Many people wonder if renal failure is the same as kidney failure. In short, they are different names for the same condition. A person has kidney failure, or renal failure, if their kidneys can no longer remove enough waste products from their blood.

The word “renal” refers to the kidneys. Therefore, kidney failure and renal failure are the same condition.

Many health conditions can cause renal failure, and the outcome of the person’s health depends on the cause of renal failure.

This article examines kidney or renal failure, as well as other names for the condition, symptoms, treatments, and more.

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People may use the terms “kidney failure” and “renal failure” to refer to the same condition.

Both phrases describe the lack of kidney function such that the kidneys cannot operate well enough without medical intervention.

Medical professionals may also call this condition end stage kidney disease (ESKD) or end stage renal disease. However, they use these names in cases in which kidney failure results from developed chronic kidney disease (CKD). The end stage is stage 5 of CKD.

There are two types of kidney or renal failure:

  • Acute kidney (renal) failure: Also called acute kidney injury (AKI), this refers to kidney damage that can lead to a slight loss of kidney function. It can result from trauma to the kidney or a blockage that prevents blood flow to the organ, such as a kidney stone. This causes the kidneys to suddenly stop filtering the blood for waste products.
  • Chronic kidney (renal) disease: This is a chronic condition that develops over a long period. When kidney damage occurs slowly, such as from kidney disease, it can eventually result in chronic kidney failure.

Symptoms of renal failure occur as a result of the kidneys’ inability to efficiently filter waste products, such as nitrogen, from the blood.

People with renal failure will experience different symptoms depending on the cause of their condition.

Signs and symptoms of AKI can include:

A person who has CKD or ESKD is unlikely to experience symptoms until their kidney function has decreased to 20% or lower.

Signs and symptoms can include:

How a healthcare professional decides to treat a person with renal failure depends on the cause of the condition.

Treatment varies depending on the type of renal failure a person is experiencing.

Healthcare professionals will treat a person with AKI for the specific problem that is causing the damage to their kidneys. For example, they may remove a kidney stone that is reducing blood flow to the kidneys.

Treatment of the cause is likely to enable the person to make a full recovery. Treatment for CKD aims to slow the progression of the condition.

Dialysis or transplant surgery is necessary once the function of a person’s kidney reaches less than 10%, regardless of the type of renal failure they are experiencing.

For example, a person with AKI may need short-term dialysis while their kidneys heal and regain function.

During dialysis, a machine filters a person’s blood to remove waste products and then returns the filtered blood to the person’s body.

People receiving dialysis typically follow a food plan involving limited intake of specific nutrients, such as:

Healthcare professionals recommend being aware of some key symptoms:

  • high blood pressure
  • less frequent, if any, urination
  • swelling in the face
  • nausea
  • decreased appetite

These symptoms will not necessarily all appear together.

A person should seek advice from a healthcare professional immediately if they experience one or more of these symptoms.

The outlook for a person with renal failure depends on whether their condition is chronic or acute.

AKI typically responds to treatment, and kidney function can return once the organs have healed. CKD does not improve, but treatments such as dialysis can slow its progression.

Transplant surgery may be the best option for a person with ESKD and can improve their outlook.

This section answers some frequently asked questions about renal failure and kidney failure.

What happens when you go into renal failure?

As a person’s kidneys lose function, waste builds up in the blood. When this occurs, a blood test can detect high levels of creatinine in a person’s blood — this is a condition called uremia.

Symptoms of renal failure include nausea, edema, and fatigue.

Are renal failure and kidney disease the same thing?

Kidney failure and renal failure are the same condition.

Kidney disease refers to chronic kidney disease (CKD), a type of kidney failure. This is a chronic condition that develops over a long period.

The other type of kidney failure is acute kidney injury (AKI), wherein kidney function drops suddenly due to kidney damage.

What stage of kidney disease is renal failure?

Renal failure is stage 5 of CKD. Healthcare professionals call this ESKD.

Kidney failure and renal failure are the same health condition. Healthcare professionals may use either of these terms to describe a person’s state of kidney function.

The condition can occur gradually over time or suddenly as the result of trauma to the kidneys. Treatments involve dialysis, dietary changes, and transplant surgery.