Kidney Emergencies – Warning Signs and Where to Go

Kidney Emergencies – Warning Signs and Where to Go

If you’ve never thought about your kidney health, you are not alone. Unfortunately, most people ignore important internal organs like the kidneys until something goes wrong.

Kidneys are vital organs that deserve attention. Knowing their importance and recognizing the top kidney emergencies is critical to getting prompt medical treatment to help prevent permanent damage.

At Post Oak ER, the finest emergency room in Uptown Houston, Texas, we’re happy to provide you with the emergency care that you need in the event of a medical emergency.

What Are Kidneys and What is their Function?

Kidneys are bean-shaped organs that are part of your urinary tract. Humans have two kidneys the size of a fist located just below the rib cage towards the back, with one kidney on each side of the spine.

Your kidneys play a critical role in your health. Their primary task is to remove waste, including the acid produced by cells, and maintain a healthy balance of water, salts, and minerals in your blood, including calcium, sodium, potassium, and phosphorus.

Additionally, kidneys produce hormones that help in various processes, including making new red blood cells, controlling blood pressure, and maintaining strong, healthy bones.

Healthy kidneys can process half a cup of blood per minute on average. However, when there’s an infection, a blockage due to kidney stones, or high levels of acid in the blood, your kidneys may struggle to keep up, and emergencies can ensue.

Top Kidney Emergencies


Metabolic Acidosis

Metabolic acidosis occurs when your body produces too much acid or when your kidneys can’t remove enough acid from the body.

There are different types of metabolic acidosis, including:

  • Diabetic acidosis – this condition can happen in patients with uncontrolled diabetes and results from ketone (which are acid) build up in the body
  • Hyperchloremic acidosis occurs when you lose too much sodium bicarbonate from the body. Severe diarrhea can result in hyperchloremic acidosis
  • Lactose acidosis – results from a build-up of lactic acid in the body. Lactic acid forms when the body breaks down carbohydrates to use as energy. Build-up can occur by excess alcohol drinking, carbon monoxide poisoning, exercising vigorously for extended periods, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), and taking some medications such as metformin, antiretrovirals, and salicylates
  • Poisoning
  • Severe dehydration

Warning Signs of Metabolic Acidosis

Metabolic acidosis doesn’t always present symptoms, however when it does, these are the most common:

  • Feeling very tired
  • Feeling weak
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Accelerated heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Rapid breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Breath that smells sweet or fruity

Severe cases of metabolic acidosis can become life-threatening. For this reason, if you think you or someone you know may have metabolic acidosis, please go to the nearest ER.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

UTIs are common infections typically occurring in the ureters (canals where urine travels to the bladder) and the kidneys.

Infection can happen when bacteria from the skin or rectum enter the upper tract causing inflammation and swelling. UTIs are more common in women than men because female urethras are shorter and closer to the rectum.

Bladder infections (cystitis) are the most common type of UTI. However, the condition is more severe when the infection happens in the kidneys (pyelonephritis).

Warning Signs of UTIs

Bladder Infection Symptoms may include:

  • A burning or painful feeling while urinating
  • Frequent urge to urinate even when the bladder is empty
  • Pressure, cramping, or pain in the groin or lower abdomen
  • Bloody urine

Kidney Infection Symptoms include:

  • Lower back pain or pain on one side of your back
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fever
  • Chills

Talk to a healthcare professional if you have symptoms of a urinary tract infection. If your symptoms are severe or concerning, please visit the nearest emergency room for an evaluation and treatment.

Acute Kidney Failure

Also known as acute renal failure or acute kidney injury, the condition happens when your kidneys suddenly stop filtering waste products from your blood.

Acute kidney failure happens suddenly, typically developing within a few days. The condition is a medical emergency because dangerous levels of waste build-up and potential chemical makeup imbalances in your blood can turn life-threatening.

Warning Signs of Acute Kidney Failure

  • Urinating less, although urine output sometimes remains normal
  • Swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet due to fluid retention
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Nausea
  • In severe cases, seizures or come may occur

Seek immediate emergency care if you suspect you or someone you know may have acute kidney failure. With prompt medical attention and treatment, many patients make a full recovery.

Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are hard mineral and salt deposits that can affect any part of your urinary tract. They can be pretty painful, but when treated promptly usually do not cause any permanent damage.

Warning Signs of Kidney Stones

When a kidney stone becomes lodged in the ureters (the tubes connecting the kidneys to the bladder), it can block the urine flow, causing the kidney to swell. When this happens, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Sharp, severe pain in the back and side, below the ribs
  • Waves of pain that fluctuate in intensity
  • Pain that radiates to the groin and lower abdomen areas
  • Pain or burning sensation while urinating
  • Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
  • Pink, red, or brown-colored urine
  • Urinating more frequently or urinating in small amounts
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever and chills

Please seek immediate medical care if you experience any of the following:

  • Severe pain that won’t allow you to sit or find a comfortable position
  • Pain accompanied by fever and chills – this may indicate an infection
  • Pain, along with nausea and vomiting
  • Bloody urine
  • Difficulty passing urine

Remember to schedule a screening with your doctor to monitor your kidney’s health.

At Post Oak ER, we offer personalized emergency care 24/7. So if you develop sudden or worsening symptoms, please don’t hesitate to come to us for help; your kidneys deserve the best care.


Where to go in Case of an Emergency?

At Post Oak ER, our doors remain open to provide care for you and your family.

Looking for the best quality 24-hour Emergency Room services?

If an emergency strikes, you have a choice! At Post Oak ER we’re open during all weekends, and holidays & offer FREE Medical Screening! There is no need to risk your health or your life. Get help from the ER experts when you need it, visit us immediately at 5018 San Felipe St, Houston, TX 77056


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Get back on track to enjoying life, FAST! Here you will find experienced, effective, and caring emergency physicians as well as the best on-site ER technology for everything from minor to major injuries and conditions.

  • CT Scan, Digital X-Ray & Ultrasound
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#PostOakER is the best emergency room near you offering fast, quality ER Care 24/7.

We treat the whole family from pediatrics to adults.
Have any questions or need emergency medical care right now? Give us a call:  (832) 581-2277