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What Causes Uremia?

By Shannon Kietzman
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Uremia is a medical disorder characterized by excessive waste products and urea, which is a waste product of urine, in the blood. Symptoms include weakness, sore mouth, headache, vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite, loss of energy, and mental confusion.

There are a number of causes of uremia. Typically, urea builds up in the patient’s blood as the result of inefficiently operating kidneys, which usually results from either acute and chronic kidney failure. In either case, the inefficient kidneys fail to filter the blood appropriately, which causes an imbalance of electrolytes.

In addition to problems with the kidney, this condition may also be caused by specific lifestyle choices and certain types of trauma. A high protein diet or drug use, for example, can cause uremia. In addition, an increase in protein breakdown may occur from an infection, surgery, cancer, or trauma. This can also lead to uremia, as can gastrointestinal bleeding. Each of these potential causes make the liver produce excessive amounts of urea, which may present in the blood stream.

Uremia can also develop because urea is not eliminated from the body quickly enough. This can be caused by a blockage preventing urine from exiting the body. It may also be the result of decreased blood flow in the kidneys, which may be brought on by cardiac failure or hypotension.

Uremia is a potentially fatal condition that demands immediate treatment. Treatment options include kidney transplant, dialysis, and other treatments typically associated with kidney failure. In some cases, this condition may be alleviated by making specific dietary changes or by otherwise eliminating the underlying cause of the disorder. For example, the blockage in the urinary tract may be removed, or the patient may change his or her diet in order to address the hypotension or to reduce overall protein intake.

Through proper care and treatment addressing the underlying causes, it is possible to treat the disorder without invasive techniques. If these methods fail, however, invasive measures may be necessary in order to save the patient’s life.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Denha — On Jul 22, 2011

A lot of doctors and dieticians believe that the Atkins diet and other high-protein lifestyles could lead to uremia or other forms of renal disease. That is why it can be really dangerous to go on a carbohydrate free or even especially low carbohydrate diet without at least discussing it with your doctor first. For most people, it is not a very natural way to eat and could easily get out of hand, just like a fat free diet could.

By recapitulate — On Jul 21, 2011

I have a friend who thought he might have uremia. He ate a really high protein diet and thought it might be damaging his kidneys. Thankfully for him, cutting back on meat and increasing vegetable, fruit, and water intake was enough for him to reverse it. I imagine though that he was not actually uremic, though he might have developed it over time.

By anon160864 — On Mar 17, 2011

my mother started bleeding a lot (like a monthly period, except it lasted for more than a month bleeding) for about three years, until the doctor found out that she had kidney dysfunction. Is that one of the main causes of uremia?

By anon42712 — On Aug 23, 2009

Can you still have uremia if you have no kidneys? My brother had to have both of his removed. This was nearly a year ago. He was on peritoneal dialysis, now on hemodialysis. He cannot eat anything, even broth. It comes back up within hours. Could this possibly be uremia? Thanks, Nancy

By anon42175 — On Aug 19, 2009

can feeling sleepy often be also a part of uremia?

By anon10787 — On Apr 02, 2008

was wondering if uremia is hereditary?

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