What Are the Causes of Kidney Failure and What is Dialysis

The size of the human kidney is very small when compared to other vital organs of the body but they perform extremely critical functions needed to maintain good health. Kidneys carry out the vital functions of filtering waste and removing the excess fluids from the body. When kidneys malfunction, it can lead to serious and often life-threatening conditions.Complete kidney failure may necessitate Dialysis Treatment. Before we try and understand what dialysis is and how it works, let us find out the causes of kidney failure.


The major causes of kidney disease are:

Undoubtedly, diabetes is the number one cause of kidney disease across the globe. High blood pressure or hypertension is the second key cause of diabetes. When blood flow to the kidney is affected it can result in kidney failure. Some health conditions that may cause kidney failure are a heart attack, heart related diseases, liver scarring, dehydration, burn injuries, allergic conditions and even infection such as sepsis. Kidney failure can also be caused by genetic conditions such as PKD or Polycystic Kidney Disease and auto-immune diseases.

It is important to understand that kidney disease is not contagious. However, you can be at a bigger risk of suffering from kidney failure if diabetes and/or blood pressure run in the family. You must get checked regularly to ensure that your blood sugar and blood pressure is normal.

Other conditions that can affect the normal functioning of kidneys include:

A blood clot in or near the kidneys

  • Excess toxins from heavy metals
  • Consumption of drugs or alcohol drinks in large quantities or over a long period
  • Lupus, an inflammation-causing autoimmune disease
  • Glomerulonephritis which causes swelling in the small blood vessels of the kidneys
  • Scleroderma, a disease that affects the skin
  • Chemotherapy drugs, dyes and some types of antibiotics
  • Dyes used in some imaging tests

Dialysis is a medical procedure that acts as a substitute for kidneys and performs key functions. Individuals with kidney problems can undergo dialysis to live productive lives.

Patients with failed kidneys usually require dialysis when the level of waste products in their body increased to such an extent high that they feel sick and their movements get restricted. The blood chemical levels of various types are measured by the doctors and the pathologists to help decide the time of dialysis. Creatinine and Blood Urea Nitrogen are the key chemical levels usually measured in patients. A rise in the level of these two factors indicates malfunctioning kidneys.

Other indicators are also generally used by the doctors to decide about the need for dialysis and the time. If the patient is unable to get rid of excess water and is displaying symptoms of kidney failure such as weak sensation in legs and inability to taste food, it could be an indicator that they should be put on dialysis even if the Creatinine level has not fallen below the normal reading.

There are two types of dialysis procedures available:

Hemodialysis (HD)

Peritoneal dialysis (PD)

HD makes use of a filter called dialyzer that’s placed outside the body. During the dialysis process, blood flows to the filter from the body. The filter removes the waste and fluid and pumps back the purified blood back into the body. HD can be done in a dialysis center or in the home.

PD works by using the peritoneal membrane which is lined within the abdominal cavity. Its function is to naturally filter fluid and waste from the blood.

The Experience

Dialysis is a relatively simple and painless process. Some patients may experience discomfort while being connected to the machine in HD or at the conclusion of the drain cycle in PD. This problem can be brought to the attention of the medical team so they help minimize the discomfiture.

It may take some time – a few weeks at least – to adjust to life on dialysis. Once the routine is established, you will feel better, both physically and emotionally.


Content Reviewed by – Asian Hospital Medical Editors