What are the early signs of elderly kidney failure?

Kidneys play a vital in the overall health of a person at all stages of life. The bean-shaped organs that lie just below the ribcage in the back of the abdomen help purify the body of toxins as well as regulate bodily fluids such as electrolytes, stabilize blood pressure and even produce red blood cells. The elderly are at higher risk for renal failure than younger people — as the body ages so do the kidneys, especially after decades of working to cleanse the body of all sorts of impurities. Even though the early signs of renal failure can be subtle, when taking care of an elderly loved one it’s important to be aware of seemingly un-worrisome symptoms such as loss of appetite or increased/decreased urination.

There are two types of renal failure: acute and chronic.

Acute renal failure

As it suggests, acute renal failure comes on rapidly, with symptoms noticeable with in days, weeks or months. The elderly are more prone to acute failure, especially if they have a history of diabetes, high blood pressure, problems with weight and/or heart, kidney or liver problems. If symptoms are recognized and treated early, conditions resulting from acute renal failure are usually curable.

Common symptoms include:

  • Decreased urine output
  • Fluid retention causing swelling in the feet, ankles and legs
  • Increased urination at night
  • Drowsiness/fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Back pain (above the waist, below the ribcage)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Chest pain/pressure
  • Nosebleeds
  • Bloody stools

Some cases of acute renal failure show no symptoms and are detected through lab tests.

Related: Who’s at risk for kidney disease (via National Kidney Disease Education Program)

Chronic renal failure

Unlike acute renal failure, chronic renal failure is a gradual process, taking place over years. People who are at increased risk include those diagnosed with diabetes, lupus, bladder cancer, scleroderma, vasculitis and a variety of kidney problems. Since the onset of chronic renal failure is so subtle, it often goes unnoticed until it’s too late to reverse the symptoms, resulting in eventual death. Many symptoms are shared between chronic and acute renal failure, with chronic symptoms increasing in severity.

Common symptoms include:

  • Change in color of urine
  • Increased urination at night
  • Water retention in the body (face, hands, legs, feet, ankles)
  • Unusual fatigue/weekness
  • Itching and dry skin
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea/dizziness/headaches
  • Vomiting (typically in morning)
  • Breathing problems
  • Back pain
  • Bone aches
  • Muscle pain/cramps
  • Paleness of skin/nails
  • Excessive thirst
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Numbness in the hands and feet
  • Bad breath
  • Easy bruising
  • Bloody stool
  • Sleeping problems

Related: Chronic kidney disease (via National Library of Medicine)

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Encompass can help

Encompass Senior Solutions, currently serving Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa, provides seniors and their families a complete understanding of the options available for your elderly loved one who showing symptoms of kidney failure.

All Encompass services are directed by registered nurses or licensed clinical social workers with no long-term contracts. Contact us today.

“Encompass Senior Solutions solves the problems families face in finding home health care providers they can trust. Providers who will focus on strategies that keep parents in their homes. To learn more about our health care services, visit http://www.encompass-home-health-care.com.”