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Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Disease

The kidneys play a critical role in keeping the body healthy by cleaning and processing the blood. Working together, the 2 million nephrons filter and process 3-4 liters of blood approximately every 5 minutes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is important to be aware of any problems you may be having with your kidneys and get treatment quickly. Some common symptoms and signs of kidney problems are:


Protein or blood in the urine

This may be discovered on a routine urinalysis that is done as part of an annual physical exam, a preoperative evaluation, or a school, employment, or insurance physical. In many (but not all) types of kidney disease, kidney damage results in leakiness of the tiny glomerular filters. These leaks allow protein and red blood cells, which are normally kept in the bloodstream, to spill into the urine.

Abnormal blood tests of kidney function

A routine panel of blood tests (which is often done either as part of an annual physical, or in preparation for surgery) includes a BUN (blood urea nitrogen) and a creatinine. These two substances are normal metabolic waste products that are excreted by the kidneys. In kidney disease, their excretion is decreased, so the amounts in the blood rise and can be detected on routine blood tests. This is often the very first indication of kidney disease, and is often noted at a time well before any symptoms or other abnormalities become evident.

High blood pressure

Although this is a very common finding, particularly as people become older, it can also be the first sign of kidney disease. High blood pressure can also itself be a cause of kidney disease, so people who have high blood pressure for a number of years, particularly if it is difficult to control with medications, need to be repeatedly screened for evidence of kidney damage.

Edema or swelling

This tends to occur in the feet, lower legs, and sometimes the face and hands. Edema is a sign of fluid buildup that can occur in several conditions, most commonly in heart failure. However, it often is the first sign of protein leakage from the kidneys.

Symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI)

UTI symptoms include burning on urination, frequency (the sensation of needing to urinate very frequently), urgency (the sensation of needing to urinate urgently), bloody or cloudy urine. Although urinary tract infections do not usually cause permanent or progressive kidney damage if promptly treated, they can certainly cause a patient to seek medical attention.

Symptoms of advanced kidney failure

Loss of appetite, nausea vomiting, fatigue, sleepiness, itching, twitching, and a metallic taste in the mouth. These are signs of far advanced chronic kidney disease (CKD). They often indicate that the person is accumulating dangerous amounts of waste products because the kidneys are not working to excrete them. Patients with these symptoms are often in need of dialysis (artificial kidney treatments).


Learn more about the kidneys:

Kidney failure information:

For more information:

Go to the Kidney Diseases health topic.