Kidney Failure: Causes, Symptoms, and Variations

Kidneys are responsible for filtering blood to remove toxins from your body. Kidney failure happens when they are unable to perform this function, leaving your body at risk of toxins. Kidney failure can be life-threatening if left untreated. Read on.

9 minute read

Last Updated July 14, 2020

What Is Kidney Failure? - Men's Health - 1MD

Your kidneys are situated in your lower back, one to each side of your spine. These organs are responsible for filtering blood to remove toxins from your body. Toxins are removed by way of urine through the bladder. 

Kidney failure marks the inability for kidneys to perform this function, leaving your body at risk for a buildup of toxins. Kidney failure can be life-threatening if left untreated.

Kidney Failure in Men

While women may be more likely to develop kidney disease, men are more likely to progress to kidney failure. Kidney health is especially important for men, as they have a higher risk of developing kidney stones and kidney cancer. 

Studies have shown a link between testosterone and kidney health. Low testosterone has been associated with earlier death in males that have kidney disease. It is important for men to understand the causes and treatment options for kidney failure. 

Certain precautions are important in terms of maintaining testosterone levels and healthy kidney function. Where men are concerned, kidney failure can be prevented with lifestyle changes and maintaining better health overall.

Kidney Failure Causes

There can be several causes or conditions that lead to kidney failure. The people most at risk for kidney failure will experience loss of blood flow to the kidneys and urine elimination issues

A sudden loss of blood flow to the kidneys caused by a heart attack, heart disease, sepsis, or dehydration can cause kidney failure. Certain cancers such as prostate, colon, and bladder cancers can cause blocked passages, which in turn block the flow of urine. 

Additional causes of kidney failure can include:

♦ A blood clot in or around your kidneys
♦ Lupus (autoimmune disease-causing inflammation in several organs)
♦ Drugs and alcohol
♦ Uncontrolled diabetes
♦ Vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels)
♦ Glomerulonephritis (inflammation of the small blood vessels in the kidneys)

Kidney Failure Symptoms

Often there are no symptoms present with kidney failure, but possible symptoms can include:

♦ Unexplained shortness of breath
♦ Persistent nausea
♦ Reduced amount of urine
♦ Swelling in the extremities (fluid retention)
♦ Confusion
♦ Pressure in your chest
♦ Seizures

With regard to men only, there is a significant link between kidney failure and reduced sexual function. Renal failure changes hormone level and function. This can cause erectile dysfunction and loss of libido. In later stages of kidney failure, the risk of infertility is also increased.

Kidney Failure Diagnosis

Your doctor will take a urine sample to look for abnormalities, such as unusual proteins or sugars in the urine that should not be there. 

They will also perform a urinary sediment examination to diagnose kidney failure. This test measures red and white blood cell counts and looks for bacteria. Your doctor can also measure your urine output levels as lower levels indicate possible kidney failure due to a blockage.  

Treatment for Kidney Failure

The type of treatment you get will depend on the causes of your kidney failure. 

Dialysis: This involves using a machine to filter your blood, essentially acting like your kidneys. You will either be connected to a portable catheter bag or a large machine. This treatment does not cure kidney failure, but it extends the life of your kidneys. You will be required to follow a low-salt and low-potassium diet with dialysis.

♦ Kidney transplant: When you have a kidney transplant, you will no longer need dialysis. There is usually a long waiting list for transplants, and once you have a donor’s kidney, you will need to take immunosuppressive drugs to prevent your body from rejecting the foreign tissues. 

Kidney Failure Diet

Dietary changes for those with kidney failure will depend on what stage you are in as well as your overall health. In general, those with kidney failure are advised to:

Limit sodium and potassium: aim to eat less than 2,000 milligrams per day of both

Limit phosphorus: aim to stay below 1,000 milligrams per day

Follow protein guidelines: In earlier stages, you need to cut back on protein intake, but in later stages, you may start eating more depending on your doctor’s recommendations.

High blood pressure increases the risk of complications with kidney failure in men. It is important to control this through diet. Limiting sodium is essential to lowering blood pressure. This is the most important dietary change to make. 

The DASH diet is ideal for limiting sodium and cutting out other foods that can increase blood pressure. Desserts, fats, red meat, and sweetened beverages are also important to remove from the diet. Cutting out processed food also limits the unnatural products and potential toxins entering your body.

Natural Treatments for Kidney Failure

In addition to medical treatments and dietary support, there are several natural supplements that have been found to support kidney health and can be used by those with kidney failure. 

Because kidney failure in men is often linked to other health concerns, you need to make sure treatments do not interfere with each other. It is important to speak with your doctor first before adding any of these supplements to your diet, to make sure there is no risk for adverse reactions. 

♦ American ginseng
♦ Blessed thistle
♦ Garlic
♦ Lemongrass
♦ Kelp
♦ Turmeric
♦ Safflower
♦ Stinging nettle
♦ Water lotus

What Are the Variations of Kidney Failure?

There are five different types of kidney failure.

Acute prerenal kidney failure: This is caused by insufficient blood flow to the kidneys, and your kidneys cannot filter toxins effectively without proper blood flow.

Acute intrinsic kidney failure: This results from direct trauma to the kidneys, ischemia, or toxin overload.

Chronic prerenal kidney failure: This happens when the kidneys shrink and lose functionality as a result of limited blood flow over a long period of time. 

Chronic intrinsic kidney failure: This is caused by long-term damage to the kidneys as a result of intrinsic kidney disease, which results from direct trauma to the kidneys.

Chronic post-renal kidney failure: This is caused by a long-term blockage in the urinary tract that prevents urination, increased pressure, and eventual kidney failure. 

Kidney Failure Statistics

♦ An estimated 37 million people in the United States have chronic kidney disease and/or kidney failure.
♦ Men have a greater risk of developing kidney failure than women.
♦ Approximately 90 percent of adults with kidney failure are unaware they have it.
♦ Kidney failure is the ninth leading cause of death in the United States.
♦ 1 in every 3 Americans is at risk for kidney failure.

Kidney Failure and Surgery

In cases where kidney failure is advanced, and the kidney is no longer able to perform its functions, surgical transplants can be done. The waiting list for a suitable donor can be long, so it is better if you have a close relative able to donate a kidney. 

Surgery involves removing the damaged kidney and replacing it with a donor’s kidney. It will be necessary for you to take immunosuppressive drugs after this surgery to prevent your immune system from attacking the donor organ. You will also be required to follow a treatment plan and diet after surgery, so as not to risk additional failure.

What Is the Long-Term Outlook?

The outlook for kidney failure depends on several factors, especially the underlying cause. If the underlying cause is successfully treated early enough, thereby reducing complications, then the outlook will be a positive one. 

If there are any complications such as diabetes, excessive alcohol use, or high blood pressure, then the prognosis will change. Because men have a higher risk of kidney failure, promoting kidney health needs to be a priority. Proper treatment and healthy living can help improve your situation and extend your health and life.

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