Symptoms of Kidney Failure

Updated at: Jan 21, 2013
Symptoms of Kidney Failure

Signs and symptoms of kidney failure are not specific in most cases. Some signs and symptoms of advanced kidney disease or kidney failure include loss of appetite, general feeling of illness, feeling tired or fatigued, itching (pruritus) and dry s

Dr Poonam Sachdev
Kidney DiseasesWritten by: Dr Poonam SachdevPublished at: Jun 19, 2012

Symptoms of Kidney Failure

Kidney disease in most people does not cause any symptom as the body can tolerate even a great amount of reduction in kidney function. This is because all of us are born with a lot more kidney function than is necessary for survival. In fact, one working kidney is sufficient to perform all the functions to keep the body healthy.


[Read: Treatment Options for Kidney Failure]


In many cases, a change in kidney function or chronic kidney disease is discovered accidentally during a routine blood or urine test. If there is any abnormality of kidney function, tests that monitor the kidney function will be done with regular blood tests and treatment will be started at the earliest stage. Treatment of kidney disease aims to keep any symptom to a minimum and prevent worsening of kidney function.

If the kidney function continues to worsen, it may progress slowly towards kidney failure (established renal failure or ERF). Kidney failure or renal failure is diagnosed by blood tests and monitoring.

Signs and symptoms of kidney failure are not specific in most cases. Some signs and symptoms of advanced kidney disease or kidney failure include:

  • loss of appetite
  • general feeling of illness
  • feeling tired or fatigued
  • frequent headaches
  • itching (pruritus) and dry skin
  • nausea and vomiting and
  • unintended weight loss (weight loss when you are not trying to lose weight).


[Read: When to Seek Help for Kidney Failure]


Some other symptoms that become evident as the kidney function worsens include:

  • change of skin colour (it may become abnormally dark or light)
  • pain in bone
  • brain and nervous system symptoms such as
  1. feeling drowsy, confused
  2. difficulty in concentration or thinking
  3. numbness in the hands, feet or other areas
  4. muscle twitching or cramps and
  5. decreased alertness or mental sharpness.
  • change in odour of breath
  • increased tendency to bleed (such as easy bruising, bleeding or blood in the stool)
  • feeling excessively thirsty
  • frequent hiccups
  • loss of sexual interest and impotence
  • cessation of menstrual periods (amenorrhea)
  • shortness of breath
  • sleep related issues such as insomnia, restless leg syndrome and obstructive sleep apnea
  • swelling of the feet and ankle (edema)
  • nausea and vomiting (more commonly in the morning)
  • changes in urine output
  • muscle twitches and cramps
  • chest pain (if fluid collect around the lining of the heart)
  • shortness of breath (if fluid collects in the lungs) and
  • increase in blood pressure (hypertension) that's difficult to control.

These are some signs and symptoms of kidney failure. Many of these symptoms may occur in several other medical conditions as well. If you think you have any type of kidney problem, consult your doctor as kidneys are highly adaptable and can compensate for lost function. Therefore, by the time obvious signs and symptoms of kidney failure appear, irreversible damage would have occurred.


Read more articles on Kidney Failure.




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