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End Stage Renal Disease

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End stage renal disease is a where one or both kidneys have or on the brink of complete cessation of function. Let us talk more about this serious progressive condition in the following paragraphs.

What is End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD)?

End stage renal disease is a serious condition, where one or both kidneys stop functioning. This makes it impossible to survive without dialysis or a kidney transplant. This condition is the last stage of chronic kidney disease. There are 5 stages of chronic kidney disease. The stage 5 is the most severe condition that is called as end stage failure (ESRF) or end stage renal disease (EDRD).

ESRD is different from chronic kidney disease (CKD). Even though there is permanent damage in both cases, the kidneys continue to function in chronic kidney disease. When the condition worsens the kidneys gradually lose their ability to function leading to ESRD.

Who Are At Risk Of Developing ESRD?

ESRD can affect any individual. However, it is more common in people who have diabetes. It is one of the leading causes of end-stage renal disease. Other people who are prone to ESRD include those with:

Types of Renal Failure

Renal failure can occur as an acute or chronic condition. This means it can happen abruptly, almost suddenly in case of acute renal failure. Or it can be a long, gradually progressing chronic condition.

Some of the causes of acute renal failure include:

  • Heart attack
  • Rhabdomyolysis
  • Excessive blood loss leading to shock
  • Severe infection of the kidney
  • Exposure to certain drugs or chemicals
  • Glomerulonephritis

Chronic renal failure can be a result of some of the following:

Symptoms of End Stage Renal Disease

The GRF of a person suffering from ESRD is 15 ml/min or less. The ability to filter blood of all the toxins and other functions of the kidneys is almost nil. Other symptoms of ESRD include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Severe headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of concentration
  • Excessive itching all over the body
  • Muscle cramps
  • Passing little or no urine
  • Swelling of the body, mostly around the eyes and ankles
  • Tingling in hands and feet
  • Loss of skin color
  • Excessive pigmentation of skin
  • Unbalanced electrolytes
  • Changes in the production of hormones leading to other problems such as weak bones, anemia, etc.
  • Abnormal production of enzymes that leads to high blood pressure; which is difficult to control.
  • Bad breath
  • Dry skin
  • Metallic taste in mouth, etc.

Diagnosis of ESRD

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One never realizes they have a kidney problem, until it's too late. Some of the tests to detect renal disease include:

  • Urine tests
  • CT Scan and MRI Scan of kidneys
  • Glomerular filtration rate (GFR)
  • Kidney biopsy

Treatment for End Stage Renal Failure

End stage kidney failure aims to help the body overcome the loss of kidney function. The kidneys help filter all the body wastes and extra fluid from the blood. When this does not happen, the body slowly shuts down due to its own toxins. The treatment for stage 5 is dialysis.  This includes peritoneal dialysis or hemodialysis. Dialysis just helps in reducing the symptoms of renal failure. The second option is kidney transplantation. Other than this, there is no other way to treat ESRD.


Patients with ESR have a higher rate of mortality. The main cause of mortality in these patients is cardiovascular diseases. Dialysis affects the quality of life greatly. Also, there is an increase in risk of developing cancer in younger patients.

Those with end stage renal disease need to follow a strict renal diet and take their prescribed medicines on time. Regular dialysis will help in keeping the symptoms under control. Make sure you follow your doctorsadvice and treatment. A positive outlook will help you fight end stage kidney disease.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: February 02, 2015