Kidney Failure

Diagnosis

If you have an illness or medical condition that increases the risk of acute renal failure, your doctor will monitor you closely for symptoms or signs of kidney failure. He or she may give you blood and urine tests and measure the amount of urine you produce. If you have a chronic (long-term) medical condition that increases the risk of long-term kidney damage, your doctor will check your blood pressure and look for symptoms of chronic renal failure during regularly scheduled office visits.

To confirm the diagnosis of acute renal failure, your doctor will order tests of your urine and blood tests to check for chemical abnormalities. Levels of these chemicals are elevated in people with poor kidney function. Other tests may include:

  • A chest X-ray to check for signs of heart failure
  • X-rays of the abdomen or an ultrasound examination of the kidneys to check for a urinary tract obstruction
  • A kidney biopsy, in which a sample of kidney tissue is removed and examined in a laboratory

Your doctor may suspect that you have chronic renal failure if you have symptoms or a chronic medical condition that is known to cause this problem. Because chronic renal failure typically develops gradually, a physical examination may be normal. To confirm the diagnosis of chronic renal failure, the same evaluation may be recommended as for acute renal failure, including tests of blood and urine, ultrasound of kidneys and in some cases, a kidney biopsy.

Doctors diagnose end-stage renal disease when symptoms become pronounced and certain blood chemicals reach very high levels in the blood, indicating that kidney function has been severely affected.

Expected Duration

Acute renal failure may go away on its own, and some people recover within a matter of days. Exactly how long the illness lasts varies considerably from person to person, depending on the cause of the kidney problem. In rare cases, acute renal failure progresses to end-stage renal disease.

Chronic renal failure is a lifelong problem that can worsen over time to become end-stage renal disease. End-stage renal disease is a permanent condition that can be treated only with dialysis or a kidney transplant.

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