Kidney disease refers to any disease, disorder, or condition that affects the kidneys. It can either be short-term also referred to as acute or lifelong, also referred to as chronic. Kidney disease is the term used even if the problem with functioning is only slight. While kidney disease is common, it only leads to kidney failure in less than 1 in 10 people. Here are some signs and symptoms of potential issues in the functioning of your kidneys.
Function of kidneys
The kidneys help remove waste and extra fluid from the body through urine. They help control blood pressure and make red blood cells. Kidneys make an active form of vitamin D which helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus keeping bones healthy. The kidneys also help maintain a healthy balance of chemicals that control acid levels. They also balance the pH of the body. Kidney disease means the kidneys do not function as they should.
Signs and symptoms of kidney disease
Kidney problems are not always evident in the early stages because the human body can continue to work even with a single healthy kidney. For this reason and because of the critical role played by kidneys in the body, it’s important to identify the subtle signs of problems early before they worsen.
Anaemia is a condition in which the blood has a lower than normal amount of red blood cells or haemoglobin. Kidney disease compromises the production of red blood cells in the body.
Blood in urine
Blood in the urine can be a sign that something is wrong with the kidneys. It’s one of the symptoms that can lead to further kidney complications.
One of the early warning signs of kidney disease is an increase in the frequency of urination, especially at night. Kidney damage results in an increase in the urge to urinate. You may also have difficulty urinating or feel increased pressure when you do it.
Having protein in your urine is the earliest sign of kidney disease. Excessive bubbles in urine especially those that require flushing multiple times before they go away indicate protein in the urine. Healthy kidneys filter waste and fluid out leaving the nutrients you need in your blood, such as protein. When the kidney filters are damaged, they allow the protein to escape from your blood to your urine. The urine then presents as foamy in the same way eggs foam when you beat them because that protein in the urine is the same one that’s found in eggs.
Changes in the normal colour of urine
Normal urine is pale yellow and may even be lighter or darker depending on how much water you drink. A lighter yellow the more water you drink, and darker for less water. Abnormal urine colours that may indicate kidney disease and require consulting a doctor are pink, red, brown, orange, or black.
People with kidney disease report feeling tired and deprived of energy all the time. Kidneys with problems make fewer red blood cells which means less oxygen so your muscles and brain tire quickly.
When the kidneys are not performing their filtering function correctly toxins remain in the blood instead of leaving the body through urine. This retention of toxins makes it difficult to sleep.
Loss of appetite
Appetite worsens with the progression of kidney disease which eventually leads to malnutrition. This can also be linked to the build-up of toxins in the body.
The toxins build-up in the blood because of kidney disease can make the skin feel dry and itchy. This feeling of dry, itchy skin persists even if the person applies moisturizer.
Puffiness around the eyes
Puffiness around the eyes can be due to the fact that the kidneys are leaking large amounts of protein in the body rather than keeping it in.
Swollen feet or ankles
Decreased kidney function can lead to sodium retention which can manifest as swelling in the feet and ankles. Swelling in the lower extremities is a crucial indicator of potential kidney disease, heart disease, liver disease, and chronic leg vein problems. The face may also look swollen because of water retention and fluid build-up in the body.
Electrolyte imbalances resulting from impaired kidney function along with low calcium levels and poorly controlled phosphorus can contribute to muscle cramping.
Other signs and symptoms of kidney disease
- Feeling cold when others are warm which is a sign of anaemia
- Shortness of breath after very little effort
- Frequently feeling faint, dizzy, or weak
- Trouble thinking correctly, concentration, and memory problems
- Food has a metallic taste
- Bad breath or ammonia breath
- Upset stomach, nausea, and vomiting
If you suspect you may have kidney disease, consult a doctor.