Your kidneys constantly filter all your blood in a process known as glomerular filtration. This is one of the ways in which your body gets rid of different toxins and waste products. But in some cases, your kidneys lose the ability to filter blood efficiently, and a condition known as uremia can happen as a result.
Keep reading this article to learn everything you need to know about uremia or uremic poisoning.
What is uremia?
Uremia is a condition in which the kidneys are not able to function properly, which leads to a buildup of toxins in your bloodstream, specifically urea.
Under normal circumstances, your kidneys are constantly filtering blood to remove toxins and waste products, which results in urine production. This process happens around the clock, and it can be measured through tests such as creatinine levels and glomerular filtration rate (GFR).
But when your kidneys aren’t working properly, they are unable to remove certain substances from your blood, leading to an accumulation of toxins.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, uremia literally means “urine in the blood”. However, urine doesn’t literally come into contact with your blood during uremia. The term simply refers to the presence of urinary waste products in the bloodstream. Uremia is often associated with other problems, such as electrolyte and hormone imbalances.
Azotemia is a similar condition, but it’s less severe than uremia. In azotemia, levels of urea are also elevated, but not elevated enough to cause clinical signs. But left untreated, azotemia can also lead to renal injury and complications.
Causes of uremia
Uremia is usually caused by chronic kidney disease, but it can also occur as a result of an injury or poisoning. This condition is also known as uremic poisoning, or uremic syndrome.
Uremia can be a sign of end-stage kidney disease, and according to StatPearls, it usually develops over time as a result of worsening renal function. Some of the possible causes of chronic kidney disease that can lead to uremia include:
- IgA nephropathy
- Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis
- Membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis
- Polycystic kidney disease
- Diabetes mellitus
- High blood pressure
- Multiple myeloma
- Goodpasture disease
- Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura
- Hemolytic uremic syndrome
However, acute kidney injury is another possible cause of uremia which progresses quickly.
Uremia signs and symptoms
According to Medscape, the following symptoms can signal the onset of uremia:
- Weight loss
- Lack of appetite
- Muscle cramps
- Itchy skin
- Increased feeling of thirst
- Changes in your mental status
- Visual disturbances
- Skin discoloration or hyperpigmentation
Uremia can also cause complications, such as pulmonary edema, pericardial effusion, seizure, and coma. This condition can lead to death if left untreated.
It’s important for a healthcare provider to take a detailed personal, family, and medical history to understand the cause of your uremia. There are different blood tests that can be used to determine your kidney function and levels of uremia, including:
- Basic metabolic panel (which includes serum urea, creatinine, sodium, potassium, chloride, bicarbonate, and glucose)
- Serum calcium and phosphorous
- Blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
- Glomerular filtration rate (GFR)
- Whole blood count
- Thyroid hormone tests
These tests will give your doctor a much clearer picture of your overall health state.
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Uremia - my.clevelandclinic.org
Uremia - ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Uremia - emedicine.medscape.com