- A condition in which the kidneys stop working and are not able to remove waste and extra water from the blood or keep body chemicals in balance. Acute or severe kidney failure happens suddenly (for example, after an injury) and may be treated and cured. Chronic kidney failure develops over many years, may be caused by conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes, and cannot be cured. Chronic kidney failure may lead to total and long-lasting kidney failure, called end-stage renal disease (ESRD). A person in ESRD needs dialysis (the process of cleaning the blood by passing it through a membrane or filter) or a kidney transplant. Also called renal failure.