Chronic Kidney Disease: Signs, symptoms & what to do

As the Irish Kidney Association's Organ Donor Awareness Week draws to a close, we bring you 10 signs that you might be dev...

As the Irish Kidney Association's Organ Donor Awareness Week draws to a close, we bring you 10 signs that you might be developing Chronic Kidney Disease & when you should go to see your GP about these signs and symptoms. 

Signs you may be developing kidney disease

  1. You have less energy than usual or are having trouble concentrating. 
    A severe decrease in kidney function can lead to a build-up of toxins and impurities in the blood. This can cause sufferers to feel tired, weak and can make it hard to concentrate. Another complication of kidney disease is anaemia, which can cause weakness and fatigue.

  2. You are having difficulty sleeping. When your kidneys are not filtering properly, toxins then stay in the blood rather than leaving the body through urine. This can make it difficult to sleep. Sleep Apnea is more common in those with chronic kidney disease compared with the general population.

  3. You have dry and itchy skin. Healthy kidneys do many important jobs. They remove wastes and extra fluid from your body, help make red blood cells, help keep bones strong and work to maintain the right amount of minerals in your blood. Dry and itchy skin can be a sign of the mineral and bone disease that often accompanies advanced kidney disease, when the kidneys are no longer able to keep this correct balance of minerals and nutrients in your blood.

  4. You need to urinate more often. If you feel the need to urinate more often than usual, especially at night, this can be a sign of kidney disease. When the kidneys filters are damaged, it can cause an increased urge to urinate. However, sometimes this can be a sign of a urinary infection or enlarged prostate in men.

  5. There is blood in your urine. Healthy kidneys typically keep the blood cells in the body when filtering wastes from the blood to create urine, but when the kidney's filters have been damaged, these blood cells can start to "leak" out into the urine. Blood in the urine can also be indicative of tumours, kidney stones or an infection.

  6. Your urine is foamy. Excessive bubbles in the urine – especially those that require you to flush several times before they go away—indicate protein in the urine.

  7. You experience persistent puffiness around your eyes. Protein in the urine is an early sign that the kidneys’ filters have been damaged, allowing protein to leak into the urine. This puffiness around your eyes can be due to the fact that your kidneys are leaking a large amount of protein in the urine, rather than keeping it in the body.

  8. Your ankles and feet are swollen. Decreased kidney function can lead to sodium retention, causing swelling in your feet and ankles.

  9. You have a poor appetite. This is a very general symptom, but a build-up of toxins resulting from reduced kidney function can be one of the causes.

  10. Your muscles are cramping. Electrolyte imbalances can result from impaired kidney function. For example, low calcium levels and poorly controlled phosphorus may contribute to muscle cramping.

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms of kidney disease. Signs and symptoms of kidney disease are often nonspecific, meaning they can also be caused by other illnesses. 

If you have a medical condition that increases your risk of kidney disease, your doctor is likely to monitor your blood pressure and kidney function with urine and blood tests during regular office visits. Ask your doctor whether these tests are necessary for you.

Other symptoms

  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Sleep problems
  • Changes in how much you urinate
  • Decreased mental sharpness
  • Muscle twitches and cramps
  • Swelling of feet and ankles
  • Persistent itching
  • Chest pain, if fluid builds up around the lining of the heart
  • Shortness of breath if fluid builds up in the lungs
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)

Don't forget, Organ Donor Cards are available in all CarePlus Pharmacies nationwide.

Information adapted from the HSE National Kidney Foundation and Mayo Clinic



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