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Acute kidney injury

Acute kidney injury (also called acute kidney failure) affects both of your kidneys and means that they've suddenly stopped working properly. This can happen over a few hours, days or weeks and can range from a minor loss of kidney function to complete kidney failure.

It's essential that acute kidney injury is detected early since the earlier it's picked up, the better the chance of your kidneys fully recovering.

Although acute kidney injury can happen at any age, it's more common in people aged 65 and over and in people who are in hospital.

You're at an increased risk of acute kidney injury if you:

Medicines and acute kidney injury

Some medicines increase your risk of getting acute kidney injury, especially if you take them while you're dehydrated, or you take a combination of them.

Some other medicines can also increase your risk of acute kidney injury. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the medicines you're taking.

Symptoms of acute kidney injury

You can sometimes have acute kidney injury without any symptoms and it's only picked up by a blood test.

Common symptoms of acute kidney injury include:

Diagnosing acute kidney injury

Acute kidney injury is usually diagnosed from a blood test that measures the level of a substance called creatinine in your blood. High levels of creatinine mean that your kidneys aren't getting rid of waste products as well as they should.

Sometimes a sample of your urine will be checked for blood and protein.

An ultrasound scan of the kidneys may be done to pick up any blockages.

In rare cases, you may need a kidney biopsy to work out what's causing your acute kidney injury. This involves taking a very small sample of tissue from one of your kidneys.

Treating acute kidney injury

There's no specific treatment for acute kidney injury. The treatment aims to manage your symptoms and treat the underlying cause. Sometimes you need dialysis to help your kidneys recover.

Long-term effects

Acute kidney injury can be reversible but it may take some time for your kidneys to recover. You may get your normal kidney function back or you may only get some of it back.

Some people may have permanent kidney damage that needs dialysis. This is called chronic kidney disease.

People who have a history of acute kidney injury have a higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease in the future.

Following acute kidney injury, you should get your kidney function checked by your doctor every year for the first three years.

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Adapted from Health Navigator by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created July 2021.

Sources

See also:

Looking after your kidneys

Understanding your kidney function results

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