What Causes Kidney Failure?

High blood pressure and diabetes are the main causes of renal failure. However, other factors such as autoimmune diseases, genetics, and direct kidney damage can also contribute to renal failure.

Your kidneys can no longer sustain your life on their own in the event of renal failure.

The most frequent causes of both acute and chronic kidney failure will be covered in this article. In addition, we'll go over kidney failure risk factors and offer advice on how to avoid it.

Acute vs. chronic kidney failure

Chronic kidney failure is also possible.

End-stage renal disease (ESRD), end-stage kidney disease (ESKD), or stage 5 chronic kidney disease (CKD) are other names for chronic kidney failure. It results from the kidneys gradually losing their ability to function.

Acute renal damage is another name for acute kidney failure. It results from either renal damage that builds up over a few hours or days, or from an abrupt and severe loss of kidney function.

Acute renal failure is frequently treatable, in contrast to chronic kidney failure, which is incurable.


According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diabetes and high blood pressure (described below) jointly account for 3 out of every 4 new instances of renal failure in the United States.

The most common cause of CKD is diabetes. Kidney disease affects around one in three persons with diabetes. You run the chance of developing this illness if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

Nephrons, which are blood arteries and filtering units found in the kidneys, remove waste materials, poisons, and extra fluid from the blood. High blood sugar levels in diabetics can harm these structures and decrease their effectiveness. Chronic renal failure may result from this injury over time.

High blood pressure

Your kidneys may suffer harm from high blood pressure. High blood pressure might also result from kidney damage. By maintaining a healthy range for your blood pressure, you can interrupt this loop.

Controlling the volume of fluid in your blood vessels is one of your kidneys' functions. We call this circulatory volume. This volume rises when your kidneys are damaged, which raises your blood pressure.

Blood arteries in and around the kidneys can sustain additional damage from uncontrolled high blood pressure. This lessens their capacity to remove pollutants and extra fluid from the blood.

Your arteries weaken, stiffen, or narrow with time, which reduces or completely stops their capacity to supply filtered blood to the kidney tissue. There may be renal failure.

Autoimmune diseases

Your immune system attacks healthy cells in error when you have an autoimmune disease. Your kidneys may suffer harm from a few of these ailments.

Certain autoimmune disorders cause swelling and inflammation in blood vessels, making it difficult for your kidneys to effectively eliminate waste. Others result in the formation of granulomas, or clogging masses, inside your kidneys and other organs.

Among the autoimmune conditions that might result in renal failure are:
  • type 1 diabetes
  • lupus nephritis
  • ANCA-associated vasculitis
  • Henoch-Schönlein purpura
  • sarcoidosis
  • Goodpasture syndrome

Genetic diseases

While over 60 forms of kidney disorders are hereditary, meaning they are passed on from parent to child, chronic kidney disease (CKD) may occasionally run in families.

renal failure risk may be elevated by a hereditary renal condition. For instance, the fourth most common cause of kidney failure is autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease or ADPKD.

Other hereditary kidney conditions consist of:
  • Alport syndrome
  • cystinosis
  • Fabry disease
  • Gitelman syndrome

Glomerular diseases

Your kidneys' glomeruli are collections of microscopic blood channels that serve as filtering organs. Third among the causes of kidney failure in the US are glomerular disorders, which injure the glomeruli.

These include glomerulonephritis, which causes the glomeruli to expand and become inflamed, and glomerulosclerosis, which causes the glomeruli to scar and become harder.

Glomerular disease frequently develops as a result of various illnesses and disorders:
  • infections
  • substances or mixtures that harm the kidneys
  • diabetes
  • lupus

Causes of acute kidney failure

Although it can be reversed, acute renal failure strikes unexpectedly. Usually, one or more of the following causes it:

Reduced blood flow to kidneys

Conditions that decrease or impede blood flow to the kidneys, such as the following, can lead to acute renal failure:
  • hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • blood loss from injury
  • heart failure
  • severe burns
  • fluid loss from severe diarrhea
  • organ failure
  • heart attack
  • long-term overuse of NSAIDs

Direct damage to the kidneys

Acute renal failure can also result from kidney damage. Kidney injury that is severe and abrupt can be caused by:
  • sepsis
  • vasculitis
  • scleroderma
  • multiple myeloma
  • interstitial nephritis

Urine blockage

Kidney failure may arise from an obstruction in the urinary tract. A few circumstances that could lead to this are:
  • enlarged prostate
  • kidney stones
  • cancer of the cervix, bladder, or prostate
  • hematomas in the urinary system

Who is at risk of kidney failure?

Kidney failure risk may be increased by any of the aforementioned disorders, particularly diabetes and high blood pressure, particularly if the condition is poorly treated.

The following are other variables that raise your chance of renal failure:
  • Race: The likelihood of renal failure from CKD development is higher in people of colour. There is also a higher risk of AKI in Black individuals. While there is disagreement among studies, socioeconomic variables might be significant.
  • Genetics: Certain gene mutations may make you more susceptible to renal failure when your CKD worsens.
  • Obesity: Obesity increases the chance of renal failure from CKD by three times.
  • Smoking: Renal failure is more common in smokers than in non-smokers or those who stop smoking.
Studies indicate that the risk of renal failure from CKD may decline with age, while the majority of patients with ESRD are 75 years of age or older. Researchers are still unsure of this paradox's causes.

How can I prevent kidney failure?

Genetics cannot be changed, but there are lifestyle choices that can lower your chance of kidney failure. The following advice is suggested by experts to avoid renal failure:
  • Maintain a moderate weight.
  • Maintain a low-carb diet and regular exercise to control your blood sugar if you have diabetes or prediabetes.
  • Adhere to a doctor's instructions when using blood pressure medication.
  • Maintain a healthy cholesterol range.
  • Steer clear of overusing anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Reduce your salt intake.
  • If you smoke or vape, try to stop.
Managing your risk if you have renal disease or any of its risk factors can be achieved by seeing a doctor regularly and doing as they advise.


Acute renal injury or chronic kidney disease can also lead to kidney failure. Diabetes and hypertension are the main causes of chronic kidney disease (CKD). Hereditary kidney diseases, glomerular disorders, and some autoimmune diseases like lupus are among the other causes.

Failure of the kidneys without therapy is deadly. Consult a healthcare provider about treatments and preventative measures that target your unique risk factors if you are susceptible to this illness.

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