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Chronic Kidney Disease Symptoms

Detecting chronic kidney disease (CKD) can be tricky because the signs and symptoms often occur late, after the condition has progressed and kidney damage has occurred. In fact, CKD is sometimes known as a “silent” condition because it’s hard to detect—and most people with early stage CKD don’t even know they have it.

First signs of chronic kidney disease

The earlier CKD is detected, the sooner you can start treatment. If you are at risk for CKD, especially if you have high blood pressure or diabetes, it’s recommended to get screened at least once a year. Your doctor can give you a blood test to help determine your level of kidney function.

You should also be aware of the common warning signs of chronic kidney disease. Talk to your doctor immediately if you notice any of these potential CKD signs or symptoms:
  • Healthy kidneys help filter blood to create urine. When the kidneys don’t function well, urination issues may occur such as needing to urinate more often or seeing blood in your urine. You may also experience urine that’s foamy or bubbly—which could be an early sign that protein is getting into your urine due to damaged kidneys.
  • Reduced kidney function can lead to a buildup of toxins in the blood that causes you to have a lack of energy or feel overwhelmingly tired. CKD may also cause anemia, which can make you feel tired or weak due to having too few red blood cells.
  • Dry and itchy skin may be a sign that you have an imbalance of minerals and nutrients in your blood due to kidney disease. Itching is often caused by high blood levels of phosphorus.
  • When your kidneys aren’t removing excess fluid and sodium from your body, swelling (also known as edema) may occur in your feet or other lower extremities.
  • Extra fluid can build up in your lungs when your kidneys aren’t removing enough fluid, which may cause you to be short of breath. CKD-induced anemia, which is a shortage of oxygen carrying red blood cells, may also make it difficult to breathe.
  • You may experience localized pain near your kidneys that doesn’t change or that becomes worse when you move or stretch. The kidneys are located on either side of your spine in your lower back, and kidney problems can cause pain in this area. Back pain may also be due to an infection or blockage of the kidneys, which can lead to kidney damage.
  • A buildup of toxins due to impaired kidney function may cause you to lose your appetite because you may feel full or too sick or tired to eat.
  • Protein leaking into your urine as a result of kidney damage may cause persistent puffiness around the eyes, an early sign of kidney disease.
  • High amounts of protein in your urine, called proteinurea, can be a sign of kidney disease. Healthy kidneys filter out waste and fluid, letting protein return to the blood. When the kidneys don’t function correctly, protein leaks into your urine.
  • Excess fluid and sodium build up as a result of kidney disease can cause you to have higher blood pressure. High blood pressure can also damage the blood vessels in the kidneys and lead to a worsening of kidney disease over time.
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Estimate your GFR to determine your current CKD stage. You'll need results from a simple GFR blood test to get started.

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Are symptoms of kidney disease different in men and women?

Although they both may experience the same symptoms, CKD may progress differently in men and women. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) and kidney infections are more common in women, which may cause kidney disease to develop. Both men and women can lower their risk of kidney disease by maintaining a healthy weight, controlling blood sugar, and living a healthy lifestyle.


Check in on diabetes and high blood pressure

are the top two causes of chronic kidney disease. If you have a health diagnosis such as high blood pressure or diabetes, it’s important that you take control of your health and begin monitoring these conditions more closely. Many times when these other conditions progress or are not treated properly, your kidneys have to work harder and risk more damage over time. Regular check-ups that include blood and urine tests are critical to monitoring your kidney health. Take the time to learn from your doctor about how to best care for your health, manage your medications, and eat well.


How do CKD symptoms progress?

Symptoms of CKD develop slowly over time. Many people in the earlier stages (stages 1 and 2) of kidney disease do not experience symptoms at all and may require testing to receive a diagnosis. You’re more likely to experience symptoms in the later stages or end stage of kidney disease (stages 3, 4, and 5).
Ask about diagnosis & testing

If you are at risk of kidneydisease or experience signs orsymptoms, talk to your doctorand get tested.

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Watch a video about the symptoms of chronic kidney disease.
Know the risks and symptoms of CKD

Understanding the risks and symptoms to be aware of for kidney disease can help you know when to take action and talk to your doctor about CKD.

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Recognize a symptom? Talk to your doctor

The sooner you report signs or symptoms to your doctor, the sooner you can get a diagnosis and start taking steps to slow the progression of kidney disease. Your doctor can determine your level of kidney function through a simple blood test used to calculate your estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR). Knowing your eGFR is key to understanding your stage of kidney disease and how best to manage your kidney health.


When to see a kidney doctor

Your primary care doctor can help you determine when it’s time to see a kidney doctor (nephrologist), who specializes in treating kidney disease. A nephrologist can help you develop a personalized care plan, talk to you about managing kidney disease, and support you in living your best life.
Understand­ing acute kidney injury
If symptoms appear suddenly orall at once, it may be a sign ofacute kidney injury (AKI), alsoknown as acute kidney failure. 
Learn more about AKI