Acute kidney disease

What is an Acute kidney disease?

Acute kidney disease or failure occurs when suddenly the kidneys lose their ability to remove excess waste like salts, minerals, fluids, and other toxins from the blood. This elimination is the main task of the kidneys. Failure of this depicts a loss of kidney function and their efficiency. Body fluids can accumulate up to certain levels which can be dangerous when kidneys lose their ability of filtration. The condition might cause electrolyte imbalance in the body along with the accumulation of waste metabolic byproducts. It can be a life-threatening condition and the kidneys might fail completely.

Acute kidney failure is also known as an acute kidney injury or acute renal failure. It usually happens in people who are already in the hospital because of some pre-existing kidney issues. It can happen rapidly in a couple of hours or even might take few days to a week. Further people who are already critically ill and need intensive care are at the highest risk of developing acute kidney failure. It can be a life-threatening condition and requires an intensive treatment. However, the damage caused is usually reversible after the treatment and recovery.

It can be diagnosed by looking for the symptoms of acute kidney disease. The doctor can identify it using a stethoscope by hearing a crackling sound in the lungs which signify fluid retention.

Few abnormal values of the following lab tests can also signify the disease presence:

Serum potassium, serum sodium, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), urinalysis, blood analysis, creatinine clearance, and serum creatinine.

Scans like an ultrasound, abdominal X-ray or CT scan and even MRI of the abdomen can help in identifying the renal disease. Acute kidney disease can further be evaluated on the basis of rapid reduction in the kidney function which can be measured by serum creatinine levels or rapidly decreased urine output rate (oliguria) which leads to < 400 ml of urine in 24 hours. Any autoimmune disease or some antibiotics can also trigger the acute kidney disease.

What are the different types of it?

As per the cause of acute kidney disease are commonly classified into pre-renal, intrinsic, and post-renal.

Pre-renal AKI:

In this, there occurs an effective decrease in the blood flow to the kidneys which further leads to decrease in glomerular filtration rate (GFR). Both the kidneys are affected by this. Its main triggering cause is dehydration or low blood volume, low blood pressure, cardiac failure, liver cirrhosis, renal artery stenosis, and renal vein thrombosis.

Intrinsic AKI:

In this direct damage to the kidneys occur. It happens due to kidney structures like kidney tubules, glomeruli, and interstitium. Its triggers involve glomerulonephritis, acute tubular necrosis, and acute interstitial nephritis.

Post-renal AKI:

It refers to an acute kidney injury caused by underlying kidneys disease states and usually as a consequence of the urinary tract obstruction. It can be because of benign prostatic hyperplasia, obstruction of the urinary catheter, kidney stones, bladder stones, or cancer of the urinary system like of ureters, bladder, or prostate gland.

The chances of acute kidney failure are more in the older person or if there is a presence of any long-term diseases like:

  • Pre-existing kidney disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • Obesity

Acute kidney disease

  • Heart failure


Following are the few commonly occurring acute kidney diseases:

  • Acute Kidney Failure/Acute Kidney Injury
  • Acute Lobar Nephronia
  • Acute Phosphate Nephropathy
  • Acute Tubular Necrosis


What are the symptoms of the acute kidney disease?

The presence of acute kidney failure can be seen by several symptoms which include:

  • Blood in the stools or urine stools
  • Foul odor in the breath
  • Severe fatigue or tiredness
  • Edema or swelling in the legs or body
  • Pain between ribs and hips or lower abdomen
  • Tremors in the hands
  • Nervousness or any unusual change in the mental status, mainly in the older adults
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach sickness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • High blood pressure
  • Change in the taste of mouth, especially a metallic taste


What are the available treatments for it?

The treatment plan depends upon the cause of renal failure. The motive is to restore the kidney function to its normal working state. Preventing accumulation of any fluids and waste while your kidneys are recovering is essential. In the maximum number of cases, a nephrologist who is a kidney specialist makes an evaluation.


The doctor can restrict the diet and recommend a specific amount of liquids and foods as per requirement. It further reduces accumulation of any toxins and enables the kidneys to function normally to eliminate the waste from the body. Usually, in case of kidney disease, a diet high in carbohydrates and low in protein, potassium, and salt is preferable.

Acute kidney disease


Antibiotics can be prescribed to treat or prevent any infections in the kidney.  Diuretics can help the kidneys to eliminate excess fluid. Calcium and insulin can help in preventing dangerous blood potassium level increase.


The need for dialysis occurs in case of renal failure. It can be a temporary requirement until the kidneys revert to the normal state after treatment. In dialysis, the blood filtration is done outside the body in a machine. Then the clean blood is sent back to the body. If the potassium levels are extremely high, then dialysis can only save the life. It can also be essential in case there is a development of pericarditis or heart inflammation. Dialysis can help in the removal of nitrogenous waste from the body.

The reversal of acute kidney disease is possible only if its diagnosis is done early. To avoid any further complications and kidney damage proper treatment is essential.

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