Acute kidney failure

Acute kidney failure occurs when your kidneys suddenly become unable to filter waste products from your blood. When your kidneys lose their filtering ability, dangerous levels of wastes may accumulate and your blood's chemical makeup may get out of balance.

Acute kidney failure — also called acute renal failure or acute kidney injury — develops rapidly over a few hours or a few days. Acute kidney failure is most common in people who are already hospitalized, particularly in critically ill people who need intensive care.

Acute kidney failure can be fatal and requires intensive treatment. However, acute kidney failure may be reversible. If you're otherwise in good health, you may recover normal kidney function.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Signs and symptoms of acute kidney failure may include:

  • Decreased urine output, although occasionally urine output remains normal
  • Fluid retention, causing swelling in your legs, ankles or feet
  • Drowsiness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Seizures or coma in severe cases
  • Chest pain or pressure

Sometimes acute kidney failure causes no signs or symptoms and is detected through lab tests done for another reason.

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms of acute kidney failure.

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