What is it?
Acute kidney injury (AKI) is sudden damage to the kidneys that causes them to not work properly. It can range from minor loss of kidney function to complete kidney failure.
AKI normally happens as a complication of another serious illness. It’s not the result of a physical blow to the kidneys, as the name might suggest.
The role of the kidneys is to:
- Filter – removing waste and water from the blood (as urine, via the bladder).
- Clean the blood.
- Keep the bones healthy.
- Look after blood pressure.
- Stimulate the bone marrow to make blood
Without quick treatment, abnormal levels of salts and chemicals can build up in the body, which affects the ability of other organs to work properly.
This type of kidney damage is usually seen in older people who are unwell with other conditions and the kidneys are also affected. Unlike Kidney failure, it is often reversible if found and treated earlier.
What are the symptoms?
Initially there are no noticeable symptoms, if there are you may notice the following:
- Kidney pain, which feels like throbbing or tenderness below the rib cage or in the back/abdomen (sometimes called “flank pain”).
- Producing less urine than usual or sometimes not at all. A warning side of kidney disease, however, may be frequent urination, sometimes with blood or other color changes.
- Fluid retention and swelling due to imbalance of electrolytes, especially in the lower extremities, such as the legs, ankles or feet. The face and eyes may also appear puffy and swollen.
- Indigestion, nausea, loss of appetite and sometimes vomiting.
- High blood pressure.
- Cognitive and mood changes, mostly due to shifting electrolyte levels and dehydration. These can include confusion, trouble sleeping, anxiety, fatigue, trouble concentrating, weakness and brain fog.
- If you have very severe acute kidney injury, you may have seizures or fall into a coma.
What to expect?
If you are diagnosed with acute kidney injury, you can consider discussing the following subjects with your doctor after the initial treatment:
- Was a specific cause found?
- Do you need a stricter control of other medical conditions you may have, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol?
- A healthy diet, quitting smoking and an active lifestyle can help improve overall health and wellbeing. Which changes can you make in your lifestyle?