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Kidney Failure: Causes, Symptoms & Prevention


Undoubtedly, kidneys play a significant role in our body, working tirelessly to keep us healthy and balanced. Our kidneys facilitate the filtration and expulsion of excessive fluids from our bodies. So, it is crucial to understand what can lead to their failure and how we can take action to protect them.  


common causes of kidney failure


What do you mean by kidney failure? 

Kidney failure, medically known as renal failure, is a condition wherein one’s kidneys stop functioning efficiently and properly. The kidneys’ role is as important as the heart’s in the human body. Kidneys function by eliminating the toxins from your body in the form of pee and cleaning the blood. When one’s kidneys stop functioning, fluids and waste start building up in the body.  

Kidney failure has two types: 

Acute kidney failure: 

Acute kidney failure can happen to anyone at any time without any apparent symptoms. It may take weeks to months to develop kidney failure. It can be due to a number of possible factors, such as injury, drugs, poison, etc. Acute kidney failure is treatable with a wide variety of treatments. Your kidney may take months to recover fully. If left untreated, it can lead to permanent damage to your kidneys.

Chronic kidney failure:

Chronic kidney failure may take up to several years to develop. The possible reasons behind chronic kidney failure could be diabetes, hypertension, glomerulonephritis, etc. CKD diseases worsen over time, affecting your overall well-being. There is no cure available for chronic kidney failure as of now. However, you can preserve functions through treatments like dialysis. 

Symptoms of Kidney Failure

Before getting into the common causes of kidney failure, let’s know the symptoms of kidney failure. You must remember that the intensity and number of symptoms may vary among sufferers. In the initial stages, patients may have a few or no symptoms. When one’s kidneys stop working properly, you may feel the following symptoms:

  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)

  • swelling majorly around your hands, ankles, and face

  • Poor appetite or food may taste metallic

  • Peeing more often

  • Cramps (muscle spasms)

  • Dry or itchy skin

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Confusion or trouble concentrating

As soon as you start feeling any symptoms, you should reach out to your healthcare provider without any delay. Early diagnosis can aid a lot in the treatment. In addition, if you meet the doctor at the initial stage, the condition may improve.

Note: You will be shocked to know that kidney failure hits around 7,50,000 people each year in the United States. And on the global level, it affects 2 million every year. 

What are the common causes of Kidney Failure? 


Hypertension is one of the fastest-growing diseases in the world. It affects thousands of individuals every year, impairing their body’s ability to function optimally. The long-term persistence of hypertension or high blood pressure can affect the different parts of the body. One of the negative impacts of hypertension can be seen in the kidneys. Unmanageable hypertension puts unnecessary strain on the kidneys, impacting their ability to perform their function. 

You can take several precautions to avoid the negative results of hypertension on your health. The precautions may consist of eating a low-sodium diet, cutting off excess weight, and breaking habits like smoking and alcohol usage. For further guidance, you can reach out to your healthcare provider. 


Diabetes is another cause of kidney damage in people of all age groups. The increased blood sugar level affects the blood vessels of the kidneys in the long run, affecting their performance to remove waste and toxins. If you are someone living with diabetes, you need to be a little cautious. Follow the following guidelines to reduce your risk of developing such conditions: 

  • Eating a nutritious and balanced diet 

  • Avoiding alcohol and smoking 

  • Staying physically active 

  • Taking the directed medication on time  

Usage of painkillers and NSAIDs: 

Over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and many others hold the potential to affect your kidney significantly if used for a prolonged period. Therefore, if you are using any painkiller, you must be vigilant in terms of dosage and treatment duration. You should stop practicing once your doctor asks. If you stretch the treatment duration without the doctor’s consent, you are prone to experience negative fallouts in your health. The same applies to the practice of NSAIDs. Use them as directed under the guidelines marked by your doctor. 

NSAIDs and painkillers affect the blood flow to the kidneys and lead to damage. Hence, in order to prevent the side effects while using such medications, you need to follow the guidelines as marked by your doctor. And once your doctor asks you to stop taking it, adhere to his guidelines. 

Excessive consumption of alcohol and smoking: 

Excess of anything is harmful to your health. The overuse of alcohol and smoking can significantly lead to damage to your kidneys. Smoking restricts and hardens the blood vessels, affecting the kidneys' ability to work properly. On the other hand, using alcohol in excess amounts on a daily basis can put a strain on the kidneys, leading to serious long-term damage. Therefore, to be on the safer side, you must limit your alcohol usage and quit smoking. In case you are unable to do so on your own, seek medical support. 


Dehydration is another popular cause of kidney damage and failure. Not taking an adequate amount of required fluids causes dehydration. Dehydration can put stress on the kidneys, affecting their ability to function optimally. In order to minimize the risk of developing kidney failure or damage due to dehydration, it is crucial to stay hydrated on a daily basis, irrespective of gender and age. Everyone should aim to consume at least 8 cups of water to stay hydrated. However, the exact requirement may depend on the individual’s sex, age, weight, and other factors.  


You can prevent your risk of developing kidney disease by adhering to the below-listed guidelines:

Go through the instructions stated on over-the-counter medications:

While using prescription and non-prescription painkillers such as acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, etc., please go through the guidelines and follow them throughout the treatment. The prolonged use and misuse of pain relievers can lead to serious kidney damage. 

Aim for an optimal weight:

Being overweight can cause serious kidney problems. If you are overweight, try to cut off extra weight by obeying a strict diet and exercise routine. On the other hand, if you are at a healthy weight, try to maintain it by indulging yourself in physical activities. 

Avoid smoking: 

If you are a smoker, you are required to cut off this habit. Smoking holds the risk of causing damage to your kidney and making existing damage worse. If you are unable to quit it on your own, see a professional to know the best plan for you. Medications, counseling, and support groups can ease your journey of quitting smoking. 

Working on underlying medical conditions:  

If you are suffering from conditions that increase your risk of coming across kidney disease, please work with your healthcare provider to manage existing medical conditions. Also, you can undergo a few tests under the supervision of a specialist to measure the risk and signs of kidney damage.

Summing up: 

Understanding the common causes of kidney failure is crucial for prevention and overall well-being. Some of these causes include uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, certain medications, kidney infections, and genetic factors. By taking proactive steps to manage blood sugar and blood pressure levels, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, staying hydrated, and avoiding excessive use of medications, we can significantly reduce the risk of kidney failure. Don't forget that prevention is key when it comes to protecting our precious kidneys and maintaining optimal health. 


1. What are the common causes of kidney failure?

Kidney failure is one of the life-threatening diseases that affects around 7,50,000 people each year in the United States. There are several things that can lead to kidney failure. Some of the popular causes of kidney failure are: 

  • Diabetes 

  • Hypertension 

  • Excess use of painkillers and NSAIDs 

  • Smoking 

  • Alcohol consumption

People who are fighting with these conditions or indulge in such habits are prone to encounter kidney failure. 

2. What role does high blood pressure play in kidney failure?

High blood pressure is one of the prevalent causes of kidney failure across the globe. The long-term effects of hypertension can be seen in various organs, and the kidneys are one of them. High blood pressure unnecessarily strains the kidneys, hindering their performance and ability. Therefore, if you are someone who is living with hypertension, you should follow precautions to control it. 

3. Are there lifestyle factors that contribute to kidney failure?

Yes, your lifestyle choices play a significant role in the maintenance of kidneys. For example, if you consume a diet that is rich in sugar, salt, and saturated fats, you are more prone to develop hypertension and diabetes. Hypertension and diabetes are two prominent risk factors for kidney failure. Therefore, you should eat clean and healthy to prevent yourself from encountering such conditions. 

Another lifestyle factor is smoking and drinking alcohol in excess amounts. Smoking and alcohol usage raise your risk of developing kidney failure. Hence, you should keep yourself away from such bad habits. 

4. How does diet impact kidney health?

What you eat daily impacts your kidneys’ health significantly. For instance, eating a diet consisting of chips, cookies, and ice cream affects your kidneys negatively. You should balance your intake of such things to avert the possibility of such severe conditions.

Changing your diet doesn’t only prevent you from kidney failure but also reduces the risk of conditions like hypertension, obesity, diabetes, etc. Therefore, go for foods that are beneficial for your health.  

Medically Reviewed By:

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B. Pharma

(Dr. A. Sharma, PharmD, is a licensed pharmacist and a medical writer with 10 years of clinical experience. He strives to empower patients to understand their medications so that they become better healthcare advocates.)


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