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Early Warning Signs of Kidney Disease

The kidneys play an important role in detoxification and overall bodily functioning. Signs of kidney malfunction can sometimes be hard to notice, but early detection is important to prevent significant damage to the kidneys.

kidneys play an important role in detoxification and overall bodily functioning

Recognizing the warning signs of kidney disease can go a long way to maintain good kidney health as we age.

Changes in Urination

If you have difficulty with urination, including a change in frequency, this could indicate kidney problems. Urine that is very dark, foamy, or contains blood can be a cause for concern. Also, if you wake up frequently during the middle of the night with an urgency to urinate, this may be a sign of kidney malfunction.

Nausea and/or Vomiting

Both nausea and vomiting are frequently experienced by those with weak kidneys. When the kidneys are not functioning properly to filter the blood, toxins can build up in the body and result in feeling nauseated. This is known as uremia. The body will then try to rid itself of these toxins, which often results in vomiting.

Fatigue or Sluggishness

While most people may experience fatigue from time to time, extreme fatigue or feeling sluggish most of the time can be a result of malfunctioning kidneys. Erythropoietin (EPO) is a hormone that functions to help the body produce red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the cells in your body.

When the kidneys are not functioning properly, they do not make enough EPO. This results in less red blood cells to supply the body with adequate oxygen, leading to fatigue.


When the kidneys don't make enough EPO, and therefore the body has reduced red blood cells, this can result in anemia. There are various symptoms associated with anemia including dizziness, frequently feeling cold, and being easily out of breath.

These symptoms occur because of reduced red blood cells and the overall lack of oxygen in the body.

Leg Pain

It is not uncommon for those with kidney problems to experience leg pain. If you experience pain in the back of your legs, this can be a sign that your kidneys are malfunctioning. The pain experienced can present as muscle tightness or intense pain. Leg pain associated with kidney problems can expand to the lower back.

Lower Back Pain

It may be difficult to know the difference between other causes of back pain or back pain caused by problems with the kidneys.

While muscle pain from back strain or injury tends to be felt lower in the back, kidney pain is typically felt deeper and higher up in the back under the ribs. Both kidney stones and urinary tract infections can result in feelings of kidney pain.

Swollen Extremities or Face

If you experience swelling in your hands and feet, it's a sign that you are retaining fluid. The kidneys work to keep the body balanced with essential nutrients by regulating water in the body.

When the kidneys are not working properly, fluid builds up in bodily tissues. Swelling of the ankles, legs, and face may also occur, all of which are signs that your kidney health needs some attention.

Unexplained Rashes

As a result of problems with the kidneys, uric acid and waste products accumulate, and this buildup can result in patches of itchy skin. While rashes can be a result of various conditions, rashes associated with kidney malfunction are said to be felt deep below the surface of the skin.

Because of this, little relief is achieved by using topical medications to treat the uric-acid induced rash.

A Bad Taste in Your Mouth

With the accumulation of toxins as part of kidney disease, it is not uncommon to experience a metallic taste in the mouth, as well as bad breath. Additionally, you may find that foods don't seem to taste the way they did before, particularly meat.

Incidentally, research shows that a diet high in meat increases the acidity in the body which has been linked to kidney disease.

Decreased Appetite and Unexplained Weight Loss

When the taste buds don't find familiar foods appealing anymore, it can lead to an overall decreased appetite and subsequent weight loss. The nausea and vomiting often associated with kidney disease can lead to significant nutritional deficiencies and resulting weight loss.

Talk with your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms. Addressing concerns early is an important part of a comprehensive prevention and treatment plan for kidney health.


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