When Your Kidneys Starts To Fail: Kidney Failure at a Glance

God gave us two kidneys for a reason. So that even if we lost one of them, we can still live and continue to function normally. But what if we lost both? What if both of them started to fail at the same time? Then you’re definitely in for a lot of trouble… and whole world of pain.

Why are the kidneys so important?

We’re all aware that the kidney’s role in our body is to filter waste and excess fluid then pass them out as urine. But what most of us don’t know is that its functions go way beyond the meager task of urine production. These are some of the jobs the kidneys do for our body.

The kidneys are powerful chemical factories that perform the following functions:

  • remove waste products from the body
  • remove drugs from the body
  • balance the body’s fluids
  • release hormones that regulate blood pressure
  • produce an active form of vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones
  • control the production of red blood cell

                                                                                                      – source


What happens when both your kidneys fail?

When both the kidneys fail and cannot efficiently perform the jobs it’s supposed to do, the body starts to feel the effects as well. Blood pressure that was once stable starts to show spikes and sudden fluctuations. You start to feel weak and lethargic as Hemoglobin levels drop as Anemia sets in. Bone grow weak. Most noticeably, excess waste and fluid starts to build up on the body since the kidneys fail to rid the body of them. They begin to settle on the ankles, hands, and face (peripheral edema) and gradually migrates to the lungs (pulmonary edema) and around the heart (pericardial effusion). Congestion is imminent if these excess fluids aren’t removed from the body and could threaten life.

Things to do when kidneys fail

Failing of both kidneys (kidney failure) is diagnosed through a series of laboratory tests. Be sure to consult with a Nephrologist (kidney disease specialist) if you suspect your kidneys are starting to malfunction. He will order a battery of tests to determine the remaining kidney function and the type of treatment you must undergo. Some of these tests are:

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Blood Tests

Serum CreatinineCreatinine (kree-AT-uh-nin) is a waste product that comes from the normal wear and tear on muscles of the body. Creatinine levels in the blood can vary depending on age, race and body size. A creatinine level of greater than 1.2 for women and greater than 1.4 for men may be an early sign that the kidneys are not working properly. The level of creatinine in the blood rises, if kidney disease progresses.
Glomerular Filtration Rate(GFR)This test is a measure of how well the kidneys are removing wastes and excess fluid from the blood. It may be calculated from the serum creatinine level using your age, weight, gender and body size. Normal GFR can vary according to age (as you get older it can decrease). The normal value for GFR is 90 or above. A GFR below 60 is a sign that the kidneys are not working properly. A GFR below 15 indicates that a treatment for kidney failure, such as dialysis or a kidney transplant, will be needed.
Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN)Urea nitrogen (yoo-REE-uh NY-truh-jen) comes from the breakdown of protein in the foods you eat. A normal BUN level is between 7 and 20. As kidney function decreases, the BUN level rises.

Imaging Tests

UltrasoundThis test uses sound waves to get a picture of the kidney. It may be used to look for abnormalities in size or position of the kidneys or for obstructions such as stones or tumors.
CT ScanThis imaging technique uses contrast dye to picture the kidneys. It may also be used to look for structural abnormalities and the presence of obstructions.

Kidney Biopsy

A biopsy may be done occasionally for one of the following reasons:

  • to identify a specific disease process and determine whether it will respond to treatment
  • to evaluate the amount of damage that has occurred in the kidney
  • to find out why a kidney transplant may not be doing well

A kidney biopsy is performed by using a thin needle with a sharp cutting edge to slice small pieces of kidney tissue for examination under a microscope.

Urine Tests

Some urine tests require only a couple of tablespoonfuls of urine. But some tests require collection of all urine produced for a full 24 hours. A 24-hour urine test shows how much urine your kidneys produce in one day. The test also can give an accurate measurement of how much protein leaks from the kidney into the urine in one day.
UrinalysisIncludes microscopic examination of a urine sample as well as a dipstick test. The dipstick is a chemically treated strip, which is dipped into a urine sample. The strip changes color in the presence of abnormalities such as an excess amount of protein, blood, pus, bacteria and sugar. A urinalysis can help to detect a variety of kidney and urinary tract disorders, including chronic kidney disease, diabetes, bladder infections and kidney stones.
Urine ProteinThis may be done as part of a urinalysis or by a separate dipstick test. An excess amount of protein in the urine, called proteinuria (pro-TEEN-yu-ree-uh). A positive dipstick test (1+ or greater) should be confirmed using a more specific dipstick test (an albumin specific dipstick) or by a quantitative measurement, such as albumin-to-creatinine ratio.
MicroalbuminuriaThis is a more sensitive dipstick test, which can detect a tiny amount of protein called albumin in the urine. People who have an increased risk of developing kidney disease, such as those with diabetes or high blood pressure, should have this test if their standard dipstick test for proteinuria is negative.
Creatinine ClearanceA creatinine clearance test compares the creatinine in a 24-hour sample of urine to the creatinine level in your blood to show how much blood the kidneys are filtering out each minute.

– Source


Chronic Kidney Failure (CKD) is a serious condition and often life-threatening. It would definitely change your way of living both emotionally and physically. You would require all the strength you need to endure the road ahead, and muster enough self-discipline to cope with the rigors of treatment. It’s a difficult battle to fight with various hardships scattered along the way. But for the sake of life itself and those whom we care about, we take this battle head on nonetheless.

| Disclaimer |

The information(s) indicated in this article is the author’s own opinions and are based from personal experience living with kidney failure and dialysis treatment. It could and should not replace expert medical advice. The blog and its author would not be held responsible for any untoward outcomes resulting from misuse or misinterpretation of the above-mentioned information(s).
» Blogger | Freelance Designer | Dialysis Patient «

Diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease back in 2003 and has been undergoing dialysis treatment ever since. Loves blogging, writing, graphics design food and cooking, and doing research work.

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