Health Conditions

Signs of Kidney Failure

Signs of Kidney Disease

Medically reviewed by Kevin Martinez, M.D. — Written by the Healthline Editorial Team — Updated on February 11, 2021

Kidney disease rarely presents any signs in the early stages. It must be at a relatively advanced stage before any of the below symptoms appear.

The earliest sign of kidney disease is an atypical level of creatinine or urea in your blood. This leads to a condition called uremia.

A basic metabolic panel (BMP) is a blood test often ordered as part of a routine physical exam. The test allows healthcare providers to detect any atypical levels of these two chemicals.

Other than blood test results, a number of physical signs can indicate kidney disease.

Concerns with urination

Kidney function is closely tied to urine production. Concerning signs include urinating more or less frequently than normal, especially at night. People also experience:

  • pain or burning while urinating
  • a decrease in their amount of urine production
  • cloudy, foamy, or discolored urine
Blood in your urine

Blood in your urine is also known as hematuria. This can be a sign of several conditions and should be investigated immediately by your healthcare provider.

Swelling

Your kidneys remove excess fluid from your blood. When this doesn’t occur, that fluid builds up in your body. This causes swelling in your:

  • ankles
  • legs
  • feet
  • hands
  • face

Swelling can also occur in your lungs. This can cause shortness of breath. Another sign is swelling or puffiness around your eyes.

Back pain

You can feel kidney pain in your back or sides, usually in the middle of your back just below your rib cage.

Skin rash or itch

The buildup of waste products in your blood can cause a skin reaction, resulting in rashes or severe itching.

Fatigue

A secondary function of your kidneys is to help make red blood cells that carry oxygen all around your body.

A decrease in red blood cells is called anemia. It causes:

  • tiredness
  • decreased stamina
  • sometimes dizziness or memory concerns

Fatigue brought on by kidney disease can also be caused by a buildup of metabolic waste in your blood.

Loss of appetite

A loss of appetite is common in people with advanced kidney disease. This may lead to undernutrition and weight loss.

People experiencing kidney disease should talk with a healthcare provider about finding foods that are appealing and provide nutrients.

Nausea or vomiting

Vomiting can occur when metabolic waste builds up in your blood, but people may feel nauseated at even the thought of eating.

Muscle cramps

Painful muscle cramps, specifically leg cramps, can also occur with kidney disease.

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