What is anuria?

Anuria or anuresis occurs when the kidneys aren’t producing urine. A person may first experience oliguria, or low output of urine, and then progress to anuria.

Urination is important in removing both waste and excess fluids from your body. Your kidneys produce between 1 and 2 quarts of urine a day. When you don’t urinate, waste, fluids, and electrolytes can build up in your body. A decrease or total lack of urination can complicate any underlying health problems. It may even become life-threatening.

Anuria is primarily linked to acute (sudden or short-term) or chronic (long-term) kidney disease. It may also be associated with other health conditions that cause kidney ailments. If you’re experiencing this symptom, you’ll need to see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. Early treatment can also help prevent possible life-threatening complications.

Causes of anuria include:

  • Diabetes: Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, which in turn can lead to anuria from acute kidney failure.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension): Over time this can damage the arteries surrounding your kidneys, disrupting kidney function.
  • Kidney failure: This condition occurs when your kidneys can no longer provide key functions, including urine output.
  • Chronic kidney disease: A form of long-term kidney failure, this condition decreases your body’s ability to remove waste through your urine.
  • Kidney stones: Made from excess levels of minerals from your urine, kidney stones can get large and obstruct urine output, causing pain and other complications.
  • Tumors in your kidneys: Not only can tumors interfere with kidney function, but they can also obstruct the urination process.

To diagnose anuria, your doctor will first ask you about your symptoms. They might ask about:

  • fluid retention
  • recent trouble urinating
  • decreased visits to the bathroom
  • blood in your urine
  • fatigue

Certain tests may also help diagnose anuria. These primarily look at the overall condition of your kidneys. Options include:

  • a biopsy of a small sample of kidney tissue
  • blood tests to look for excess waste
  • a CT scan, which uses X-rays (This test may focus on either your urinary tract only or your entire body.)
  • an MRI scan to take pictures of your kidneys by using radio frequencies
  • renal scintigraphy, which tests the function of your kidneys via nuclear medicine
  • urine tests

Not treating anuria can lead to life-threatening complications. Untreated anuria ultimately means that the underlying condition isn’t being treated either.

Anuria can lead to permanent kidney damage, which can be fatal. The risk is greater in cases of acute kidney failure.

The exact treatment for anuria depends on the underlying condition that’s causing it.

Kidney disease may be treated with dialysis to remove fluids and waste. Ureteral stents may also help collect urine. A kidney transplant is considered a last resort.

If you have hypertension or diabetes, it’s important to keep taking your medications as directed. Adopting healthier lifestyle habits can also complement any medical treatments you’re undergoing for these conditions. These include diet, exercise, and stress management. In turn, you may improve anuria.

Kidney stones or tumors will need to be removed to improve anuria and overall kidney function. Depending on tumor size, your doctor may recommend surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.

Overall, the outlook for anuria depends on:

  • the underlying cause
  • early diagnosis
  • how easily your condition might be treated
  • complications related to your kidneys

Because anuria is related to numerous potential causes, you can’t self-diagnose your condition. Your best bet is to see your doctor right away if you notice any changes in urination and urine output. The earlier anuria is detected, the better the outlook.