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Kidney Transplant (cont.)

Kidney Failure

Various conditions can damage the kidneys, including both primary kidney diseases and other conditions that affect the kidneys.

  • If kidney damage becomes too severe, the kidneys lose their ability to function normally. This is called kidney failure.
  • Kidney failure can happen rapidly (acute kidney failure), usually in response to a severe acute (sudden, short-term) illness in another body system or in the kidneys. It is a very common complication in patients hospitalized for other reasons. It is often completely reversible with resolution of the underlying condition.
  • Kidney failure can also happen very slowly and gradually (chronic kidney failure), usually in response to a chronic (ongoing, long-term) disease such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
  • Both types of kidney failure can occur in response to primary kidney disease as well. In some cases, this kidney disease is hereditary.
  • Infections and substances such as drugs and toxins can permanently scar the kidneys and lead to their failure.

People with the following conditions are at greater-than-normal risk of developing kidney failure and end-stage renal disease:

  • Diabetes (type 1 or type 2)
  • High blood pressure, especially if severe or uncontrolled
  • Glomerular diseases (These are conditions that damage the glomeruli, such as glomerulonephritis.)
  • Hemolytic uremic syndrome
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Severe injury or burns
  • Major surgery
  • Heart disease or heart attack
  • Liver disease or liver failure
  • Vascular diseases (These conditions, including progressive systemic sclerosis, renal artery thrombosis [blood clot], and scleroderma, block blood flow to different parts of the body.)
  • Inherited kidney diseases (polycystic kidney disease, congenital obstructive uropathy, cystinosis, prune belly syndrome)
  • Diseases affecting the tubules and other structures in the kidneys (acquired obstructive nephropathy, acute tubular necrosis, acute interstitial nephritis)
  • Amyloidosis
  • Taking antibiotics, cyclosporin, heroin, and chemotherapy (These can cause inflammation of kidney structures.)
  • Gout
  • Certain cancers (incidental carcinoma, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, renal cell carcinoma, Wilms tumor)
  • HIV infection
  • Vesicoureteral reflux (This is a urinary tract problem.)
  • Past kidney transplant (graft failure)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
Chronic kidney failure is associated with complications that can be debilitating or have a negative effect on quality of life.
  • Anemia
  • Fluid retention
  • Pulmonary edema (This is fluid retention in the lungs that can cause breathing problems.)
  • High blood pressure from chemical imbalances and fluid retention
  • Renal osteodystrophy (This is weakening of the bones from calcium depletion, which can cause bones to fracture easily.)
  • Amyloidosis (This is deposition of abnormal proteins in the joints, which causes arthritis-like symptoms.)
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Bleeding problems
  • Neurological damage
  • Sleeping problems related to dialysis
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/3/2015
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