What causes kidney failure?

Kidney failure can be caused by a wide variety of underlying diseases, disorders or conditions that lead to kidney damage, such as obstruction, infection, malignancy, inflammation, deformity, toxic ingestion, or a reduced blood supply to the kidneys. Underlying causes include:

  • Diabetes, which can damage the kidneys over time
  • Diseases that cause inflammation and damage to the kidney, such as nephritis and glomerulonephritis
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Infections, such as repeated bladder infections, pyelonephritis (kidney infection), or septicemia (blood infection)
  • Liver failure
  • Medications, such as intravenous (IV) drug abuse, overdose of certain drugs, or long-term use of certain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Polycystic kidney disease (inherited disease that causes formation of large cysts in the kidneys that damage kidney tissue)
  • Reduced blood flow to the kidneys due to shock or renal artery stenosis (narrowing of the renal arteries)
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (disorder in which the body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues) and other autoimmune diseases that can attack the kidneys
  • Toxic exposure to poisonous substances
  • Trauma or injury to the kidney or arteries that supply blood to the kidneys
  • Urinary tract obstruction, which can be caused by a kidney stone, tumor, congenital deformity, or enlarged prostate gland

What are the risk factors for kidney failure?

Kidney failure can affect people of any age and any race or cultural background. However, a number of factors increase the risk of developing kidney failure. Risk factors include:

  • African American, Native American, Hispanic American, Asian, or Pacific Islander ethnicity
  • Age 65 years or older
  • Diabetes
  • Exposure to radiographic contrast material
  • Family history of kidney disease or kidney failure
  • High cholesterol, atherosclerosis (buildup of plaque on the walls of the arteries), and peripheral artery disease (PAD)
  • Intravenous (IV) drug abuse
  • Liver disease
  • Long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen)
  • Recent major surgery or serious or life-threatening illnesses, such as shock and septicemia (blood infection)
  • Smoking

    Reducing your risk of kidney failure

    Not all people who are at risk for kidney failure will develop the condition. However, you may be able to lower your risk of developing kidney failure by:

    • Following your physician’s recommendation for using medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

    • Maintaining a healthy weight

    • Not smoking

    • Not using recreational and IV drugs

    • Seeking regular medical care and following your treatment plan for chronic diseases and conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, high cholesterol, and heart disease


    What is kidney failure?

    Kidney failure, also called renal failure, is a life-threatening condition in which there is a buildup of waste and fluid in the body due to severe deterioration of kidney function. The kidneys are vital internal organs located in the upper abdomen. Normally, people have two bean-shaped kidneys that form a part of the urinary tract in the genitourinary system.

    Healthy kidneys functi... Read more about kidney failureintroduction


    What are the symptoms of kidney failure?

    Symptoms of kidney failure, kidney disease, and other underlying causes of kidney failure can vary. General symptoms can include:


    How is kidney failure treated?

    Treatment or prevention of kidney failure begins with treatment of the underlying cause. Treatment plans vary depending on the underlying cause or disease. The goal of treatment is to cure or control the underlying condition and prevent excessive fluid and waste from accumulating in the body, as well as to stop or slow the progression of kidney damage. Treatment may also minimize complications ... Read more about kidney failuretreatments

    Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

    This Article is Filed Under: Kidneys and the Urinary System

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