Leading Causes of Kidney Failure

Singapore has one of the highest rates of kidney failure in the world. Every 5 hours, one person is diagnosed with kidney failure. 

Diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure) are the two leading causes of kidney failure, and more than 60% of new kidney failure cases are caused by diabetes. The rising trend is worrying as we are facing an ageing population and increasing rates of obesity and these two chronic diseases.


Other causes of ESRD include:

  • Inflammatory diseases (e.g. glomerulonephritis)
  • Blockage of urinary collecting system (e.g. kidney stones)
  • Chronic infections (e.g. pyelonephritis)
  • Rare genetic disorders (e.g. polycystic kidney disease)  


Blood Glucose

Kidney Failure Symptoms

Early Stage

  • No clear signs with possible bubbles/blood in urine

Mid Stage

  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling
  • Fatigue

Late Stage

  • Ammonia breath
  • Loss of appetite/diarrhoea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Anaemia

Kidney Failure Treatment

If the kidney damage is in the early stages, it can be controlled with medication and diet. However, there is no recovery from End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). There are two ways to treat ESRD: 


Kidney Transplant

Kidney transplant is the process where a kidney is surgically removed from a donor and implanted into the patient. The patient may receive a kidney from a family member, a spouse or a close friend. They are known as living-related donors.

The most compatible match is usually a sibling, as their genetic make-up may closely match. In addition, the patient can also receive a kidney from a recently deceased person, known as a cadaveric donor. Transplant is by far the best means of treatment, as the “replacement kidney” can substitute almost fully the lost functions of the failed kidneys, and allow the patient to lead a normal life.

Kidney transplant would be the best treatment for End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). However, the watiting list for kidney transplant is long. As of 2012, the waiting list for a kidney transplant was 457.

The average waiting time for renal transplant is 9 years. Besides, there are patients who are not suitable or eligible for transplant because of their medical conditions and age. Hence, they will need to remain on dialysis to stay alive. For more information of organ transplant, please log on to www.moh.gov.sg


The word ‘dialysis’ means filtering, or the selective removal of certain substances from the blood. The idea is that, if by artificial means, we can remove enough of the poisonous wastes, water and salts that have built up due to kidney failure, then a reasonable level of health can be restored.

There are two forms of dialysis, Peritoneal Dialysis  wherein the body’s abdominal lining is used as a filter and Haemodialysis, in which a special machine acts as a substitute for the kidneys.