Acute kidney injury refers to a medical condition when kidneys stop functioning as they are supposed to. The function of kidneys is to eliminate waste from the blood, form urine and balance other body fluids.
Acute kidney injury (also called acute renal failure) means that your kidneys have suddenly stopped working. Your kidneys remove waste products and help balance water and salt and other minerals (electrolytes) in your blood. When your kidneys stop working, waste products, fluids, and electrolytes build up in your body. This can cause problems that can be deadly.
All acute kidney injury conditions require a hospital stay for the patient to be treated. How long a patient stays in the hospital depends on the reason for the kidney failure and how fast the kidneys can recover. Doctors have to deal with the underlying cause of the failure.
Treatment for acute kidney failure involves identifying the illness or injury that originally damaged your kidneys. Your treatment options depend on what’s causing your kidney failure.
Treating complications until your kidneys recover
Your doctor will also work to prevent complications and allow your kidneys time to heal. Treatments that help prevent complications include:
- Treatments to balance the amount of fluids in your blood. If your acute kidney failure is caused by a lack of fluids in your blood, your doctor may recommend intravenous (IV) fluids. In other cases, acute kidney failure may cause you to have too much fluid, leading to swelling in your arms and legs. In these cases, your doctor may recommend medications (diuretics) to cause your body to expel extra fluids.
- Medications to control blood potassium. If your kidneys aren’t properly filtering potassium from your blood, your doctor may prescribe calcium, glucose or sodium polystyrene sulfonate (Kayexalate, Kionex) to prevent the accumulation of high levels of potassium in your blood. Too much potassium in the blood can cause dangerous irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) and muscle weakness.
- Medications to restore blood calcium levels. If the levels of calcium in your blood drop too low, your doctor may recommend an infusion of calcium.
- Dialysis to remove toxins from your blood. If toxins build up in your blood, you may need temporary hemodialysis — often referred to simply as dialysis — to help remove toxins and excess fluids from your body while your kidneys heal. Dialysis may also help remove excess potassium from your body. During dialysis, a machine pumps blood out of your body through an artificial kidney (dialyzer) that filters out waste. The blood is then returned to your body.
Prevention has always been better than cure. Acute kidney injury can be kept at bay by simply making lifestyle changes. These changes though simple have a great impact.
Staying thoroughly hydrated is the most important thing you can do to prevent kidney stones and keep kidneys strong. Water dilutes the urine, and that prevents minerals and salts from clustering together and forming stones. I often recommend that patients who are at risk for kidney stones start the day by drinking fresh lemon juice in a glass of room temperature water.
Make certain you have healthy populations of friendly bacteria known as probiotics in your intestines. Studies have shown that these microorganisms are linked to better overall and digestive health, as well as a long list of other benefits. One of those involves assisting kidneys in processing waste materials, as well as reducing the likelihood of developing kidney stones.
A recent clinical trial involving patients with chronic kidney disease found that the group taking probiotics improved kidney function test scores as well as overall quality of life.