What Happens When You Have Kidney Failure

We were born with two kidneys located at the back of our body, in between the spine. The kidneys start producing urine, as early as during fetal life, in the mother’s womb. As early as 14 weeks of pregnancy. The kidney develops as other organs, reaching its maturity when the individual reaches at 25 years old.
The microfiltration unit in the kidney called nephron and each kidney has 1 million units once reach the age of 25 years old. In total there are 2 million units in a healthy individual.

How does your kidney function?

  • Maintaining sodium balance (controlling the blood pressure)
  • Excreting out via urine excessive amount of potassium
  • Excreting out excessive acids and nitrogenous waste products (namely urea and creatinine)
  • Maintaining calcium and phosphate balance (for our bone and muscle health)
  • Producing red blood cells in our body, via a process called erythropoiesis. A hormone named erythropoietin is produced in the renal cells to assist this process.

What happens when your kidney fails to function?

  • The patient becomes hypertensive because of fluid retention, sodium ‘loves’ water. The retention of excessive amounts of sodium which normally excreted out from the body via urine did not occur. Hence more fluid retention and build up pressure intramuscularly leading to hypertension.
  • The electrolyte potassium, which normally kept within a normal concentration of 3.5-5.0 mmol/L in the blood, is not excreted normally despite the amount increasing in the circulation due to the food intake of high potassium diet. The failing kidneys are unable to excrete out the excessive potassium. Potassium level of more than 6 mmol/L, may predispose to heart rate abnormality, and may even lead to sudden death.
  • Metabolic Acidosis resulted from the failure of the kidneys in removing the excessive amount of acid in our body. The acidic environment will interrupt the various biochemical enzymatic activity and leading to bodily dysfunction. Our bone is the buffer to this acidic environment, which in the long term will affect the patent’s physique.
  • Anemia is a condition due to low red blood cells in our body. In renal failure patients, this condition is common and may lead to heart failure due to the low hemoglobin level. A condition that we describe as high output heart failure. The insufficient amount of erythropoietin hormone produced by the damaged kidney is the main reason for this.           

How to prevent further damages toward our kidneys?   

  • Practice a healthy lifestyle aiming for ideal body weight.
  • Practice a healthy diet, avoid salty food, and reduce sugar intake.
  • Abstain from taking regular Non-steroidal based, painkillers like Ponstan or Voltaren. These drugs if taken regularly for the long term will damage your kidneys
  • Keep yourself hygienic, especially your private areas. Unhygienic pelvic area predisposes to urinary tract infections. Urinary tract infections are common in female and this predisposes to renal stone that will damage kidneys.
  • Regular fluid intake, keeping yourself hydrated may prevent under volume state that may also predispose to renal failure.