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Kidney Failure: Stages and Treatments

by Rishabh

Kidneys are considered as a vital part of the body and are also responsible for controlling fluids in the body as well as disposes off the waste fluids from the body. The hormones made by the kidneys helps in keeping the bones strong and blood healthy. Any damage to the kidneys will result in over accumulation of harmful wastes in the body and it will cause increase in the blood pressure of a person. The body will not be able to make adequate red blood cells as body is holding this excess fluid. This entire process is known as kidney failure. Kidney failure can be categorized into two types- acute kidney failure and chronic kidney disease.

Kidney failure can either happen slowly over a period of time or suddenly (acute kidney failure). In majority of cases kidney failure is permanent that is known as end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Chronic kidney disease only means that the kidneys are damaged and are not working properly. The most serious stage of chronic kidney disease is kidney failure. Kidney transplant or dialysis are required if the kidneys have stopped working. There are two ways by which kidney failure can happen – first is acute kidney failure that slows down the function of the kidneys and can cause long-term damage to the kidneys. The other is chronic kidney disease that happens over a period of time and if found early then certain lifestyle and dietary changes can raise the life of the kidneys. Kidney biopsy, urine tests, imaging tests and blood tests are the different tests that are performed for diagnosing kidney failure.


Kidney failure can be categorized into five different stages and these stages are determined by the glomerular filteration rate (GFR). The different stages include –

  • Stage 1: There are no symptoms in this very first stage. The GFR level at this stage is 90ml/min and there could be the presence of protein or blood in the urine. Different scans and tests may show the amount of kidney damage.
  • Stage 2: There are no symptoms in the second stage and a patient may not even realize that their kidneys are not working properly. There are signs of protein or blood in the urine and GFR level at this stage is 89ml/min.


  • Stage 3: Kidney failure at the third stage shows some symptoms of this condition. The most common sign is fatigue that is generally due to anemia as there is shortage of red blood cells in the body. The accumulation of fluid known as edema is yet another symptom that results in swelling of the body. The presence of protein or blood in the urine may change the color of your urine by making it darker. A person may also feel an urge to urinate in middle of the night. A patient may feel pain in the kidney area. There could also be twitches and cramps in the muscles.
  • Stage 4: The fourth stage is marked by the GFR level in between of 15-30 ml/min. This stage is considered as the severe and advanced stage of kidney damage. A patient at this stage requires either a kidney transplant or dialysis. A patient may also feel severe edema and fatigue. Kidney pain at this stage can be felt. Changes in the taste sensations, nausea and bad breath due to accumulation of uremia in the bloodstream. Nerve problems can also be seen in this stage such as tingling and numbness.


  • Stage 5: This stage is also known as end stage renal failure where the GFR level is less than 16ml/min. Kidneys at this stage are not working and requires either dialysis or kidney transplant. Little urine production, nausea, difficulty in concentrating, vomiting, increase in the pigmentation of the skin and fatigue are some of the common symptoms that can be seen at this stage.


The two treatment options available for kidney failure are dialysis and kidney transplantation. These two treatment options depend on the cause and stage of kidney failure. Dialysis helps in the removal of excess fluid and waste products from the blood as kidneys are not able to perform these functions. Dialysis is considered as the most important and useful treatment. Hemodialysis makes use of a machine that acts as an artificial kidney that filters excess fluids and waste out from the blood. In the case of peritoneal dialysis, a dialysis solution is filled in the abdominal cavity by using a catheter. This helps in absorbing excess fluids and wastes from the blood. This dialysis solution is drained out of the body and is replaced with a fresh solution.


Kidney transplant is another treatment option available and is meant for those patients who do not have any other medical conditions other than kidney failure. This procedure involves the placement of a healthy kidney in the body that is taken from another person. These kidneys can either come from a person who has just died or also from a living donor. This new transplanted kidney will function in the same that an old kidney used to do. The success rate of the kidney transplants is very high and results in better quality of life.

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