Skip to content

Make Appointments & Get Care

What is Kidney Failure?

Damage to the kidneys that results in the loss of normal kidney function is known as renal or kidney failure. Your provider may refer to this as acute kidney injury. There are two types of kidney failure:

  • Acute kidney injury starts abruptly and can sometimes be reversed
  • Chronic kidney disease progresses slowly and can lead to permanent kidney failure.

Conditions that may lead to this include:

  • Rhabdomyolysis, kidney damage from muscle breakdown due to severe dehydration, infection, or other causes
  • Decreased blood flow to the kidneys from blood loss or shock>
  • A blockage along the urinary tract
  • Hemolytic uremic syndrome, involving blockage of the small vessels in the kidney, often caused by an E. coli infection
  • Infection or certain medicines that may be toxic to the kidneys
  • Glomerulonephritis, or inflammation of the tiny units within the kidney where blood is cleaned, impairing the kidney’s ability to filter urine
  • Any condition that impairs the flow of oxygen and blood to the kidneys, such as a heart attack

Kidney failure can be fatal without treatment. However, you can recover with the right treatment. Patients with kidney failure may need treatment for the rest of their lives.

Symptoms of Acute Kidney Failure

Symptoms, which depend on the underlying cause, include:

  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Rash
  • Diarrhea
  • Poor appetite
  • Severe vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Back pain
  • Muscle cramps
  • No urine output or high urine output
  • Pale skin
  • Nosebleeds

Conditions that can lead to chronic kidney failure include:

  • Diabetic nephropathy, due to high blood sugar
  • High blood pressure
  • Lupus
  • Urinary track blockage
  • Alport syndrome, a genetic disorder
  • Nephrotic syndrome, a condition that leads to too much protein in the urine
  • Polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disorder that causes fluid-filled cysts in the kidneys
  • Cystinosis, a genetic problem in which the amino acid builds up within the cells in the kidneys
  • Interstitial nephritis or pyelonephritis—inflammation of the small structures in the kidney

Symptoms of Chronic Kidney Failure

  • Poor appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Bone pain
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Itching
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue with light activity
  • Muscle cramps
  • High urine output or no urine output
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Pale skin
  • Bad breath
  • Hearing problems
  • Irritability
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Change in mental alertness
  • Metallic taste in mouth

Schedule an appointment with a UR Medicine provider.

Call (585) 275-4517

UR Medicine's Treatments for Kidney Failure

Treating kidney failure depends on the cause and severity of the issue. Hospitalization is often necessary. Treatment may also include:

  • Intravenous (IV) fluids
  • Diuretic therapy (medication to increase urine output)
  • Monitoring electrolytes and heart rhythm, as the heart muscle is at risk for changes in these electrolytes
  • Medication to control blood pressure
  • Changes in diet

Depending on the level of kidney function, treatment may require:

Dialysis, which is used to treat both acute and chronic kidney failure and involves removing waste substances and fluid from the blood that are normally removed by the kidneys. Dialysis may also be used for people who have been exposed to or ingested toxic substances. There are two types of dialysis:

  • Peritoneal dialysis. This is done by surgically placing a soft, hollow tube, called a catheter, into the lower abdomen near the navel. There are different types of peritoneal dialysis—some require a machine, others do not.
  • Hemodialysis. This can be done in a dialysis center, hospital, or at home with some training. An access site is surgically made, usually in your arm, to connect patients to a machine that cleans the blood. Hemodialysis is usually done several times a week and lasts for four to five hours.

UR Medicine is proud to offer home dialysis to qualified patients. We ensure you receive the proper training and support to help you start or continue dialysis treatments in a comfortable environment.

Medications Your physician may prescribe one or more medications to help with growth, prevent bone density loss, treat anemia, or increase urine output.

Kidney Transplant A surgeon replaces your damaged kidney with a healthy one, from either a living or deceased donor.

What Sets Us Apart?

Our nephrology team cares for a large volume of patients and therefore our providers are very familiar with rare and complex kidney diseases. We work closely with our pathology colleagues such that we often can get preliminary kidney biopsy reports same day which allows us to treat glomerulonephritis very quickly.

Our collaborative approach brings a wide range of expertise and diverse perspectives to patient care, with specialists in cardiology, endocrinology, infectious disease, rheumatology, transplant surgery, and urology who can work together to develop the best treatments for each patient.

Because we’re an academic medical center, our physicians also lead important research studies, with significant grants from the National Institutes of Health and industry-sponsored clinical trials.


Our care team is here for you. Find a UR Medicine expert and get care now.

View Providers


We serve you in the Rochester metropolitan area and surrounding region.

View All Locations

6 locations

General and Transplant Nephrology - Rochester

601 Elmwood Avenue, 2nd & 3rd Floors
Rochester, NY 14642

Nephrology Clinic - Rochester

Highland Professional Office Building
990 South Avenue, GAMA Practice, Suite 207
Rochester, NY 14620

Nephrology Clinic - Canandaigua

Thompson Professional Building
395 West Street, Suite 007
Canandaigua, NY 14424

Nephrology Clinic - Hornell

St. James Medical Office Building
7309 Seneca Road North, Suite 102
Hornell, NY 14843

Nephrology Clinic - Brockport

Multispecialty Suite at Strong West
156 West Avenue, 3rd Floor
Brockport, NY 14420

Palliative Care - Rochester

Wilmot Cancer Institute
601 Elmwood Avenue, 1st Floor, Suite C
Rochester, NY 14642

Related Services & Conditions