May be acute or chronic, involving a sudden or gradual build-up of water and waste products in the blood.
Acute Kidney Failure
The kidneys stop working within the space of several hours or days. Cause may be Shock (usually due to heavy blood loss or a heart attack), sudden blockage of the ureters, bladder, or urethra (by Kidney Stones, for example), or, more rarely, Glomerulonephritis (widespread damage to filtering units in kidneys). Symptoms may be secondary to those of immediate cause, but include scanty urine, loss of appetite (see Appetite Changes), Nausea and Vomiting, and eventually Confusion, abnormal sleepiness or drowsiness, and coma. Orthodox treatment depends on underlying cause; to restore kidney function, person may need intravenous drip of blood or plasma, and diuretic drugs; in more severe cases, several weeks of dialysis (machine-assisted elimination of water and wastes) may be necessary, or even a kidney transplant; to assist recovery, a high calorie/low protein/low fluid regime is prescribed, together with careful monitoring of potassium and sodium levels.
If failure symptoms follow severe blood loss or heart attack, contact Emergency Medical Services and give Aconite 30c every 5 minutes for up to 6 doses until help arrives; if failure sets in for other reasons, appropriate action is to consult your doctor if there is no improvement in 12 hours, plus one of the remedies below.
Specific remedies to given every hour for up to 10 doses while waiting for help
- In early stages of failure, person feverish, anxious, and afraid of dying Aconite 30c
- In early stages of failure, person feverish, with flushed face and staring eyes Belladonna 30c
- No urine passed, or blood only Terebinth 30c
- Face and feet look puffy with retained fluid, burning, stinging pains in kidney region Apis 30c
- Person drowsy, especially after stroke or heart attack Opium 30c
- Symptoms worse for exposure to cold Camphora 30c
Chronic Kidney Failure
Brought about by mild but recurrent attacks of inflammation (see chronic Pyelonephritis, Glomerulonephritis, Kidney Stones, High Blood Pressure), kidney efficiency slowly decreases as more and more tissue becomes scarred; certain drugs, notably aspirin, paracetamol, and phenacetin, and the toxic element cadmium can also cause inflammation. Symptoms are insidious - tiredness, feeling lethargic, passing urine more often than usual, and a gradual increase in blood pressure. As time goes on, person may begin to suffer from Anaemia, osteomalacia, and hyperparathyroidism as metabolism of iron and calcium fails, or may develop the symptoms of end-stage kidney failure (see below).
Since kidney damage is irreversible, treatment is directed towards slowing down the failure process. Homeopathic treatment is constitutional and dietary, although the specific remedies given above for acute kidney failure may be used while treatment is being sought. Orthodox treatment is also dietary, with drugs to control blood pressure and to prevent bones losing calcium. Iron, vitamins, and a low protein/high fluid diet are usually recommended.
End-stage Kidney Failure
Occurs in three out of four people already suffering from Chronic Kidney Failure, the last straw often being a minor urinary infection. Symptoms are many and varied - Headaches, Nausea and Vomiting, Oral Thrush, Halitosis, a furred tongue (see Tongue Disorders), Diarrhoea, retention of fluid in the lungs and under the skin (oedema), itchy skin, cessation of periods (see Menstrual Problems).
Orthodox treatment is to alleviate as many symptoms as possible by drugs; in suitable cases, dialysis (long-term use of a kidney machine) or a kidney transplant may be offered. Homeopathic treatment is constitutional, though until dialysis or a transplant is possible it can only be palliative.