Acute renal failure (ARF) can cause pain in some people. Some people may experience chest pain or related conditions that can cause lower back pain or painful urination. But not everyone experiences pain, and symptoms differ between individuals.

This article looks at signs of ARF, which doctors sometimes call acute kidney injury (AKI). It examines the types of pain involved in the condition, possible complications, and more.

A person with lower back pain, a possible sign of acute renal failure.Share on Pinterest
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A person with ARF may experience pain or pressure in the chest. In some cases, other conditions associated with renal failure can cause lower back pain, painful urination, and more.

However, some individuals may not experience symptoms. Symptoms can also vary between people.

Other common signs and symptoms of ARF include:

ARF and its complications can result in pain in some cases.

Lower back pain

Researchers sometimes link ARF to the formation of kidney stones, which may cause lower back pain.

Lower back pain from kidney stones is typically sharp and usually occurs on one side of the back.

Kidney pain

Doctors do not generally associate kidney pain with ARF, and it is more likely to occur in instances of things like urinary tract infections (UTIs), injuries to kidneys, and infection.

If a person does experience kidney pain, it is generally present under the ribcage, to either side of the spine, and can occur on one or both sides.

Unlike lower back pain caused by kidney stones, kidney pain is typically a dull, aching pain. It may worsen if a person applies pressure to the area.

Chest pain

Chest pain or pressure is a common symptom of ARF.

The lining of the pericardium, which surrounds the heart, may become inflamed and cause pain and pressure in the chest.

As the kidneys try to maintain proper fluid levels in the body, fluid may also build up inside the lungs, which can lead to shortness of breath.

Loin pain

Kidney stones, which researchers associate with ARF, may also cause pain in the loins, which can radiate to the groin area.

The pain can be sudden and severe and can come and go in waves.

Painful urination

As with pain in the loins and lower back, painful urination is more likely to result from a condition related to ARF than to the ARF itself.

Kidney infection can cause a burning, painful sensation during urination, while kidney stones can cause severe pain during urination.

ARF can lead to several possible complications that can cause pain. These include:

  • Hyperphosphatemia: Hyperphosphatemia is a medical condition involving too much phosphate in the blood.This can lead to bone pain.
  • Hyperkalemia: ARF can lead to hyperkalemia. This is a condition that involves too much potassium in the blood, which can lead to chest pain. It can also cause arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms), which can lead to a heart attack.
  • Pulmonary edema: Pulmonary edema refers to a fluid buildup in the lungs, which can cause several symptoms, including chest pain.
  • Metabolic acidosis: In metabolic acidosis, acid builds up in the kidneys. This can cause a variety of symptoms, including headaches.
  • Heart failure: ARF can lead to heart failure, which can cause chest pain and various other symptoms.

A person should immediately contact emergency services if they or a loved one experiences severe ARF symptoms, such as:

Treatment and recovery for ARF typically involve a stay in the hospital, although how long a person is hospitalized depends on the cause of their condition and the speed of their recovery.

Severe cases of ARF may require dialysis to replace the function of the kidneys and eliminate waste from the blood until the kidneys have recovered.

The outlook for ARF can vary between individuals.

Outcomes for the condition can depend on underlying kidney disease, the cause of renal failure, and the length of time the patient has had ARF.

Certain risk factors increase the risk of a negative outlook. These include:

The rate of mortality for people with ARF, especially those who require dialysis, is between 30–50%. Around 12–15% of people with the condition may require permanent dialysis.

This section answers some frequently asked questions about ARF.

What are the warning signs of acute kidney failure?

Warning signs of ARF include:

  • a low urine output
  • pain or pressure in the chest
  • swollen legs, ankles, or area around the eyes
  • feeling tired or fatigued
  • nausea

What kind of pain does kidney failure cause?

ARF most commonly causes chest pain. However, it can be a symptom of other conditions, such as kidney stones, which can cause lower back pain, loin pain, and painful urination.

Does acute onset renal failure cause leg pain?

If ARF is accompanied by other conditions, such as kidney stones or kidney infection, loin pain can radiate down to the groin and legs.

ARF can cause pain in some people. The most common type of pain associated with the condition is chest pain. This can be caused by inflammation in the lining that surrounds the heart or by a buildup of fluid in the lungs.

Conditions associated with ARF, such as kidney infection or kidney stones, can cause other types of pain, which include lower back pain, painful urination, and loin pain.

Not all people with ARF experience pain, and some may experience other types of pain. Anyone with symptoms of renal failure should contact a doctor, as the condition can lead to serious complications.