Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) is a disorder commonly classified as a short term period of reduced kidney function, which causes the buildup of uremic toxins in the blood. Since the kidneys are involved in so many bodily functions, AKI is also able to affect the pulmonary system, cardiovascular system, and your brain! Commonly found in hospitals, intensive care units, and the elderly, AKI can be a life threatening disease and can lead to a wide variety of complications if it is not treated properly.
It can be difficult to know if you have Acute Kidney Injury (AKI), as some people don’t show any symptoms at all, however, the most common symptoms are easy to catch. Difficulty urinating (not enough urine), fatigue, confusion, nausea, chest pain, swelling in the ankles, legs, and eyes, and in some cases seizures or comas can be tell-tale signs that you have Acute Kidney Injury (AKI). There are three main causes of AKI, direct damage to the kidneys, blockage of the urinary tract, and decreased blood flow. Direct damage to the kidneys is the most obvious of the three and can be caused by a few “not-so-obvious” ways. For starters, overusing drugs like ibuprofen, ketoprofen, and naproxen (commonly defined as NonSteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs or NSAIDs) can lead to severe kidney damage via slowing the blood flow to the kidneys. Hypotension (low blood pressure) is another common cause of injury via decreased blood flow. Other conditions/diseases such as severe allergic reactions, injury, surgery, burns, heart attack, blood loss, and even non-kidney organ failure can decrease blood flow to the kidneys! A blockage in the urinary tract can be quite painful, but it can also lead to kidney injury. Blockages can be caused by cancer of the urinary tract, an enlarged prostate, kidney stones, blood clots in the urinary tract, and problems with the nervous system that affect urination. A blockage in the urinary tract can lead to an increase in pressure inside the kidney, which can lead to all sorts of injury. It is important to contact your physician if you ever have difficulty urinating, or it becomes very painful. Direct damage to the kidney can be caused by a multitude of conditions and diseases. Severe infections can damage the kidney, vasculitis (characterized by inflammation, scarring, and the stiffening of your blood vessels), allergic reactions, tubular necrosis (causes inflammation in kidney tubules), and even rare forms of cancer. Direct damage to the kidney can reduce the efficacy of filtration, and lead to the buildup of toxins in the bloodstream.
If you feel like you have Acute Kidney Injury (AKI), there are many tests that can be performed to check whether or not you have it. Tests include urine tests (amount of urine, and analyzing the composition of your urine), blood tests, GFR tests, imaging, and in some cases a kidney biopsy. If any of these tests come back positive for AKI, there are some treatment options. Usually, staying in the hospital under the supervision of a doctor is the treatment, as treating the cause of the AKI the way to get rid of it. For the serious cases, dialysis may be needed to clear your bloodstream of the uremic toxins until your kidney function returns to normal. Recurring AKI can cause long-term health complications. Stroke, heart attack, and serious kidney illness are the three main serious complications, each time AKI occurs, your risk of these complications increases. The most efficient way to lower your risk of AKI and the complications that come along with it is to talk to your healthcare provider and keep track of your kidney function.