11 Signs You May Have Kidney Disease


Kidney disease, often termed chronic kidney disease (CKD), is a progressive condition where the kidneys gradually lose their function over time. This can lead to serious health complications, as the kidneys play a crucial role in filtering waste products from the blood, balancing bodily fluids, regulating blood pressure, and contributing to the production of red blood cells.

Early detection is crucial for managing the disease and preventing further complications. Here are ten signs that may indicate you have kidney disease:

1. Fatigue and Weakness

One of the early signs of kidney disease is feeling tired and weak. This is because kidneys are responsible for filtering waste from the blood. When they are not functioning properly, waste builds up in the body, leading to fatigue.

Additionally, kidney disease can cause anemia, a condition where the body has a lower than normal count of red blood cells. This also contributes to feelings of weakness and tiredness because there are not enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to the muscles and brain, leading to a general sense of fatigue.


2. Swelling (Edema)

Swelling in the legs, ankles, feet, face, and hands can be a sign of kidney disease. This occurs because the kidneys are not able to remove excess fluid and sodium from the body, leading to fluid retention. This swelling, known as edema, can be particularly noticeable in the lower extremities due to gravity.

In severe cases, this can cause a significant increase in body weight and can be uncomfortable and debilitating. Persistent swelling should be evaluated by a healthcare provider as it may indicate worsening kidney function.

3. Changes in Urination

Kidney disease can cause noticeable changes in urination, which may include:

  • Increased frequency: Particularly at night (nocturia), which can disrupt sleep.
  • Decreased frequency: Producing less urine than usual despite adequate fluid intake.
  • Foamy urine: Excessive bubbles in the urine can indicate proteinuria, a condition where protein is present in the urine.
  • Dark or discolored urine: This may signal blood in the urine, a potential indicator of kidney problems.
  • Painful urination: This could be a sign of a urinary tract infection or kidney stones, both of which can impact kidney function.

These changes are often among the earliest signs of kidney disease and should not be ignored.


4. Shortness of Breath

Kidneys help balance the levels of minerals and fluids in the body. When they are not functioning correctly, fluid can build up in the lungs, causing shortness of breath. This condition, known as pulmonary edema, can make even simple activities like walking or climbing stairs challenging.

Additionally, anemia associated with kidney disease can lead to decreased oxygen delivery to tissues, contributing to this symptom. Patients may feel out of breath with minimal exertion or even at rest.

5. High Blood Pressure

The kidneys play a crucial role in regulating blood pressure. They do this by controlling the amount of fluid in the blood and releasing the hormone renin, which regulates blood pressure. Damaged kidneys are less effective at controlling blood pressure, which can lead to hypertension.

Conversely, high blood pressure can also damage the kidneys, creating a vicious cycle. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can accelerate the progression of kidney disease and lead to other complications, such as heart disease and stroke.


6. Persistent Itching

Kidney disease can lead to a build-up of waste products in the blood, causing persistent itching (pruritus). This is because the kidneys are not effectively filtering these waste products out of the body.

Additionally, imbalances in minerals such as calcium and phosphorus can contribute to skin irritation and itching. This itching can be widespread or localized and can be severe enough to interfere with sleep and daily activities.

7. Metallic Taste in Mouth and Ammonia Breath

A build-up of waste products in the blood (uremia) can lead to a metallic taste in the mouth and breath that smells like ammonia. This can affect appetite and cause weight loss.

Many patients describe this as having a constant bad taste in their mouth, which can lead to a decreased interest in eating, further contributing to weight loss and malnutrition. Proper nutritional support and management are crucial for patients experiencing these symptoms.

8. Nausea and Vomiting

Toxins that accumulate due to reduced kidney function can cause nausea and vomiting. This is often seen in more advanced stages of kidney disease and can significantly affect a person’s quality of life and nutritional status.

The build-up of waste products in the blood, particularly urea, can irritate the gastrointestinal tract, leading to discomfort and the urge to vomit. Persistent nausea and vomiting can result in loss of appetite, dehydration, and weight loss, all of which can exacerbate the underlying kidney issues.

Managing these symptoms often requires dietary changes and medications prescribed by a healthcare provider.

9. Trouble Concentrating

Anemia and the build-up of toxins can also affect brain function, leading to trouble concentrating, memory issues, and dizziness. This condition, often referred to as “brain fog,” can make it difficult to perform daily tasks and affect overall cognitive function.

Patients may find it challenging to focus on work, engage in conversations, or remember simple tasks. The lack of oxygen-rich blood and the presence of waste products in the bloodstream impact brain activity, highlighting the importance of addressing anemia and other contributing factors in kidney disease management.

10. Your Skin Becomes Dry And Itchy

A normal and healthy pair of kidneys perform many tasks for the body. They help in removing toxins and wastes from the body, maintain the right amount of minerals in the body, promote healthy and strong bones, and make red blood cells. Apart from all these functions, they also help in maintaining healthy and hydrated skin.

Thus, dry and itchy skin is an indication that your kidneys are no longer able to maintain the right balance of minerals and nutrients in the body. Itching usually happens when there is an accumulation of uric acid and other waste products and build-up on the skin.

11. Pain

Pain in the back or sides where the kidneys are located can be a sign of kidney disease. This pain can indicate kidney stones, a kidney infection (pyelonephritis), or other kidney-related issues.

Polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a genetic disorder, can cause large, fluid-filled cysts on the kidneys, leading to chronic pain and discomfort. The pain associated with kidney stones is often severe and can come in waves, radiating to the lower abdomen and groin.

If you experience persistent or severe pain in these areas, it is important to seek medical attention for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.


Recognizing the signs and symptoms of kidney disease early can significantly improve the chances of effective management and slow the progression of the disease. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is crucial to consult a healthcare provider for a thorough evaluation.

Early diagnosis and intervention can help manage the disease, maintain kidney function, and prevent complications. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is vital for supporting kidney health. This includes:

  • Balanced Diet: Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins while limiting salt, sugar, and processed foods can help manage blood pressure and blood sugar levels, reducing the strain on your kidneys.
  • Regular Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity can help control blood pressure, improve heart health, and manage weight, all of which are beneficial for kidney health.
  • Hydration: Staying well-hydrated helps the kidneys clear toxins from the body. However, if you have kidney disease, your doctor may recommend a specific fluid intake to manage fluid balance.
  • Avoiding Smoking and Limiting Alcohol: Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can damage the kidneys and increase the risk of kidney disease.
  • Monitoring Blood Pressure and Blood Sugar: Regularly checking and managing blood pressure and blood sugar levels can prevent kidney damage, especially for individuals with hypertension or diabetes.

For those at higher risk, such as individuals with a family history of kidney disease, diabetes, hypertension, or other underlying health conditions, regular check-ups, blood tests, and urine tests are crucial for early detection and management of kidney disease.

In summary, being aware of the symptoms of kidney disease and taking proactive steps to maintain kidney health can significantly impact overall well-being. If you suspect any issues with your kidneys, seek medical advice promptly to ensure the best possible outcome.


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