


The doctors may also prescribe antibiotics to treat infections and diuretics to climate waster from the kidneys.


Some patients may need dialysis and mostly it will be temporary. Dialysis is a procedure where blood is moved into a machine that filters out waste and purified blood returns to the body. Dialysis can also help to flush out nitrogen waste from the system.