What are the symptoms of chronic kidney disease?

Usually when people are diagnosed with early stage chronic kidney disease (CKD), they are unaware something was wrong to begin with. That’s because symptoms of early kidney disease sometimes do not appear right away, as kidney disease progresses slowly over the years. The two leading causes of chronic kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure. Other reasons for getting kidney disease are due to genetic diseases, autoimmune diseases, birth defects and other health problems. Your kidney doctor can screen for these, and advise the best ways of handling each. No matter what the cause of your chronic kidney disease, symptoms are often similar. 

Listed below are symptoms people may experience when they have chronic kidney disease. Some of these symptoms are not obvious until kidney disease has advanced beyond the early stages. 

Fatigue: Kidney disease can cause anemia. As the kidneys slow down production of certain hormones, the red blood cell count in your body may become lower, which can cause the body to receive less oxygen than normal, resulting in fatigue. 

A sensation of feeling cold all the time: No matter what the temperature is, you often feel cold, which can be related to anemia. 

Reduced concentration and dizzy spells: When oxygen to the brain is reduced, it’s hard to think and function at your best. This is another side effect of anemia. 

Pain in your legs, back or sides: People with kidney disease commonly complain of associated pain in these areas. 

Swelling: Swelling can occur in your face, hands, legs or feet, and is caused by less efficient kidneys that are not eliminating enough water from your system. 

Shortness of breath: Can be caused by a build-up of fluid around the lungs or it may be related to anemia and the depletion of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. 

Changes in urination: The amount of urine you make, the color of your urine, and the frequency of urination may change. A feeling of pressure can also happen. Urine may be foamy, contain bubbles or blood, or may be the color of dark cola. Some people may get up at night with an urgent need to urinate. 

Itchy skin: As wastes build up in the blood, your skin can react, causing severe itching all over the body.  

Bad breath and/or a metallic taste in the mouth: This is also related to waste build-up. 

Nausea and vomiting: The accumulation of waste products from your body can cause you to feel sick. 

What to do if you have kidney disease symptoms

If you think you have kidney disease symptoms, talk to your doctor about having tests to check your kidney function. The lab tests your doctor may run include: 

  • Urinalysis: Examines a sample of your urine to check for protein, blood and white blood cells (all things that should not be in your urine)
  • Blood test for creatinine and BUN: Check the level of wastes that healthy kidneys remove from the blood

If you report symptoms to your doctor and have lab tests done immediately, a kidney disease treatment plan can be designed just for you. This will include kidney diet and lifestyle recommendations by both a kidney doctor and renal dietitian. 

Summary

Symptoms of early stage chronic kidney disease can be hard to recognize. But it is better to alert your doctor about these symptoms so the proper action can be taken if you are diagnosed with kidney disease. If you see a change in urine color, often feel fatigued, have trouble concentrating or experience swelling or shortness of breath, these among other things may be signs of chronic kidney disease. Talk to your doctor about the lab tests you should take to find out if your symptoms are due to early stage kidney disease.

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