Renal Failure

What is renal failure?

Renal failure refers to temporary or permanent damage to the kidneys that results in loss of normal kidney function. There are two different types of renal failure--acute and chronic. Acute renal failure has an abrupt onset and is potentially reversible. Chronic renal failure progresses slowly over at least three months and can lead to permanent renal failure. The causes, symptoms, treatments, and outcomes of acute and chronic are different.

What is end-stage renal disease (ESRD)?

End-stage renal disease is when the kidneys permanently fail to work.

What are the symptoms of renal failure?

The symptoms for acute and chronic renal failure may be different. The following are the most common symptoms of acute and chronic renal failure. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

Acute (Symptoms of acute renal failure depend largely on the underlying cause.):

  • Hemorrhage
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Rash
  • Diarrhea or bloody diarrhea
  • Poor appetite
  • Severe vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Back pain
  • Muscle cramps
  • No urine output or high urine output
  • History of recent infection (a risk factor for acute renal failure)
  • Pale skin
  • Nosebleeds
  • History of taking certain medications (a risk factor for acute renal failure)
  • History of trauma (a risk factor for acute renal failure)
  • Swelling of the tissues
  • Inflammation of the eye
  • Detectable abdominal mass
  • Exposure to heavy metals or toxic solvents (a risk factor for acute renal failure)


  • Poor appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Bone pain
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Itching
  • Dry skin
  • Malaise
  • Fatigue with light activity
  • Muscle cramps
  • High urine output or no urine output
  • Recurrent urinary tract infections
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Pale skin
  • Bad breath
  • Hearing deficit
  • Detectable abdominal mass
  • Tissue swelling
  • Irritability
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Change in mental alertness
  • Metallic taste in mouth

The symptoms of acute and chronic renal failure may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

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