Health > What Happens with Kidney Failure in Elderly? Startling Truths!
19th Dec 2023

What Happens with Kidney Failure in Elderly? Startling Truths!

The human body is a marvel, but as time passes, its systems may need a little extra care and attention, especially when it comes to our kidneys. These vital organs work tirelessly to filter waste and excess fluids from the blood, maintaining a delicate balance crucial for overall health. However, as people grow old, the risk of kidney-related issues, including kidney failure, becomes more prevalent. Understanding what happens with kidney failure in elderly and recognizing its signs is paramount to ensure timely treatment and effective management.

The path of kidney disease can take an unpredictable turn, yet statistics highlight its prevalence, especially among seniors. As individuals surpass 60, their vulnerability to kidney disease significantly rises. Recent estimations from Johns Hopkins University underline this reality, revealing that over 50 percent of seniors aged 75 and above grapple with kidney disease. With these alarming statistics in mind let’s move forward with this blog that will answer what are signs of kidney failure in the elderly and more.

Causes and Risk Factors of Kidney Failure Specific to Older Adults

Before you know about what are the signs of kidney failure in the elderly, learn about how it is caused. All the points given below will provide you with information regarding the causes and risks of kidney failure.

  1. Age-Related Changes: The natural aging process affects kidney function, leading to a gradual decline in renal capabilities.
  2. Pre-existing Health Conditions: Conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease prevalent in older adults significantly heighten the risk of kidney problems.
  3. Medication Use: Long-term use of certain medications can adversely impact kidney function over time.
  4. Reduced Fluid Intake: Dehydration, often overlooked in the elderly, contributes significantly to kidney issues.

Types of Kidney Failure Prevalent in Older Adults

Out of all the kidney failure, the below-listed are the two prevalent types of kidney failure in older adults.

  1. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a long-term condition wherein the kidneys gradually lose function over time. In elderly individuals, CKD can be a result of various factors, including age-related changes, chronic health conditions, or prolonged medication use. It’s essential to monitor and manage CKD effectively to prevent further deterioration.

  1. Acute Kidney Injury (AKI)

Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) refers to a sudden decline in kidney function, often caused by conditions like dehydration, infections, or medication side effects. Older adults are more vulnerable to AKI due to reduced kidney reserves and the presence of multiple health issues. Prompt recognition and treatment of AKI are crucial to prevent severe complications.

Symptoms and Signs of Kidney Failure in Elderly

Since kidney disease often progresses without noticeable warnings it has earned the title of ‘silent disease.’ Many individuals may experience significant kidney function loss without exhibiting any noticeable symptoms. However, being aware of potential signs can be crucial in identifying this condition before it progresses. Here are some key indicators to watch out for:

  1. High Blood Pressure: Elevated blood pressure can be an early marker of kidney issues, necessitating regular check-ups to monitor overall health.
  2. Changes in Urination: Noticeable alterations in urine frequency or volume, especially at night, might signal underlying kidney concerns.
  3. Appearance of Urine: Any variations in the color or consistency of urine should be noted and discussed with a healthcare professional.
  4. Blood in Urine: The presence of blood in urine, though alarming, can serve as an indication of potential kidney problems and warrants immediate medical attention.
  5. Physical Symptoms: Puffiness in the legs and ankles, localized pain in the kidney area, unexplained tiredness, and loss of appetite could be signs linked to kidney function impairment.
  6. Dehydration: Often overlooked but crucial. Watch for dry mouth, sunken eyes, and decreased urination.
  7. Sleep and Cognitive Changes: Difficulty sleeping, lack of concentration, and persistent headaches might be associated with kidney issues and should not be overlooked.
  8. Electrolyte Imbalance: Muscle cramps, irregular heartbeat, or weakness are the prime ways to indicate this.
  9. Cognitive Changes: Confusion or disorientation might be linked to kidney issues.
  10. Other Indicative Signs: Symptoms such as itching, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and even an unusual metallic taste or bad breath can occasionally be linked to kidney concerns.

Also Read: Kidney Stone- Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and recommended Diet Plan

How Kidney Symptoms May Differ From Younger Individuals?

Kidney failure manifests differently in the elderly compared to younger adults due to various factors:

  • Seniors might not exhibit typical symptoms like back pain or visible urine changes seen in younger individuals.
  • Elderly individuals tend to show more vague symptoms such as confusion, fatigue, or generalized weakness.
  • Age-related decline in organ function can mask kidney issues, making diagnosis challenging.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

Now that its clear, what are the signs of kidney failure in the elderly, it time to uncover the diagnosis and treatment options for the elderly. First, let’s start with the diagnosis.

  1. Blood and Urine Tests: These tests help assess kidney function and determine the presence of any abnormalities.
  2. Imaging Tests: Ultrasounds or CT scans can provide detailed images of the kidneys, assisting in diagnosis.
  3. Biopsy: In some cases, a kidney biopsy may be necessary to identify specific kidney problems.

Treatment for kidney failure in the elderly depends on various factors, including the underlying cause and the individual’s overall health condition. Possible treatment options include:

  1. Medications: Doctors may prescribe medications to manage symptoms, control blood pressure, regulate electrolyte levels, and improve kidney function.
  2. Dietary Changes: A controlled diet with reduced sodium, phosphorus, and potassium intake might be recommended to alleviate strain on the kidneys.
  3. Dialysis: In severe cases where the kidneys are unable to function adequately, dialysis—an artificial method of filtering waste from the blood—may be necessary to support the body’s needs.
  4. Kidney Transplant: For eligible candidates, a kidney transplant might be suggested as a long-term solution, replacing the failed kidney with a healthy one from a donor.

Tips to Maintain Kidney Health

Maintaining kidney health involves proactive steps that significantly impact overall well-being. Here are actionable measures to safeguard your kidneys and putting an end of the question of what happens with kidney failure in elderly:

  1. Manage Diabetes Effectively: For those with diabetes, careful control over blood sugar is crucial. Follow medical advice concerning insulin, medications, diet, exercise, and regular blood sugar monitoring to keep it in check.
  2. Control High Blood Pressure: Regularly monitor blood pressure levels. Medications like ACE inhibitors or angiotensin blockers effectively manage high blood pressure, slowing down the progression of kidney disease.
  3. Regular Kidney Health Checks: If prone to kidney disease risk factors undergo comprehensive kidney health assessments every two years, or more frequently (yearly) if dealing with diabetes or high blood pressure.
  4. Prompt Treatment of Urinary Tract Infections: Swiftly address urinary tract infections to prevent complications that may affect kidney health.
  5. Manage Blood Cholesterol Levels: Employ dietary modifications and medications as prescribed to regulate cholesterol levels, minimizing potential harm to the kidneys.
  6. Adopt a Kidney-Friendly Diet: Hydrate adequately and opt for low-sugar, low-fat, low-salt, high-fiber foods while controlling portion sizes.
  7. Healthy Lifestyle Choices: Refrain from smoking, limit alcohol intake, maintain a healthy weight appropriate for your height and age, and engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily.

Must Read: Healthy Foods for People with Kidney Disease


Recognizing the answer to what are signs of kidney failure in the elderly becomes an act of compassion, a way to offer timely support and care. These signs, though nuanced, carry immense weight in guiding towards early intervention and treatment. Empathy plays a crucial role here—the ability to listen, observe, and acknowledge the subtle shifts that could signal kidney function impairment.

Moreover, it’s about empowering individuals and families with knowledge—the knowledge to recognize, the courage to seek medical guidance, and the strength to embrace the necessary steps for management and care.

As we cross the complexities of health, especially in our elderly, it’s not merely about understanding the physical aspects but also embracing the emotional journey that comes with it. It’s about offering support, lending a compassionate ear, and being there through the twists and turns of this intricate path.

Click here to understand more about kidney failure in seniors, its signs, and how to manage it effectively. Emoha Elder Care offers expert advice and care options to support senior kidney health. Contact us today!