Kidney Failure Symptoms

Kidney failure symptoms can range from very mild during the early stages of kidney failure, to extremely severe when kidney function either stops or has been significantly diminished.

When Renal (kidney) failure is mild or moderate, the early signs of kidney failure are hardly noticeable, even when there are increased levels of urea in the blood.

With chronic kidney disease (CKD), symptoms may initially develop very slowly.

CKD is the progressive decline in kidney function over an extended period of time (many months or years).

Symptoms of kidney failure are predominantly determined by the severity and stage of CKD. CKD is categorized into five (5) different stages, with stage 1 being the least severe and stage 5 (known as end stage renal disease) being the most severe.

Most symptoms are not apparent in the early stages of the disease and in most cases, only when kidney disease has progressed significantly that the symptoms begin to manifest.

The symptoms of acute kidney failure would normally be manifested sooner. This happens because acute kidney failure is temporary and normally short term. Consequently, the signs of kidney failure develop much faster than is the case with chronic kidney disease.

There are several symptoms of both acute and chronic kidney failure. If kidney failure is mild or moderate, there may be only a few symptoms, which may include frequent urination during the night and elevated or high blood pressure. In more severe cases, however, kidney failure symptoms can be numerous and extreme, in some cases. The following is an extensive list of some typical symptoms, which may be manifested by patients with severe renal failure.

  • Anemia. One of the main functions of the kidneys is to assist with the production of red blood cells. The kidneys are responsible for producing a hormone called erythropoietin. This is the hormone that stimulates red blood cell production. If kidney disease causes damage or shrinking of the kidneys, the production of red blood cells will be affected.

  • Hypertension or high blood pressure. This is one of the key indicators of kidney failure. Hypertension is caused by the retention of fluids and wastes in the bloodstream. This increases blood volume, which in turn causes blood pressure to rise.

    Hypertension is not only a symptom of kidney failure but it can also be a cause of kidney failure. The kidneys play an important role in regulating blood pressure. If blood pressure is constantly high this puts additional stress on the kidneys and eventually damages them. Consequently, hypertension is not only a symptom but is also a cause of kidney failure.

  • Headaches. High blood pressure may trigger headaches.

  • Bone and joint problems. The kidneys produce vitamin D, which aids in the absorption of calcium and keeps bones strong. The bones of patients with kidney failure may become brittle. The growth of children with kidney failure may be also stunted. Joint pain may also occur as a result of unchecked phosphate levels in the blood.

  • Lower back pain in the area where the kidneys are located.

  • Edema. Puffiness or swelling around the eyes, arms, hands, and feet.

  • Foamy or bloody urine. Protein in the urine may cause it to foam a lot. Blood in the urine may indicate that there is bleeding from the kidneys as a result of kidney disease or obstruction in the kidneys, bladder, or ureters.

  • Increase fatigue. Toxic substances in the blood and the presence of anemia may cause feelings of exhaustion or tiredness.

  • Itching. Phosphorus, which is typically eliminated in the urine, accumulates in the blood of patients with kidney failure. The accumulation of phosphorus levels may cause the skin to itch.

  • Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Urea in the gastric juices may cause upset stomach. This can lead to malnutrition and weight loss.

  • Bad breath or bad taste in the mouth. Urea or waste products in the saliva may cause an ammonia-like taste in the mouth.

Patients with chronic end stage renal disease (most severe stage of kidney failure) experience many of these symptoms. These symptoms usually develop gradually, over an extended period of time, as kidney function progressively deteriorates. They can be extremely discomforting and they adversely affect the lifestyle and well-being of patients.

The only effective, long-term treatment for end stage renal disease is a kidney transplant. Other medications and treatments, such as dialysis, do not cure the underlying condition(s) but they can provide temporary relief, and allow patients to enjoy a reasonable quality of life.

In order to avoid or minimize the adverse effects of severe kidney failure symptoms, it is important to develop healthy lifestyle and dietary practices, sooner rather than later. It is also important to have regular medical check-ups, since an early detection and diagnosis of kidney failure allows for appropriate and timely treatment, which can prevent or delay the onset of many of these kidney failure symptoms.