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Acute Kidney Injury


Acute kidney injury (AKI)

is also called acute kidney failure, or acute renal failure. AKI happens when your kidneys suddenly stop working correctly. Normally, the kidneys remove fluid, chemicals, and waste from your blood. These wastes are turned into urine by your kidneys. AKI usually happens over hours or days. When you have AKI, your kidneys do not remove the waste, chemicals, or extra fluid from your body. A normal amount of urine is not produced. AKI is usually temporary, but it may become a chronic kidney condition.

Causes of AKI:

  • Decreased blood flow to the kidney, such as from hypercalcemia (high blood calcium level) or severe heart disease
  • A disease or condition that affects the kidneys, such as hypertension (high blood pressure) or diabetes
  • A blockage in the kidney or ureter, such as a kidney or bladder stone, enlarged prostate, or tumor

Common symptoms include the following:

You may not have any symptoms with early or mild AKI. As AKI progresses, you may have any of the following:

  • Decrease in the amount of urine or no urination
  • Swelling in your arms, legs, or feet
  • Weakness, drowsiness, or no appetite
  • Nausea, flank pain, muscle twitching or muscle cramps
  • Itchy skin, or your, breath or body smells like urine
  • Behavior changes, confusion, disorientation, or seizures

Call 911 if:

  • You have sudden chest pain or trouble breathing.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your symptoms get worse.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your symptoms return.
  • Your blood sugar or blood pressure level is not within the range your healthcare provider recommends.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for AKI

depends upon the cause of your acute kidney injury and how severe it is. Usually, AKI will be monitored in the hospital. If you have mild AKI, you may be able to go home to recover. Your healthcare providers will treat the cause of your AKI. You may need IV fluids if your AKI was caused by little or no fluid in your body. You may need dialysis to remove waste and extra fluid from your body.


Your healthcare provider may tell you to eat food low in sodium (salt), potassium, phosphorus, or protein. A dietitian can help you plan your meals.

Drink liquids as directed:

Your healthcare provider may recommend that you drink a certain amount of liquids. This will help your kidneys work better and decrease your risk for dehydration. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.

What you can do to manage and prevent AKI:

  • Monitor and manage other health conditions. such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease. These conditions increase your risk for acute kidney injury. Take your medicines for these conditions as directed. Also, monitor your blood sugar and blood pressure levels as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if your levels are not in the range he or she says it should be.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider before you take over-the-counter-medicine. NSAIDs, stomach medicine, or laxatives may harm your kidneys and increase your risk for acute kidney injury. If it is okay to take the medicine, follow the directions on the package. Do not take more than directed.
  • Tell healthcare providers you have had acute kidney injury before you get contrast liquid for an x-ray or CT scan. Your healthcare provider may give you medicine to prevent kidney problems caused by the liquid.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Acute Kidney Injury (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.