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Acute Kidney Disease

A serious condition that requires emergency medical attention, acute kidney disease occurs when the kidneys suddenly stop functioning. 

Also known as acute kidney injury (AKI), acute kidney disease is a sudden episode of renal failure that develops rapidly over a few hours or days. When the kidneys stop functioning, excess fluids, toxins and waste products can build up in the bloodstream. If detected and treated quickly, AKI can be reversed. Without immediate intervention, however, it can lead to lasting kidney damage.

Causes of Acute Kidney Disease

AKI can have several different causes, such as:

  • Decreased blood flow to the kidneys due to a heart attack, low blood pressure, significant blood loss, diarrhea, severe dehydration, liver failure, overuse of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or an allergic reaction
  • Kidney damage resulting from glomerulonephritis, vasculitis, scleroderma, multiple myeloma or sepsis
  • A blockage in the urinary tract caused by an enlarged prostate, kidney stone, blood clot or tumor

Symptoms of Acute Kidney Disease

AKI is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. Some warning signs include:

  • Infrequent urination
  • Swelling in the legs, ankles and feet
  • Shortness of breath
  • Mental confusion
  • Nausea
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Seizures

Diagnosis of Acute Kidney Disease

Because AKI can lead to chronic kidney disease or end-stage renal failure, a prompt and accurate diagnosis is essential. The diagnostic process may involve:

  • Measuring urine output (uroflowmetry)
  • A urinalysis
  • Blood testing, including albumin-to-creatinine ratio (ACR)
  • A glomerular filtration rate (GFR) test Imaging scans
  • A kidney biopsy

Treatments for Acute Kidney Disease

AKI treatment can vary depending on the underlying cause. Some options include temporary hemodialysis and medication. A kidney transplant may be considered to address end-stage renal failure. Usually, hospitalization is required until kidney function is restored.

Tampa General Hospital is a highly respected leader in treating all forms of kidney disease, including AKI, and our kidney transplant program ranks among the best in the nation.