Azotemia is a condition where the body cannot properly absorb or utilize certain nutrients such as protein, iron, zinc, calcium and many others. It occurs when there are deficiencies in these essential nutrients. There are several causes of azotemia including genetic factors (e.g., sickle cell trait), nutritional deficiency (e.g., vitamin B12 deficiency) and environmental factors (e.g., malnutrition).
The most common cause of azotemia is chronic illness. A person with severe illnesses may have very low levels of some nutrients in their bodies. People with diabetes, cancer, AIDS and other diseases often suffer from azotemic disease.
Some people may even develop it due to poor diet and lack of exercise. Other causes include the use of certain medications (especially antibiotics) which interfere with absorption or utilization of nutrients.
Some doctors believe that azotemia is caused by a combination of genetics and environmental factors. However, there are no known genes causing this condition. Research continues to try to identify the exact causes but so far scientists have not been successful in doing so.
What Causes Azotemia?
There are three main reasons why people become deficient in certain nutrients: 1) a genetic defect; 2) nutritional deficiency; 3) environmental factors (such as malnutrition).
Genetic Defect: There are no known genes causing this condition. However, it is believed that some people may have a genetic predisposition to developing the condition because there is a greater risk of developing it if other family members suffer from it. For this reason, doctors test people with close family members who suffer from the condition before they develop it themselves.
Deficiency in Nutrients: The human body requires several essential nutrients for proper functioning. These include proteins, electrolytes, minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates and fats (among others). A lack of any of these nutrients can cause the body to not function as it should and can lead to numerous health conditions including acute and chronic diseases.
Common deficiencies that can lead to a condition known as “azotemia” are described below. However, it is important to note that a person can develop the condition even if they are getting enough of all these nutrients in their diet if other factors are contributing to the condition.
Vitamin B12: The human body requires vitamin B12 in order for red blood cells to mature and be produced. It is also important for the nervous system and the formation of DNA. A lack of this vitamin can lead to pernicious anemia and severe nerve damage, which could potentially cause heart problems in the future (1).
Folic Acid: Folic acid is also known as vitamin B9. It is important for blood formation and development of DNA. It helps prevent certain birth defects and contributes to the normal function of the nervous system (2).
Deficiencies can lead to a condition known as macrocytic anemia in which red blood cells do not develop correctly.
Zinc: This nutrient is important for the proper functioning of more than three hundred enzymes in the body. It helps with wound healing and the immune system. It also helps keep hair, skin and nails healthy (3).
A lack of this nutrient can lead to a condition known as alopecia, which causes abnormal hair loss (4).
Iron: Iron is another nutrient important to the formation of red blood cells. A lack of it can lead to anemia, which has numerous symptoms such as fatigue, pallor, shortness of breath, anxiety and chest pain (5).
Magnesium: Magnesium is an essential mineral for the human body and helps with hundreds of chemical reactions in the body. It also helps keep your heart rhythm steady, your muscles relax and keeps your bones strong. A lack of magnesium can lead to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weakness, irregular heartbeat and hallucinations (6).
Zinc: Zinc is another nutrient that is important for several chemical reactions in the body. It helps keep the immune system functioning properly and keeps the senses, like taste and smell, normal. A lack of it can lead to symptoms such as loss of appetite, skin lesions, genital irritation, hair loss and diarrhea (7).
Selenium: This trace element is important for the proper functioning of several enzymes in the body, like those involved in thyroid hormone metabolism. A lack of selenium can lead to hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid does not produce enough hormone to meet the body’s needs (8).
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is important for the normal growth and repair of tissues in the body. It helps with wound healing, the absorption of iron and healthy gums. A lack of it can lead to scurvy, a condition which causes painful bleeding gums, fatigue, weak connective tissue and skin infections (9).
Zinc: Zinc is an essential nutrient for the proper functioning of the immune system and hundreds of chemical reactions in the body. It also helps keep the senses of taste and smell normal. A lack of this nutrient can lead to symptoms such as a loss of appetite, skin lesions, genital irritation, hair loss and diarrhea (10).
Vitamin A: Vitamin A is important for vision, immunity and the healthy functioning of several organs. It helps keep your eyesight, defend your body from infections and help with metabolism. A lack of it can lead to several symptoms such as dry eyes, dry skin, a loss of taste, weak immunity and birth defects when pregnant (11).
The bone marrow is where most of the blood cells are made and stored until they’re released into the blood. The process of making new blood cells is called hematopoiesis. Iron is an essential nutrient that helps with this process.
A lack of iron can lead to several symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath and a pale appearance (12).
Zinc is another nutrient important to the formation of red blood cells. A lack of it can lead to anemia, which has several effects such as fatigue and pallor (12).
Magnesium is an essential nutrient that helps keep the heart rhythm steady and muscles relax. A lack of it can cause several symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weakness and irregular heartbeat (13).
Selenium is a trace element that helps with the proper functioning of several enzymes in the body. It’s also important for the formation of several parts of the body such as muscles, tendons and cartilage. A lack of it can lead to a condition called Keshan Disease.
This causes diseases of the cardiac muscle, bones and joints and is most common in parts of China where the soil is selenium-deficient (14).
Vitamin E: Vitamin E is a nutrient that keeps the immune system healthy and helps wound healing.
Sources & references used in this article:
Azotemia and glucose intolerance by JM CERLETTY, NH ENGBRING – Annals of internal Medicine, 1967 – acpjournals.org
Pathophysiology of pre-renal azotemia by RC Blantz – Kidney international, 1998 – Elsevier
Renal oxalosis and azotemia after methoxyflurane anesthesia by JA Frascino, P Vanamee… – New England Journal of …, 1970 – Mass Medical Soc
Azotemia caused by renal artery stenosis: treatment by percutaneous angioplasty by LG Martin, WJ Casarella… – American Journal of …, 1988 – Am Roentgen Ray Soc
Aluminum intoxication from aluminum-containing phosphate binders in children with azotemia not undergoing dialysis by SP Andreoli, JM Bergstein… – New England Journal of …, 1984 – Mass Medical Soc
Diuretic potency of combined hydrochlorothiazide and furosemide therapy in patients with azotemia by GL Wollam, RC Tarazi, EL Bravo, HP Dustan – The American journal of …, 1982 – Elsevier
Evaluation of predictors of the development of azotemia in cats by RE Jepson, D Brodbelt, C Vallance… – Journal of Veterinary …, 2009 – Wiley Online Library
Toxic epidermal necrolysis, azotemia, and death after allopurinol therapy by GL Kantor – JAMA, 1970 – jamanetwork.com
Creatininemia versus uremia: The relative significance of blood urea nitrogen and serum creatinine concentrations in azotemia by JB DOSSETOR – Annals of Internal Medicine, 1966 – acpjournals.org