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Kidney Failure in Elderly Adults

Among the elderly, poor kidney function is incredibly common. Nearly 40% of Americans over the age of 60 suffer from chronic kidney disease, placing them at risk for kidney failure. If you have a loved one who’s at risk, then it’s important to become familiar with the signs and symptoms of kidney failure in the elderly. Promptly seeking medical attention for kidney problems can reduce the amount of damage that’s inflicted and may even save a life.

What Is Kidney Failure?

There are 2 types of kidney failure, acute and chronic. Acute kidney failure is the result of some health event, like suffering an injury, blood loss from surgery, or the consumption of medications. Chronic kidney disease is the result of a comorbid disease gradually damaging the kidneys. And as damage builds up, our kidneys become ineffective.

When your kidneys are no longer able to filter your blood, dangerous levels of waste swiftly accumulate. The slip from kidney disease to full-blown kidney failure can take place over only a few days. Kidney failure can be fatal, and intensive treatment is always necessary. But for anyone who is otherwise in good health, kidney failure may be reversible, and nearly normal function can often be recovered.

Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Failure

In most cases, you can identify kidney failure by knowing a few of its hallmark symptoms. They usually include fatigue, nausea, confusion, chest pain, shortness of breath, and decreased urine output. It’s common to see fluid retention and swelling, especially on the legs. But kidney failure can also occur gradually enough to show no immediate symptoms. And with kidney failure in the elderly, symptoms may be masked by another comorbid condition.

Causes of Kidney Failure

The various causes of kidney failure for elderly adults can be broken into 3 groups. The first group of causes are comorbid health conditions and medications which slow blood flow to the kidneys. Heart disease, dehydration, blood loss, infection, blood pressure medications, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are among the most common examples.

The second group of causes are instances of direct damage to the kidneys. That includes blood clots, toxins, inflammation, lupus, and similar forms of immediate tissue damage. The third group of causes for kidney failure for elderly adults are the result of the drainage tubes becoming blocked. Without clear passage from the kidney, cellular waste is unable to escape the body through urine. Blockages can be caused by an enlarged prostate, kidney stones, blood clots, and several types of cancer.

Preventing Kidney Failure in the Elderly

Elderly people are at greater risk for nearly all types of kidney failure, and kidney failure can be accompanied by several serious complications.  Among them you’ll find muscle weakness, chest pain, fluid buildup, kidney damage, and even death. Without a kidney transplant, the morality rates for end-stage kidney disease are projected to be as high as 20%.  That’s why prevention is key, especially when it comes to preventing kidney malfunction in the elderly.

There’s no cure for a lifetime of kidney damage, but it is possible to avoid adding unnecessary strain to the kidneys. Lifestyle changes can help manage the comorbid conditions that can contribute to kidney failure. And it’s particularly important to encourage your loved ones to be vigilant about carefully following the instructions on all over-the-counter pain medications. Common painkillers are well known to be biologically taxing to kidneys, young and old alike.