The two bean shaped organs located just above the waist on either side of the spine are the kidneys. The kidneys are responsible for removing waste and excess fluids from your body, regulating blood pressure, and maintaining the delicate balance of salt and minerals in your blood. Unfortunately, like many other organs in our body, the kidneys can be subject to disease and ultimately fail. There are two basic types of kidney disease: acute or renal kidney failure (RKF) and chronic kidney failure (CKF). Acute kidney failure usually happens very quickly, within several hours or days, and is most commonly the result of a severe, traumatic injury that involved blood loss. On the other hand, chronic kidney failure takes place over several months. Although any type of kidney disease is extremely dangerous and potentially fatal, chronic kidney disease is the most dangerous of the two because often times the symptoms of kidney disease are undetectable.

Unfortunately, many people who suffer from chronic kidney disease don’t even know it because kidney disease symptoms are very subtle. Of course, knowledge is power and the best medicine is early detection. But how can a person know if they are suffering from chronic kidney disease? Below is a list of symptoms that are commonly associated with kidney disease, however, many of these symptoms can also be indicative of a plethora of other conditions and the only way to be absolutely sure that you are suffering from kidney disease is to talk to your doctor. Your doctor can perform blood and urine tests to determine a definitive diagnosis.

Symptom #1 – Changes in Urination

One of the most common symptoms of kidney disease is the change in urination. The kidneys are primarily responsible for eliminating waste and excess fluids from the body, so if the kidneys are not working properly, it would stand to reason that the amount, color, and frequency of urination would change. The changes could range from urinating more often, larger amounts of urine that are pale in color, urinating less often, urinating lesser amounts of urine that is dark in color, blood in the urine, feelings of pressure or difficulty urinating, and sometimes the urine can be bubbly or foamy. These symptoms vary greatly and can be contributed to a number of other medical conditions, but this is one of the first and easily detectable kidney disease symptoms.

Patients have reported the following:

  • “When using the restroom, it felt as though you couldn’t get it all out and you are left with a feeling of tightness and pressure down there.”
  • “Having the need to use the bathroom but upon getting there, you only produce two or three drops of urine. You are constantly running to the bathroom and nothing happens!”
  • “The color of the urine changed drastically and had blood in it. It looked a lot like grape Kool-Aid.”

Symptom #2 – Swelling

Kidneys that are failing don’t have the ability to remove excess fluids, which can cause it to build up in your body. This results in your legs, ankles, feet, face, and/or hands swelling.

Patients have reported the following:

  • “There was so much swelling in my ankles, that it was difficult, if not impossible to put shoes on.”
  • “Even though my hair was falling out and I was losing weight, my face was still really puffy and swollen looking. It was really weird and it took a while to determine what was going on in my body.”
  • “My left ankle was so swollen and after walking a short way to the bus stop, I was exhausted. It was then that I know something was wrong and needed to see a doctor.”

Symptom #3 – Fatigue

In addition to being responsible for removing waste from your body, the kidneys are also responsible for producing a hormone called erythropoietin. This is a hormone that instructs your body to produce oxygen carrying red blood cells. When the kidneys fail they are unable to make this hormone and with fewer and fewer red bloods cells to transport oxygen throughout your body, your muscles and your brain becomes very tired very quickly. This condition is commonly known as anemia, which is easily treatable, but if it is persistent and troublesome, it can be an indication of something more serious, like kidney disease.

Patients have reported the following:

  • “I constantly felt exhausted and I didn’t have any pep or anything like that.”
  • “All I wanted to do was sleep. I would get home from work and go straight to bed.”
  • “It feels like you are extremely tired all the time. I constantly feel drained even if I don’t do anything I am just totally drained.”

Symptom #4 – Skin Rash and/or Itching

When the kidney’s fail and they are no longer able to remove the waste from your body it can build up and cause severe itching.

Patients have reported the following:

  • “My skin broke out and all I wanted to do was itch and scratch.”
  • “It doesn’t feel like a normal skin itch, it is much more. It feels like it is right down to the bone. It was so bad I had to get a brush and just dig. I scratched so much and so hard that my back bled.”

Symptom #5 – Metallic Taste in Your Mouth and Ammonia Breath

Uremia is a condition that occurs when waste builds up in the blood. This can cause bad breath and can alter the taste of food. Many people will also stop eating meat because of the distorted taste and will lose weight due to no desire to eat.

Patients have reported the following:

  • “There is a foul taste in your mouth–almost like you are drinking iron!”
  • “I don’t have any appetite.”
  • “Before starting treatment, I lost at least 10 pounds.”

Symptom #6 – Nausea and Vomiting

Uremia (as discussed in Symptom #5), is also responsible for causing nausea and vomiting.

Patients have reported the following:

  • “I felt nauseous all the time and I was always throwing up.”
  • “I couldn’t keep anything down on my stomach.”

Symptom #7 – Shortness of Breath

A majority of people can misdiagnose this symptom but a shortness of breath and difficulty breathing can be directly related to kidney disease in two ways:

First, all the extra fluid that builds up in your system can collect in or around your lungs making it difficult to breath.

Secondly, kidney disease can cause anemia, which is a shortage of oxygen carrying red blood cells, and this lack of oxygen can leave your body starved and short of breath.

Patients have reported the following:

  • “It was very hard to sleep at night because I couldn’t catch my breath. It felt like I was drowning or something.”
  • “Just walking up a set of stairs made it hard to breathe. It was hard to catch my breath after working. It was bad.”

Symptom #8 – Feeling Cold

Anemia, which is a direct result of kidney disease, can result in feeling cold, even in warm temperatures.

Patients have reported the following:

  • “I would get so cold, I would get the chills.”
  • “I was always cold. Even when it was warm, I was cold.”

Symptom #9 – Dizziness and Trouble Concentrating

Again, anemia related to kidney disease causes your brain to be starved of oxygen which leads to dizziness, and problems related to memory and concentration.

Patients have reported the following:

  • “I was having trouble remembering what I did last week or what I ate two days ago.”
  • “I like to do crossword puzzles but was having trouble concentrating.”

Symptom #10 – Leg or Flank Pain

Because of the location of the kidneys, people may experience pain in the back or on the side of the affected kidney.

Patients have reported the following:

  • “Waking up in the middle of the night I would have a side ache and a backache.”
  • “I would get such pain in my side and legs that I would cry. It was worse than labor pains.”


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