Kidney Failure | Chronic Kidney Disease | MedStar Health
A doctor points to an anatomical model of a kidney.

Kidney failure, also called renal failure, is the last stage of chronic kidney disease, and it occurs when the kidneys are no longer able to remove waste from the blood and concentrate urine without losing electrolytes.

Currently, there is no cure for kidney disease or kidney failure, but there are several treatment options available, such as hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and kidney transplant. For most patients, dialysis treatments are needed permanently, unless a kidney transplant becomes available.

The Walker Dialysis Program of MedStar Union Memorial Hospital located at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital provides several treatment options for kidney disease.

Symptoms of kidney failure

Similar to kidney disease, the symptoms of kidney failure, according to the National Kidney Foundation, include:

  • Anemia

  • Fatigue

  • Itching

  • Loss of appetite

  • Muscle cramps, often in the legs

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

Risk factors of kidney disease and kidney failure

There are several risk factors for kidney disease and kidney failure, according to the American Kidney Fund. These risk factors include:

  • Being of African American, Asian American or Hispanic descent

  • Being over 60 years of age

  • Diabetes

  • Family history of kidney disease

  • Heart disease

  • High blood pressure

  • Obesity

With early detection and treatment, you can be proactive about your health and lower your risk of kidney failure. For those with kidney disease, hope is not lost – there are many treatment options available to help you take charge of your health and fight back against kidney disease.

Conditions that lead to kidney failure

Similar to kidney disease, several chronic conditions can result in kidney failure, including:

  • Diabetes: This is the leading cause of kidney failure. Over time, diabetes can damage the small blood vessels throughout the body, and this affects the tiny arteries in the kidneys, as well as other organs and tissues. When this happens, your kidneys are not able to function properly. Taking control of your diabetes is one very effective way to reduce your risk of kidney disease. Learn more about diabetes.

  • Heart disease: Also known as cardiovascular disease, this refers to the buildup of plaque in the walls of the coronary arteries that lead to the heart. This plaque causes the arteries to harden and narrow, making it difficult for blood and oxygen to flow to the heart in a normal manner. The plaque also exists in the body as cholesterol, a fat-like substance that flows through the blood. Too much cholesterol in the body can put you at a higher risk of kidney disease. Heart disease and kidney disease are connected because they both reduce blood flow through various arteries. Having heart disease puts you at a higher risk for kidney disease and ultimately, kidney failure.

  • High blood pressure: Also called hypertension, this occurs when the pressure of blood against the wall of your arteries increases. Over time, high blood pressure can cause the arteries to narrow, weaken or harden, making it difficult for blood to reach your kidneys and making it harder for your kidneys to work. Increased pressure on the kidneys can affect their ability to properly filter waste from your body and perform other important functions. High blood pressure is one of the main causes of chronic kidney disease and the second leading cause of kidney failure.

Treatment options for kidney failure

Since the kidney can no longer function on its own, it is necessary for patients with kidney failure to receive regular dialysis treatments, and in some cases, a kidney transplant may be the best option for treatment. There are two types of dialysis treatments:

  • Hemodialysis: During this treatment, a dialysis machine is connected to the patient to help remove waste from the blood.

  • Peritoneal dialysis: This treatment is done at home instead of a dialysis center – the patient receives dialysate through a catheter in the stomach, which removes extra fluid and waste products from the blood.

    See diet examples through dialysis

Kidney Dialysis

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When 85 to 90% of the kidney function is lost, the term end-stage kidney failure is used, and dialysis is recommended. There are two types of dialysis: peritoneal dialysis and hemodialysis.

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