Renal Failure Complications

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People with renal failure usually develop complications in its end stages, when the function of the kidney is extremely low.

Even when kidney failure is advanced, most people still discard a normal or near-normal amount of urine; this is sometimes confusing because one would think if the kidney is not functioning, no fluids would be discarded from the body. What happens is that urine is formed, but it does not contain enough of the body's waste products.

With advanced kidney disease there is swelling of the feet, ankles or legs caused by a collection of fluid in the spaces that surround the body's tissue, loss of appetite, increased sleepiness, nausea, vomiting, confusion and difficulty thinking. Patients often develop high blood pressure, blood chemistry (electrolyte) abnormalities such as a high potassium concentration, anaemia (a decrease in red blood cells, which can cause fatigue and other symptoms) and bone disease.

Chronic kidney disease can affect almost every part of your body.


  • Fluid retention, which could lead to swelling in your arms and legs, high blood pressure, or fluid in your lungs (pulmonary edema)
  • A sudden rise in potassium levels in your blood (hyperkalemia), which could impair your heart's ability to function and may be life-threatening
  • Heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease
  • Weak bones and an increased risk of bone fractures
  • Anaemia
  • Decreased sex drive and erectile dysfunction 
  • Damage to your central nervous system, which can cause difficulty concentrating, personality changes or seizures
  • Decreased immune response, which makes you more vulnerable to infection
  • Pericarditis, an inflammation of the saclike membrane that envelops your heart (pericardium)
  • Pregnancy complications that carry risks for the mother and the developing fetus
  • Irreversible damage to your kidneys (end-stage kidney disease), eventually requiring either dialysis or a kidney transplant for survival.


Written by Dr Ruusa Shivute | Health Window

References: Abboud H, Henrich WL. Clinical practice. Stage IV chronic kidney disease. N Engl J Med 2010; 362:56.

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