Kidney Failure: Causes, Early Symptoms and Types


Medically reviewed by

Dr. Vikas Kumar Sharma

General Health

7 min read


Before knowing about kidney failure, let us understand how kidneys play a vital role in well-being. Its main function is to filter blood and remove toxins and excess fluid from the body. The kidneys also help to filter about half a cup of blood every minute.

Key Takeaways

  • The kidney removes acids produced by cells and maintains the balance of water, salts, and minerals in your blood
  • The kidney regulates blood pressure and the production of red blood cells
  • It promotes healthy bones by producing vitamin D

The kidney is an essential organ. If the kidney is not functioning, many health problems can occur. In this list, the most common condition is kidney failure. It is the state where your kidney loses the ability to filter toxins from your body. If the treatment is not received, it may also take the shape of chronic kidney disease [1]. Read further to know kidney failure symptoms, causes and types.

Types of Kidney Failure

Kidney failure is classified into two types acute and chronic kidney failure.

Acute Kidney Failure:

Acute kidney failure is also known in the name of acute kidney injury & acute renal failure. It occurs only for a few hours or days. This condition is potentially reversible. In this type, some reasons for kidney failure are loss of blood flow, blockage, trauma, and Kidney stone disease

Chronic Kidney Failure:

It is also known in the name chronic renal failure. This condition progresses slowly and may lead to severe kidney problems. The signs of kidney problems vary in both types.

Acute prerenal kidney failure:

It is the most common type of Acute kidney failure seen in 60 -70% of cases. It occurs when the blood supply to the kidney lowers. However, it is treatable by determining the reason for decreased blood flow. These are a few reasons for acute prerenal kidney failure:




Low blood pressure

Liver failure


Acute intrinsic kidney failure:

It happens due to trauma such as an accident or physical impact. Other reasons for this condition include Ischemia or toxin overload

Acute Postrenal kidney failure:

This condition occurs due to obstruction to urine flow. Other reasons for Acute Postrenal kidney failure are:

Kidney stone disease, cancers infected in the urinary bladder

Blood clots

Chronic prerenal kidney failure:

This condition occurs when enough blood doesn’t reach the kidney for a long time. Hence, the kidney begins to shrink and lose the ability to function properly

Chronic intrinsic kidney failure:

This occurs due to the development of intrinsic kidney disease

Chronic postrenal kidney failure: The long-term obstruction in urination builds pressure. It leads to kidney damage

Additional readSymptoms of Kidney Disease

Symptoms of Kidney Failure

Kidney failure symptoms are not often visible in the early stages as they develop over time. Kidney damage symptoms vary in acute and chronic conditions. As per the record, 90% of people suffering from kidney disease don’t know they have it. Here are kidney failure symptoms that will make you aware of your condition [2].

  • Taste difference in mouth
  • Urinating less or no urine
  • Loss of kidney functioning builds up excess fluid and wastes in the body resulting in swelling of the legs, ankles, and feet.
  • Loss of appetite, nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sleeping problem
  • Muscle cramps, fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Pain in the chest area
  • Confusion

Early Symptoms of Kidney Failure

Kidney failure early symptoms help identify the disease in the early stages. However, it’s hard to identify the symptoms which are:

  • Reduction in urination
  • Breathing problem
  • Swelling in arms, legs, and feet
  • Weakness
Kidney Failure Symptoms

 Symptoms Visible on Skin

Kidney failure symptoms also appear on the skin. Here are a few kidney failure symptoms of the skin that warn you about slowly progressing kidney failure:

  • Skin becomes extremely dry, rough, and tight
  • Itchy skin indicates advanced kidney disease
  • Changes in the colour of skin
  • Rashes, the appearance of small bumps
  • It also affects the appearance of fingers & toenails
  • Scratch marks due to severe scratching that also leads to bleeding
  • Blisters on hands, face

Change in Urine colour

The change in urine colour is another kidney failure symptom. However, this symptom appears in other health conditions as well.

  • Dark Yellow — It indicates drinking less water. Cut unhealthy drinks like sodas
  • Pink or red — The pink or red colour of urine indicates blood in it. A urine test is beneficial if you feel any differences
  • Foam — Excessive bubbles in urine indicate the presence of more protein. Protein in urine gives signs of progressing kidney failure

The kidney failure symptoms are often non-specific. It may happen due to other illnesses as well. If you feel any symptoms, it is good to take advice from General Physician.

Causes of Kidney Failure

There are several reasons for kidney failure. Here you can refer to the causes of acute kidney failure and chronic kidney failure.

Possible causes for acute kidney failure are:

  • Sudden hype in blood pressure
  • Blockages due to Kidney stone disease
  • Reduced flow of blood to the kidneys

Possible causes for chronic kidney disease:

Reason that leads to loss of blood flow to the kidney:

  1. Dehydration
  2. Heart attack
  3. Heart disease
  4. Live failure
  5. Dehydration
  6. Infections such as sepsis
  7. Anti-inflammatory medicines
  8. High blood pressure

Other reasons for kidney failure are:

  • Overconsumption of drugs and alcohol
  • Diabetes
  • A family history of kidney failure
  • Antibiotics
  • Vasculitis causes the blood vessel walls to narrow and thicken
  • Multiple myeloma is a condition in which a group of plasma cells becomes cancerous
  • Intake of chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer
  • Lupus is a condition where the immune system attacks its tissue
  • Certain infections
  • The hemolytic uremic syndrome is a condition in which the blood vessels get damaged or inflamed
  • Other health conditions like heart disease
Kidney Failure Symptoms

Problems Associated with Urination

Here are a few cancers that block urine passage and result in kidney damage:

  • Colon cancer- Infects the digestive tract’s lower end
  • Prostate- Cancer in gland cells of men’s prostate
  • Blood clots in the urinary tract
  • Bladder Cancer – It begins in the bladder, common among older adults

Chronic Kidney Disease Stages

Kidney diseases are classified from stage one to stage five. In each stage, kidney failure symptoms and treatments differ.

Stage 1:

In this stage, mild damage occurs to the kidney. However, your kidney will be working well. No signs of kidney problems are seen in this stage.

It is possible to prevent further kidney damage by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and avoid the unhealthy practice of alcohol and tobacco.

If you already have an underlying health condition like diabetes. Take medicine properly and try to control your blood sugar level.

Stage 2:

Mild damage to the kidney is observed, but symptoms like protein in urine and physical damage will be there.

Similar to stage one, specific lifestyle and health practice changes may lower the progression.

Stage 3:

In this stage, the kidney will not function properly. Activities like removing wastes and excess fluid are hindered. Hence, kidney damage symptoms like swelling of your feet and arms, weakness, and urination problems are common.

Stage 3 kidney disease is split into 3a and 3b based on eGFR. In addition, lifestyle changes & medications help to prevent further damage.

Stage 4:

Kidney disease is considered more severe in this stage. However, it is not a complete kidney failure case. The symptoms include bone disease, high blood pressure and pain in the lower back.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and regular visits with your doctor are important.

Stage 5:

This stage indicates that your kidney is getting closer to kidney failure or has already failed. Symptoms like nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, and itchy skin are visible.

In this stage, nephrologists highly suggest dialysis or kidney transplant.

Renal Profile Tests

The doctor prescribes various Types of renal profile tests to evaluate the kidney’s function. This test measures factors like minerals, proteins, and glucose to determine the kidney’s health. Here are a few tests often prescribed by the doctor.

Creatinine Clearance Blood Test:

Creatinine clearance blood test is the oldest test that helps to understand how well your kidney is functioning. The health care provider collects urine and blood sample for this test. This test helps to determine GFR (glomerular filtration rate); its value represents your kidney’s performance.

ACR test in detecting kidney ailments:

ACR test stands for albumin-to-creatinine ratio. This test checks for albumin protein in the urine [3]. Protein is a required component in the human body. However, it should be present in the blood, not in the urine. Too much protein in urine is an early sign of kidney problems.

Additional readHow Does an ACR Test Help in Detecting Kidney Diseases?

A Positive Note

Every disease gives you a warning sign of occurring health conditions. If possible, pay attention to these symptoms and get a doctor consultation immediately because treatment shows more effectiveness in the early stages. For example, even if you are diagnosed with kidney disease, maintain a healthy practice and follow the doctor’s instructions without fail.

If you are experiencing any symptoms, visit the doctor’s chamber and try the Bajaj Finserv Health App. Here you can get an expert’s opinion without stepping out of your home. Treat the disease early and live life fully.

Published on 3 Oct 2022Last updated on 13 Apr 2023

Please note that this article is solely meant for informational purposes and Bajaj Finserv Health Limited (“BFHL”) does not shoulder any responsibility of the views/advice/information expressed/given by the writer/reviewer/originator. This article should not be considered as a substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with your trusted physician/qualified healthcare professional to evaluate your medical condition. The above article has been reviewed by a qualified doctor and BFHL is not responsible for any damages for any information or services provided by any third party.


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