In recent celebrity news, various media outlets are reporting that Nick Cannon, Mariah Carey’s husband and host of America’s Got Talent, has been hospitalized due to ‘mild kidney failure.’

First, I want to clear something up: There’s not such a thing as mild kidney failure.  That’s like being a little bit pregnant.

Renal failure is either acute or chronic.  Acute renal failure is the fast onset of failure of the kidney to remove waste from your body.

There are many factors that can contribute to kidney failure, ranging from severe dehydration, infection, side effects or toxicity from medications, severe bleeding and auto-immune diseases such as lupus.

Chronic kidney failure tends to develop over a period of years and is mostly due to chronic medical problems like diabetes or high blood pressure. There are some isolated genetic diseases that could also give you kidney disease or kidney failure over time.

However, the most likely explanation behind Nick Cannon’s hospitalization, based on some of the stories circulating, is that he is probably suffering acute renal failure.

Many of the symptoms of acute renal failure are not specific.  They include decreased urine output, fatigue, abdominal pain, confusion, and body swelling.

However, if renal failure is not treated, the symptoms worsen.  Ultimately, the patient develops seizures, then falls into a coma and could die. This is why I consider the kidney to be one of the most critical organs in the human body.

Now, treatment basically involves treating the underlying cause of renal failure.  So, if failure is a result of infection, you would use antibiotics to treat the infection.  If the cause is dehydration, you would hydrate the patient.  For auto-immune diseases, you would likely use steroid therapy.

Sometimes, you can recover fully from acute renal failure, but in many cases, you can damage the kidney enough that it becomes a chronic disease.

Some of the ways doctors monitor patients for renal failure include blood tests looking for the presence of creatine, and ultrasounds or imaging of kidneys.  In some cases, patients may need dialysis to filter out the excess waste that has built up in the body so the kidneys can take a little break.

No matter what, kidney failure is a serious problem, and the media should not trivialize a major health issue. It is important to realize how vital a healthy kidney is to our overall well-being.

And as a reminder, I’m hosting a live chat on my Facebook page next Wednesday from 2-3 pm ET.  Start submitting your health questions now through Facebook or Twitter!