What If My Kidneys Fail?

Some people live with kidney disease for years and are able to maintain kidney function. Others progress quickly to kidney failure.

Kidney failure means that your kidneys have lost most of their ability to function—less than 15 percent of normal kidney function. If your kidney function drops to this level, you may have symptoms from the buildup of waste products and extra water in your body.

To replace your lost kidney function, you may have one of three treatment options:

End-stage renal disease (ESRD) is kidney failure that is treated by dialysis or kidney transplant.

Some people with kidney failure choose not to have dialysis or a transplant but continue to receive care from their health care team, take medicines, and monitor their diet and lifestyle choices.

Work with your health care team and family to consider your options and choose a treatment that is right for you.

October 2016
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.