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Nick Cannon’s “Mild” Kidney Failure: Possible Causes

Michael  W. Smith, MD - Blogs
By Michael W. Smith, MDBoard-certified internistJanuary 5, 2012
From the WebMD Archives

We don’t hear every day that a young man has kidney failure, and that’s why we were all so intrigued when Mariah Carey tweeted that her husband, Nick Cannon, had exactly that.

Kidney failure shouldn’t be taken lightly, even if it’s “mild,” as Carey tweeted. Your kidneys help get rid of much of the waste that your body produces throughout the day. When they go bad, it has a serious impact on your entire system.

Cannon appears to be suffering from what doctors call “acute” kidney failure, which means it came on suddenly.

In all likelihood, Cannon will be just fine. The question, though, is what could have caused kidney failure in a young, healthy man? It goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway … I have no knowledge of Cannon’s medical history and do not know the cause of his kidney failure. Here goes anyway …

The potential causes are many. When the kidneys suddenly go bad, it’s often due to a medication reaction, something that blocks blood flow to the kidneys, severe dehydration, or an infection. When those problems are fixed, the kidneys typically get better.

One possible cause that struck me when I considered acute kidney failure in a young guy who just happens to have six-pack abs is the possible use of supplements. Kidney damage from supplements is not all that uncommon, and I’m speaking from personal experience.

I’m a bit of a fitness nut and decided to try creatine and some other performance-enhancing supplements from my local supplement store. I knew that I needed to drink a lot of water to help prevent kidney problems from creatine. And I did. But when I went to my doctor for a check-up, my kidneys were not functioning up to par. I stopped the creatine but continued the other supplements, and my kidneys got even worse. When I stopped supplements completely, my kidneys recovered.

Again, I have no clue if Cannon was taking any supplements (and no, you don’t need to take supplements to get a six-pack), but my little story serves as a reminder that supplements can have serious side effects. That’s why we always tell you to make sure your doctor knows everything you’re taking.

Nick Cannon, Mariah Carey, and their families will be in our thoughts as we follow his hopeful recovery. And I will selfishly say that I would be very interested to know what caused his kidney failure, so I’ll listen out for that.

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About the Author
Michael W. Smith, MD

Michael Smith, MD, CPT, is a board-certified internal medicine doctor and WebMD’s Chief Medical Editor. He is also an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer with a passion for helping people live a healthy, active lifestyle. He appears regularly as an expert on national and local broadcast media.

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