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10 kidney disease symptoms to watch out for 

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Kidney disease is one of the most underestimated illnesses that affect people across age groups. Nearly 14% of the total general population lives with chronic kidney disease (CKD). According to the National Kidney Foundation, CKD is accountable for more deaths than breast or prostate cancer. Despite such high incidence, there is a substantial lack of awareness about kidney disease symptoms

In the article below, Dr Mohit Khirbat, a renowned nephrologist in Gurgaon, discusses the various signs of kidney disease that one must be aware of. 

What are kidney disease symptoms

Before we set on to discuss the common signs of kidney disease, it is important that we understand what kidney disease means? 

Kidney disease overview

As the name suggests, kidney disease is an ailment of the kidneys. Your kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located at the back of the abdomen right below your ribcage. Kidneys are responsible for the following functions –

    • filtering out toxins 
    • removing waste from your blood
    • producing urine
    • balancing minerals and fluids 

Having kidney disease means that your kidneys are unable to perform the above-given functions properly. Kidney disease has various complications – a damaged kidney can affect the process of filtration in your body. As a result, waste and toxins can collect inside your body leading to health problems such as nausea, weakness, poor sleep, and shortness of breath. 

Kidney disease is generally classified into two categories, based on their causes – acute kidney disease and chronic kidney disease. 

  • Acute kidney disease: Acute kidney disease happens when the kidney is diseased suddenly. Some of the common causes include sudden disruption in blood flow to the kidney, injury or trauma to the kidneys. 
  • Chronic kidney disease: Chronic kidney disease is one that develops over time. Diabetes and hypertension are the two foremost reasons why chronic kidney disease occurs. 

What are the common signs of kidney disease?

As mentioned above, chronic kidney disease develops over several months or even years. This ailment often shows several early signs of kidney disease

Here are some common symptoms of kidney disease you should know:

1. You are more tired: Fatigue is among the first early signs of kidney disease. In a small cross-sectional study of nearly 87 patients living with advanced chronic kidney disease, profound fatigue was noted as one of the top symptoms of kidney disease

When your kidneys stop working with their everyday capacity, you tend to develop a buildup of toxins and waste in your body. These impurities can make you feel easily tired. 

In addition, you may also see a significant drop in your energy levels. The collection of these toxins can also contribute to a decreased level of concentration. International Society of Nephrology (ISN) notes that fatigue is also a sign of depression which is commonly seen in patients with advanced renal disease. 

2. You have difficulty in sleeping: There is a well-established link between sleep and kidney function. Your sleeping pattern impacts your kidney’s health and its functions. 

According to the National Kidney Foundation, your kidney function is regulated by the sleep-wake cycle. Your kidneys function 24 hours a day and your sleep cycle helps in coordinating its workload.  Patients living with chronic kidney disease experience a variety of sleep disorders. 

A poor sleep pattern, increased sleepiness during the day, poor nighttime sleep and more among the early signs of kidney disease. The primary reason for these signs is the collection of toxins in your body.

3. You have an increased need to urinate: Damage to the filters of your kidney can lead to increased urination, especially during the night. Having an increased urge to urinate at the night (nocturia) is a well-known sign of kidney disease. 

Nocturia is remarkably common in chronic kidney disease with approximately 64 % affected patients. 

4. You see blood in the urine: When you think about what are the signs of kidney disease, you must consider the presence of blood in the urine. Your kidneys are responsible for filtering toxins from your blood. In this process, they usually reserve the blood cells. 

However, when the kidney function is damaged, some of the blood cells begin to leak and appear in the urine. 

5. You have swollen feet and ankles: Another vital function of your kidneys is to balance the levels of fluids in your body. When you are living with kidney disease, the excess fluid cannot escape and gets collected in your body. This accumulation of excess body fluids can lead to swelling in your feet and ankles. 

6. You experience a loss of appetite: Due to kidney damage, you are likely to experience a variety of toxins remain in your body. This pile of toxins can affect your eating habits and appetite. 

Several people (nearly 10% of people experiencing end-stage renal disease) experience a loss of appetite as one of the early signs. 

7. You have skin dryness & itching: Other signs and symptoms of kidney disease include skin dryness and itching. Dermatological issues pertaining to the skin are highly common in people living with chronic kidney disease or end-stage renal disease with almost 40% of the patients being affected. 

Skin itching may vary from moderate to severe in person to person. Dry and itchy skin is also a sign associated with mineral and bone disease, that is often found in people living with kidney disease. 

8. You have foamy urine: One of the most common kidney disease symptoms includes having foamy urine. When your kidney gets damaged, it allows for a large amount of protein to leak out through urine. This protein presents in the form of foamy urine – with bubbles. 

9. You feel muscle cramping: One of the common kidney disease pain symptoms is muscle cramps or twitches. As a result of reduced kidney function, your body is not able to regulate fluids and electrolytes leading to cramping. Components such as reduced calcium or phosphorus levels are leading factors for this symptom. 

10. Your eyes are puffy: When your kidneys are not working properly, various minerals and protein get collected in your body. The accumulation of these components may settle be displayed in the form of puffiness under the eyes. 

Additionally, chronic kidney disease is caused by diabetes and high blood pressure which can put a strain on the blood vessels of your eyes leading to vision problems. 

What are the treatment options for kidney disease? 

Your ideal method of treatment for kidney disease will depend upon its cause, the severity of your symptoms, stage of kidney disease and your overall health. 

Majorly, there are four treatment options available to patients living with kidney disease:

  • Lifestyle changes: If your kidney disease is not advanced and can be reversed, your doctor will recommend you to adjust your lifestyle and make certain modifications. 
  • Medicinal treatment: Diabetes and high blood pressure are the leading causes of kidney disease. Your healthcare provider may prescribe relevant medicines to control your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. 
  • Dialysis: Dialysis treatment is an advanced method in which your healthcare provider uses a machine to replicate the functions of filtering toxins and waste from your blood. 
  • Kidney transplant: Kidney transplant is a suitable option for the treatment of end-stage kidney disease. It is a surgical method in which your doctor removes your diseased kidney and replaces it with a healthy donor kidney. 

Where is kidney pain felt? 

You can expect to feel kidney pain on your sides or middle and upper back areas. Sometimes, the pain experienced due to kidney disease can also progress to the abdomen or groin. 

If you are wondering – is back pain a symptom of kidney disease? – the answer may be, yes. However, kidney pain in the back can also be caused due to other health conditions. It is best to consult a verified nephrologist in case you experience this symptom. 

The concluding note

Kidney disease symptoms can be easily misinterpreted. It is essential for people of all ages to understand these signs and symptoms so that you can practice prevention and take the necessary treatment at the right time. 

For more information, book an appointment with Dr Mohit Khirbat, a leading nephrologist at the CK Birla Hospital. 


Ques: What is the first sign of kidney disease?

Ans: Fatigue, loss of appetite, foamy urine and changes in urinary output are some early signs of kidney disease. 

Ques: What are the stages of chronic kidney disease?

Ans: Chronic kidney disease progresses over time through five stages. These are:

  • Stage 1 – normal kidney disease
  • Stage 2 – Mild CKD 
  • Stage 3 – Moderate CKD
  • Stage 4 – Severe CKD 
  • Stage 5 – End Stage CKD

Ques: How can I protect my kidneys?

Ans: You should restrict your sodium intake, limit caffeine, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep to protect your kidneys. 

Ques: Which are the best foods to protect kidney function?

Ans: Top foods for better kidney function include cauliflower, blueberries, egg whites, garlic, cabbage, olive oil, bell pepper and onions. 


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