Kidney Disease and Failure

Advanced Techniques to Diagnose and Treat Kidney Disease and Failure

Loyola Medicine is nationally recognized for exceptional, integrated care of patients with chronic and end-stage kidney disease and failure. Our nephrologists are known for taking on the most challenging cases and delivering outstanding outcomes. 

At Loyola, you will have an entire team on your side. While you wait for a kidney, you may face other health challenges from kidney disease, such as sleep problems, osteoporosis or heart disease. Loyola’s subspecialists provide expertise in a wide range of health conditions, and your transplant team will facilitate a referral to an appropriate specialist if needed. We have one goal: restoring you to better health.

Why Choose Loyola for Treatment of Kidney Disease and Failure?

Since 1971, Loyola’s kidney program has provided a full range of services for patients of all ages with kidney failure, including transplants and dialysis.

Loyola’s living kidney donor program can dramatically decrease your wait time from years to months or even weeks. Living-donor transplants are becoming more common because of the limited supply of deceased-donor organs. Living-donor kidneys also tend to function better and with fewer complications.

As a world-class academic medical center, Loyola’s doctors perform and teach the latest in transplant medicine. Our surgeons are skilled at multi-organ transplants and our nurse coordinators work closely with transplant patients, providing support and answering your questions—not only before surgery, but afterward as well.

What is Kidney Disease and Failure?

The kidneys remove excess water and wastes from the body. If one or both of your kidneys suffer damage or stop working due to various illnesses, extra water and toxins start to build up in your system. In patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD), the kidneys gradually stop functioning. It can take months or years before you notice symptoms. However, patients with acute kidney failure experience rapid loss of kidney function and often must be treated in the hospital to restore fluid and electrolyte balance.

Early symptoms of chronic kidney disease include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Chronic itching
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Unexplained weight loss/gain

Later symptoms of chronic kidney disease include:

  • Aching bones
  • Bad breath
  • Concentration issues
  • Cramps
  • Disruption of menstrual cycles (amenorrhea)
  • Drowsiness
  • Excessive bruising
  • Excessive thirst
  • Hand and feet swelling or numbness
  • Hiccupping spells
  • Numbness
  • Muscle twitching
  • Problems sleeping
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Shortness of breath
  • Skin has turned darker or lighter
  • Swelling in the hands and feet
  • Vomiting (often in the morning)​

Symptoms of acute kidney failure:

  • Bad breath
  • Bloody stools
  • Changes in urination (little or no urination, frequent bathroom trips at night)
  • Chest pain
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Excessive bruising
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling lethargic
  • Fluid retention (edema)
  • Hiccupping spells
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Less sensation in feet or hands
  • Metallic taste in mouth
  • Mood changes
  • Nausea
  • Nosebleeds
  • Pain between the ribs and hips
  • Prolonged bleeding
  • Seizures
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling throughout body
  • Tremor in the hands
  • Vomiting​

Various conditions and injuries can lead to chronic kidney disease and acute kidney failure, including:

  • Autoimmune diseases (such as systemic lupus erythematosus and scleroderma)
  • Backward flow of urine into the kidneys (reflux nephropathy)
  • Birth defects (such as polycystic kidney disease)
  • Certain toxic chemicals
  • Damage from cancer drugs or pain medications
  • Electrolyte disorders
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Hereditary kidney disease
  • HIV infection
  • Infection of one or both kidneys
  • Inflammation of one or both kidneys (nephritis)
  • Kidney artery problems
  • Kidney stones
  • Trauma to one or both kidneys
  • Vasculitis​

Causes for acute kidney failure include, among other conditions:

  • Acute pyelonephritis
  • Acute tubular necrosis (ATN)
  • Autoimmune kidney disease
  • Cholesterol-related blood clots (cholesterol emboli)
  • Clotting disorders that affect kidney blood vessels
  • Decreased blood flow from burns, dehydration, hemorrhage, injury, sepsis, serious illness or surgery
  • Placenta abruption
  • Placenta previa
  • Urinary tract blockage

How is Kidney Disease and Failure Diagnosed?

If you have symptoms of kidney disease, your nephrologist will take a detailed personal and medical history before conducting a physical examination. The tests that your doctor orders will depend on your condition and may include:

  • Biopsy
  • Blood tests
  • CT scan (computed tomography) of the abdomen
  • Kidney scan
  • Kidney ultrasound
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of the abdomen
  • Ultrasound of the abdomen
  • Urine output tests
  • Urine test

How is Kidney Disease and Failure Treated?

If your nephrologist determines that you have chronic kidney disease or acute kidney failure, an individualized medical care plan will be created for you. Treatments vary depending on your condition and may include lifestyle and medical treatments, dialysis and possibly transplant surgery

If your condition is diagnosed early, lifestyle changes and medical treatment can slow the disease progression and keep you feeling well. Lifestyle changes may include:

  • Changes in diet (limit protein, phosphorus, potassium and salt)
  • Exercise
  • Keeping your blood pressure below 130/80
  • Keeping your blood sugar within target range
  • Quit smoking, alcohol and drugs

Medical treatment options may be recommended in order to control your symptoms and complications, as well as to slow the progression of your kidney disease. Medication may be prescribed to control:

  • Anemia
  • Blood pressure
  • Bone deterioration
  • Calcium levels
  • Cholesterol levels
  • Dehydration
  • Fluid retention
  • Potassium levels
  • Swelling

Your nephrologist will work closely with you to restore good health through non-surgical treatments; however, some conditions are more challenging. For patients who develop end-stage kidney failure, dialysis will perform the function that your kidney is unable to do. This procedure filters toxins and extra fluid from you. 

Ongoing Research and Evaluation of Kidney Disease and Failure

As an academic medical center, Loyola is dedicated to improving future treatments by conducting research on new diagnostics and treatments. Loyola’s patients benefit from research discoveries made here.

Loyola’s nephrologists are faculty members at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and actively pursue research with a focus on patient-centered outcomes. Areas of study include:

  • Development and evaluation of new dialysis therapies
  • Evaluation of new therapies for renal hypertension
  • Genetic factors in kidney disease
  • Hypertensive and diabetic kidney disease
  • Management of anemia and other complications of chronic kidney disease
  • Pathogenesis of renal hypertension in experimental models

Read about Loyola’s current clinical trials.

Risk Reduction Tips for Kidney Disease and Failure

Loyola’s leading-edge technology and academic-level specialists help our kidney disease patients lead healthier lives, but we hope that you will never experience chronic or acute kidney disease. For this reason, we will provide support to help you lower your risk by:

  • Choosing a healthy lifestyle — Exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet. Drink in moderation and learn how to manage stress effectively.
     
  • Following instructions on over-the-counter pain medications — Take appropriate doses for aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol, for example) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, for example). If you take too high a dose, you may put yourself at risk for acute kidney failure. This is especially true for patients who already have kidney disease, high blood pressure or diabetes.
     
  • Seeing your doctor — If you have early kidney disease, make sure you see your doctor regularly and follow all recommendations. Make sure you are up to date on all vaccinations, including hepatitis A, hepatitis B, pneumonia and the flu.