15 Symptoms of Kidney Disease That You Must Know – And What You Should Do About It

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15 Symptoms of Kidney Disease That You Must Know
15 Symptoms of Kidney Disease That You Must Know
Graphic © herbshealthhappiness.com. Photo © AdobeStock 73775001 (under license)

Note – this article gives general information about kidney disease and should not be used as a substitute for a doctor’s diagnosis. If you have the symptoms listed here, notify your doctor, who will be able to perform the tests required to ascertain kidney function. You should also have your regular medical checks as these symptoms may or may not be present, and may be absent in the early stages of the disease.

Introduction: The job of the kidneys is to filter the blood and remove waste products, which are then excreted in urine. The most significant causes of kidney failure are diabetes and high blood pressure. The health of the kidneys can also be compromised by numerous other factors including medicines / substance abuse, infections, kidney stones, physical injuries, genetic factors and more.

Kidney disease, also known as renal disease or kidney failure, generally refers to the loss of kidney function over time and this can be irreversible due to damage to the nephrons. (the structures that filter the blood.) Most people do not know that kidney diseases are considered “silent killers”. The symptoms can be gradual or even non-existent until the situation becomes serious – and it is very important to catch kidney disease early. “Most people have few or no symptoms until chronic kidney disease is very advanced” reported Dr. Andrew Narva, kidney specialist at the National Institute of Health. “You can lose up to 75% of your kidney function and essentially have no symptoms.” [2]

Here is a list of 15 symptoms you should be on the look out for:

1) Blood And Urine Test Indications: A doctor will test kidney function with simple blood and urine lab tests. These are the most important and reliable indicators of kidney function and may indicate loss of kidney function before any other symptoms have appeared – hence put at the top of the list despite requiring a lab test. The blood test measures creatinine, which is a breakdown product of muscle metabolism. Higher levels of creatinine indicate a lower glomerular filtration rate (GFR, eGFR or estimated GFR) – which indicates how well your kidneys are filtering and excreting waste products. GFR of 90-120 is considered normal. GFR below 60 indicates chronic kidney disease. A GFR below 15 indicates kidney failure.

Creatinine levels may register as normal in early stages of chronic kidney disease, but kidney disease can be detected if urine testing shows the kidney is allowing a protein called albumin to escape into the urine. [3] Albumin is not typically detected in urine in healthy kidney function.

2) Blood In Urine: This is a definite reason for a visit to the doctor. Note also that there may be small amounts of blood in the urine that are not sufficient to change the color of the urine, that can only be detected by medical testing – so it’s important to have your regular medical checkups as this may detect trace blood in the urine before it becomes more serious.

3) Difficulty, Pressure Or Pain During Urination: This can be a symptom of urinary tract infection – note also fever or lower back pain in the kidney area.

4) Unusual Urinary Function: Be on the lookout for significant changes in your urination pattern – for example increase or decrease in frequency and/ or amount – especially during the night. Difficulty in urination is also a sign, as is dark colored urine.

5) Fluid Retention (Fluid Volume Overload): As the kidneys flush waste from the body, loss of kidney function can mean fluid retention / edema. This could range from mild edema to life-threatening pulmonary edema.

6) Fatigue / Weakness / general feeling of unwellness: The kidneys also produce a hormone called erythropoietin. Reduced levels of erythropoietin cause a decrease in red blood cells, resulting in anemia – one of the recognized complications of kidney disease.

7) Skin rash / itching: Kidney failure means that wastes are not removed from the blood efficiently. These toxins can cause itching / rash.

8) Difficulty in concentrating: Anemia associated with kidney disease also depletes your brain of oxygen which may cause dizziness, trouble with concentration, etc.

9) Lower back pain: In some cases, kidney disease can cause pain in the lower back / sides. This can be due to kidney stones cysts or infections.

10) Feeling cold even In Warm Conditions: This can be a symptom of anemia.

11) Sexual dysfunction: This is very common in both men and women with chronic kidney disease. Men may experience reduced sex drive, erectile difficulty and difficulty in orgasm. Women may experience trouble with sexual arousal, painful menstruation and difficulty with performing and enjoying sex.

12) Potassium Accumulation In The Blood: Also known as hyperkalemia, with a range of symptoms including malaise and potentially fatal cardiac arrhythmias, this symptom usually does not develop until the GFR falls to less than 20-25 (ml/min/1.73 m2), at which point the kidneys have decreased ability to excrete potassium.

13) Increased Blood pressure: Fluid overload and production of vasoactive hormones created by the kidney can increase the risk of developing hypertension and/or suffering from congestive heart failure.

14) Uremic Frost: This bizarre symptom, leaving crystals of urea on the skin as sweat evaporates (“uremic frost”), is a result of urea accumulation due to inefficient removal by the kidneys.

15) Metallic taste in the mouth: Kidney failure causes uraemia (increased urea in the blood). Saliva breaks this down in the mouth, causing urine-like bad breath called ammonia breath and an associated unpleasant metallic taste in the mouth.

Tips For Things You Can Do:

1) Watch your sodium and protein intake: High sodium and high protein diets are known for putting extra strain on kidneys.

2) Drink plenty of water, eat more fruit and vegetables.

3) Keep a regular exercise regimen.

4) Check out our other pages on the kidneys:
Top 10 Herbs For The Kidneys
Top 10 Natural Remedies For Kidney Stones
12 Herbs For Kidney Stones

5) And of course, be sure to get your medical checkups. Ask your doctor for a kidney function test if you are concerned.


[1] Kidney Diseases (Medline Plus) – https://nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/kidneydiseases.html

[2] Keep Your Kidneys Healthy – https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/Mar2013/Feature1

[3] Chronic Kidney Disease – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronic_kidney_disease

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