What Is Renal Ischemia?

S. Berger

Organs require a steady supply of fresh blood to function properly. When the kidneys do not have an adequate amount of blood, renal ischemia can result. This medical condition, sometimes termed nephric ischemia, can be due to constricted arteries, or blockage of these vessels. While this type of ischemia can be reversible, it may also lead to potentially fatal consequences. Acute kidney injury is one consequence of this problem, and this deprivation of fresh blood is one of the largest causes of complete renal failure.

Renal ischemia occurs when the kidneys do not get enough blood.
Renal ischemia occurs when the kidneys do not get enough blood.

Injury, disease states, and even certain types of surgery can be triggers for renal ischemia. Often, this condition begins with a temporary constriction of blood vessels to the kidney, or a minor blockage. Immune responses in the renal area can then lead to inflammation and further disruptions to blood flow as the tissue attempts to deal with these issues. Over time, this may lead to long-lasting vasoconstriction, or a contracting of the blood vessels, which inhibits blood flow. Lower amounts of blood are able to enter the glomerules, special tissue that helps to filter toxins, as a result of this condition, which can further increase damage and contribute to acute kidney failure.

When the kidneys do not have an adequate amount of blood, renal ischemia can result.
When the kidneys do not have an adequate amount of blood, renal ischemia can result.

Renal ischemia symptoms are not always immediately apparent, and can depend on the extent of the inhibition of blood flow and extent of tissue damage. Pain felt near the kidneys is sometimes a sign, and other symptoms can include feelings of weakness, hypertension, and nausea. Severe cases of renal ischemia that lead to kidney failure can lead to the buildup of toxins as these organs are unable to remove them from the body as quickly or effectively as they normally would. Dehydration, difficulty urinating, and changes in urine color may also result in some of these cases.

Dialysis may be required for advanced cases of renal ischemia.
Dialysis may be required for advanced cases of renal ischemia.

Treatments for renal ischemia can vary based on the causes of the condition and other individual differences. Women sometimes have a higher recovery rate for this health issue, which may be related to their estrogen levels. Hormone therapies like estradiol are sometimes given to both men and women, especially for post-surgical ischemia. Vasodilators are drugs that expand the blood vessels, and occasionally they may be used as a treatment, but due to the kidneys' response to damage from this condition, they may not always be effective. Dialysis, a treatment that removes waste from the blood outside of the body, may be required in the most extreme cases of kidney ischemia.

Problems with the kidneys may cause high blood pressure.
Problems with the kidneys may cause high blood pressure.
Renal ischemia symptoms may include nausea.
Renal ischemia symptoms may include nausea.
Improperly functioning kidneys may cause excess fluid retention, leading to swollen legs and feet.
Improperly functioning kidneys may cause excess fluid retention, leading to swollen legs and feet.
Ischemia may be caused by plaque buildup in the arteries.
Ischemia may be caused by plaque buildup in the arteries.

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