Acute Renal Failure Symptoms And Solutions

February 14, 2022

Kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that support the elimination of waste. Filtering blood, kidneys allow humans to naturally balance fluids, form and excrete urine, as well as several other vital functions. In the United States alone, just over 100,000 patients are on the waiting list hoping they will receive a replacement kidney before their symptoms worsen.

In the early stages, there are steps patients can take to improve their kidney function. The key is identifying symptoms early on, allowing those affected to take action. Acute renal failure simply means this vital organ can no longer filter waste effectively, allowing dangerous levels of waste to accumulate in the body. This can develop rapidly, so being aware of the symptoms can be highly beneficial in managing the condition effectively.

Reduced Urine Output

Medically known as oliguria, reduced urine output is a sign something may be wrong with an individual's kidneys. Although reduced urination is the most common change regarding urine when it comes to acute renal failure and other kidney issues, it's important to be aware of other signs as well, including blood in the urine, dark-colored urine, foamy urine, or pressure when urinating. When patients cannot urinate, they generally begin diuretic treatments. Although drugs are available, plenty of natural diuretics can be sourced from local supermarkets or health stores. Some of the best options include parsley, green tea, hibiscus, Hawthorne, juniper, and dandelion. These help the body excrete excess fluid and salt.

Fluid Retention

When kidneys begin to fail, they cannot remove excess fluid and in turn, the body swells in areas such as the ankles, feet, face, legs, and hands. An individual may experience a puffy face, or issues when trying to put their shoes on—these are the types of signs to be aware of. To reduce swelling, most doctors will recommend their patients reduce their consumption of salt. This not only means table salt but all processed foods. It's also been suggested increased magnesium, potassium, and vitamin B6 consumption reduce water retention. These vitamins and minerals can be found in nuts, dark leafy greens, whole grains, bananas, tomatoes, avocados, and walnuts.


There's a number of reasons why patients may feel fatigued as their body is under immense stress. With that being said, the most common cause is anemia. Healthy kidneys produce a hormone known as erythropoietin. This hormone encourages the body to make oxygen-rich red blood cells. As the kidneys begin to fail, they make less of this hormone, resulting in less oxygen reaching both muscles and the brain. Luckily, this symptom can be treated. One of the first strategies for patients to implement is increasing their intake of iron. This will improve hemoglobin levels and restore some normal level of functioning. Vitamin B12 and folic acid are also essential. Patients who experience dangerously low hemoglobin levels may require a red blood cell transfusion for treatment.


If an individual's kidneys are not removing waste, it means toxins and waste products begin to build up in the blood. For many, this results in nausea and vomiting. As nausea worsens, many patients lose their appetite and begin to lose weight. It's said high urea nitrogen is the cause of nausea, so controlling levels is critical. Patients can limit their intake of protein since urea protein is the end product. Since humans require protein, the recommendation is for individuals to reduce their consumption of protein sources that provide little nutritional benefit, consuming more fish and other lean proteins, as well as nuts, seeds, and eggs.

Shortness Of Breath

Patients with acute renal failure will often feel winded after completing simple tasks, experiencing persistent shortness of breath. This is related to kidney function in more ways than one. First of all, since excess fluid is circulating throughout the body, it can build up in the lungs. Second, anemia leaves the body oxygen-starved. If shortness of breath is due to swelling, patients are encouraged to limit their fluid intake, however, this does change from case to case. Consuming a more alkaline diet can help, as well as natural diuretics. If anemia is the underlying cause, this can be addressed as mentioned previously.

Irregular Heartbeat

Individuals affected by acute renal failure often experience irregular and rapid heartbeat. The circulatory system containing the heart and blood vessels works in tandem with the kidneys to accomplish several things in the body. The heart supplies oxygenated blood and pumps it around the body, while the kidneys filter and regulate fluid balance in the blood. Acute renal failure is a sudden and severe decline in kidney function. Impaired kidneys send signals to the brain, which then initiates a compensatory process of releasing hormones to stimulate more blood flow to the failing kidneys. Impaired kidneys are not able to balance the sodium and water properly, allowing blood pressure to become high. The hormones secreted from the brain's response also cause a further elevation in blood pressure and heartbeat rate. This mechanism causes the heart to have to pump blood harder and faster so it can move through the highly pressurized arteries to reach the kidneys. When the heart is pumping so quickly, there is a higher likelihood it will step out of its normal rhythm when signals through the nodes in the heart become overwhelmed.

Seizures Or Coma

Acute renal failure patients may present with seizure or coma. These life-threatening conditions occur due to the fact the kidneys are not able to function. When the function of the kidneys is reduced significantly, certain substances start to build up in the affected individual's blood. Urine is made up of wastes, creatinine, urea, and other compounds. The patient's brain cells also begin to accumulate calcium from renal failure. A seizure occurs when there is a sudden rush of abnormal electrical activity in an individual's brain. When the brain gets toxic from urea and calcium, the patient can have multiple seizures in a row. These toxins also make their get into the bloodstream and cause damage to numerous organs throughout the body. These substances get to the brain because they can diffuse through the blood-brain barrier. The buildup of toxins in the brain and injury from seizures can cause the affected individual to become unconscious for a prolonged period or go into a coma. This occurs because the toxin accumulation stops nerves from being able to communicate with each other. If left untreated, a coma from acute renal failure can be irreversible.


Confusion can be an early indicator an individual is being affected by acute renal failure. This malfunction can occur when the kidneys fail to filter out byproducts from normal bodily processes that become toxic in large amounts. This toxicity can cause the patient's heart to work extremely hard in response to their reduced kidney function. When the heart is working too hard, an adequate amount of oxygen may not be able to reach all vital tissues. Brain cells become deprived of oxygen because they are being overwhelmed by toxins, and the heart cannot get enough oxygenated blood to the cells. On the other hand, acute renal failure may also cause low blood pressure, inhibiting enough oxygen from reaching the brain. The brain cells are unable to perform their functions when deprived of oxygen. Nerves in the brain become unable to communicate appropriately as the toxins begin to build up and impair their transmissions. Signals get misfired, and some nerve signals do not get sent or received at all. This malfunction can cause the patient to experience confusion and memory loss. Delirium is a form of confusion that may also manifest in affected individuals.


Acute renal failure can be a life-threatening condition for some individuals. Some cases do not resolve on their own, leaving the patient's organs to become poisoned and damaged by toxins. When all other measures do not reverse acute renal failure, dialysis may be needed to rid the patient's body of the toxic substances. Dialysis is a type of treatment that involves a machine that removes blood from the body and filters the same compounds and substances from it a healthy kidney would. This process takes several hours, and may allow the organs to detox and regain most, if not all, of their function. This treatment option is used in cases of acute renal failure, where there is too much fluid buildup to be managed with diuretic medications. Patients who have a severe acid-base disturbance in the body that don't respond to other treatments will require dialysis for their acute renal failure. When an individual has met or exceeded a certain threshold of uremia severity, dialysis may be necessary to remove this substance from the bloodstream.


Individuals affected by acute renal failure may be treated with the use of certain medications, depending on the underlying cause. Several drugs can help stimulate different functions in the body that have become impaired as a result of oxygen deprivation and toxicity. Vasopressor medications such as norepinephrine are used to cause the blood vessels to contract, resulting in a rise in blood pressure levels. Fluids may be given intravenously if the patient has become dehydrated as a result of their renal failure. Acute renal failure patients who have experienced a dangerous accumulation of excess fluids in the body as a result of poorly functioning kidneys may require diuretic medications. Diuretic medications like furosemide help increase the individual's urine output, which helps reduce the buildup of fluids and flush out the harmful toxins. In some cases, statin drugs and ACE inhibitors such as benazepril and pravastatin may be able to assist the patient's body with resuming normalization of the kidneys.

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