Kidney disease is known as a silent killer. Because it often goes undetected until it is in its advanced stages, it’s important to be aware of the warning signs. If you experience the following symptoms, see your doctor for blood and urine tests. Lifestyle changes and medication can slow the progression of chronic kidney disease and help to prevent kidney failure.
1. Changes In Urination
Because the kidneys produce urine, changes in urination are a common sign of kidney disease. Changes to watch out for include:
- Urinating more frequently during the night
- Urinating in greater amounts with pale yellow urine
- Urinating less often with brown or dark orange urine
- Blood in the urine
- Foamy or bubbly urine
- Difficulty urinating
- Increased bladder pressure or urge to urinate
2. Swollen Ankles
The kidneys are responsible for maintaining normal levels of fluid and filtering out excess sodium. As kidney function declines, excess fluid builds up in the blood.
Edema, or swelling, occurs when tiny blood vessels leak fluid into surrounding tissues. Swelling and puffiness are usually most noticeable around the lower legs and ankles, but can affect any part of the body including the face, hands and feet.
The kidneys control levels of phosphorus in your body, filtering out the excess. If kidney function is impaired, a build-up of phosphorus can lead to chronic, severe itching and skin rashes. The itchy feeling can occur over the whole body and is often worse at night. People with kidney disease may scratch until their skin is raw, but feel no relief.
4. Vomiting and Loss of Appetite
When the kidneys aren’t functioning to filter out waste products, urea (a primary component of urine) can build up in the blood. Urea is broken down to ammonia in the saliva causing a metallic taste in the mouth and pungent bad breath. It can also cause nausea and vomiting. Because their food tastes strange and they have trouble keeping it down, many people with kidney disease lose their appetite and experience rapid weight loss.
5. Back Pain
Kidney problems sometimes cause pain in the area of the back just under the lower ribs. Polycystic kidney disease causes fluid-filled sacs to develop in the kidneys. The enlarged kidneys can cause severe cramping pain on one or both sides of the back that may spread down into the groin. They can also cause abdominal pain and swelling.
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The kidneys produce a hormone called erythropoietin which signals the body to make red blood cells. As the kidneys decrease in function, red blood cell production also decreases, resulting in anemia. With fewer red blood cells to carry oxygen to the brain and muscles, people have less energy. Anemia leads to constant fatigue, weakness, drowsiness and lethargy.
7. Feeling Cold
People with anemia caused by kidney disease can feel cold even in warm surroundings. When red blood cell levels are low, less oxygen is supplied to the tissues and the body cannot produce as much heat. People with anemia often have a low body temperature. They may frequently get the chills or experience cold or numb hands and feet.
8. Dizziness and Brain Fog
When kidney disease results in anemia, the brain is staved of oxygen. This can cause dizzy spells or a general feeling of lightheadedness. Low levels of oxygen in the brain can also lead to a lack of focus and inability to concentrate. Some people with kidney disease have problems with learning and memory.
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9. Easy Bruising and Bleeding
Kidney disease and anemia can decrease blood clotting. Light bumps or knocks may result in bruises which are out of proportion to the level of injury. Minor cuts and scrapes may bleed excessively and take longer to heal. Frequent nose bleeds can also be a sign of kidney problems.
10. Shortness of Breath
Poor kidney function leads to breathing difficulties in two ways. When damaged kidneys can no longer maintain the body’s fluid balance, excess fluid may build up in the lungs. In addition, anemia starves the body of oxygen. People with damaged kidneys can feel breathless after minimal exertion such as walking up stairs. They may have the feeling that they can’t catch their breath, even when sitting down. Some develop pauses in breathing during the night known as sleep apnea.