Urea is formed in your liver from the chemical fallout of protein metabolism. It then travels around in your blood until your kidneys filter it out along with any excess water, ultimately excreted as urine.
Under healthy conditions, some level of urea is always present in your blood. However, high blood levels indicate your body is having some sort of trouble with removing it.
Generally, the causes for higher than normal levels of urea in your blood are:
- problem with your kidneys
- an issue with the flow of blood to your kidneys
If your kidneys are not functioning properly with their filtration task, then the resulting high levels of urea and water is a condition called uremia. Causes of uremia is some form of kidney disease or kidney failure.
On the other hand, if the volume or pressure of blood flowing through your kidney drops, then urea filtration drops as well. Urea stays in your blood even though your kidneys are working, causing azotemia, which means a build up of urea in the bloodstream.
Some causes of azotemia are:
- heart failure
- kidney trauma
- shock ~ septic shock
- renal artery embolism, occlusion
- prolonged vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding
A sustained condition of azotemia can cause kidney damage, specifically acute tubular necrosis.
Uremia and azotemia are often used interchangeably.
The effects of uremia or azotemia are widespread, affecting many of your body’s organs. A sampling of their symptoms include:
- dry mouth
- rapid pulse
- restless legs
- abdominal pain
- ammonia breath
- muscle twitches
- pulmonary edema
- nausea & vomiting
- yellowish skin color
- decrease, no urine output
Treatment for uremia and azotemia needs to get started quickly before your kidney are damaged, or are damaged any further. Treatment may involve:
- hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis
- intravenous fluids to increase blood volume
- medications to ramp up blood pressure & heart output
If your cause for azotemia can be corrected within a day, you’ll likely be spared kidney damage that could potentially cause you uremia in the future.