Acute Renal Failure Versus Chronic Kidney Disease
Kidney failure occurs when the kidneys lose their ability to function. To treat kidney failure effectively, it is important to know whether kidney disease has developed suddenly (acute) or over the long term (chronic). Many conditions, diseases, and medicines can create situations that lead to acute and chronic kidney disease. Acute renal failure is more commonly reversible than chronic kidney failure.
The presence or lack of symptoms may help your doctor determine whether acute renal failure or chronic kidney disease is present.
Most cases of acute renal failure occur in people who are already in the hospital for other reasons. In these people, acute renal failure is usually diagnosed when routine tests show a sudden increase in creatinine and blood urea nitrogen (BUN) levels. A buildup of these waste products in the blood points to a loss of kidney function. Your doctor will compare these levels to previous tests to find out if kidney disease is acute or chronic.
An ultrasound of the kidneys also may help determine whether kidney problems are acute or chronic. Normal-sized kidneys may be present in either condition, but when both kidneys are smaller than normal, chronic kidney disease is usually the problem.
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