Our kidneys perform several functions in order to maintain balance in
our bodies. They filter waste products and excrete them in the urine.
They adjust the amounts of water and electrolytes like sodium, potassium
and calcium in the body. They also help excrete excess acid or alkali,
maintaining acid base balance. A reduction in their ability to perform
these tasks is called kidney/renal failure.
How to diagnose kidney failure?
When both kidneys fail, there is a build-up of waste products in the
blood, the easiest of which to measure in the laboratory being creatinine
and urea. Formulas to estimate kidney function or glomerular filtration
rate (GFR) using the serum creatinine are easily accessed on-line or in
apps. Importantly, even a slight rise in the serum creatinine reflects a
significant decrease in kidney function. A value of just 1.6 mg/dl may
indicate over 50% loss of kidney function.
Can failure of one Kidney lead to kidney failure?
No. When only one of two kidneys fails or is removed, overall kidney
function may not be significantly affected. The remaining kidney may
compensate and take over the workload of both kidneys.
Kidney failure means loss of functions of both kidneys.
Two major types of kidney failure
Kidney failure may either be acute or chronic in nature.
Acute Kidney Failure
Acute insults to the kidneys may cause a reduction or loss in their function
within a short period of time like a few hours to days. This decline in function was previously called acute renal failure (ARF) but has been recently named Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) .
This type of kidney failure is usually temporary. With proper treatment
kidney functions return to normal in most patients.
Chronic Kidney Failure
Gradual progressive and irreversible loss of kidney function over several
months to years is called chronic kidney disease (CKD), (previously
known as chronic renal failure or CRF). Declining kidney function may
reach a stage when the kidneys stop working almost completely. This
advanced and life-threatening stage of disease is called end stage kidney
disease - ESKD (End Stage Renal Disease or ESRD).
When kidney failure is diagnosed, over
50% of kidney function is already lost.