The Most Significant Early Symptoms Of Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is the 9th leading cause of death in the United States of America. According to the American Kidney Fund, around 31 million Americans suffer from chronic kidney disease and men are more likely than women to have CKD. The leading causes of kidney failure are diabetes and high blood pressure, and that is why in some cases people fail to realize they have kidney problems until it’s too late. What seems to be a symptom of a different ailment ends up becoming the main health issue with many of these patients. One of the biggest problems with kidney disease is the psychological aspect that brings with it, as patients often feel like they are losing control over their life as their body doesn’t seem to respond to them, or acts in ways they aren’t familiar with.


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The kidneys are responsible for keeping the human body’s chemistry in balance, a task that truly takes a toll on these amazing organs. As resilient as they are, the kidneys often suffer due to many different reasons and eventually become overwhelmed with all the stress they must perform under.

Today in Joe Cosgrove’s Blog, we want to take the time to look at some of the most significant early signs that can let you know that you may be developing kidney disease, with the hopes that you can do something about it before treatment becomes necessary.

Changes in urine

Since the kidneys are the organs in charge of producing the urine, this byproduct will be one of the first indicators that something may be amiss. Changes in urine can be identified as those in the appearance of color and the presence of foam, and also changes in the frequency in which the patient urinates or feels the urge to do so but is unable to produce any liquid. In some cases, there may be a pain while urinating or also the presence of blood.

Shortness of breath

Shortness of breath may be present in the onset of kidney disease because the fluid buildup in the body can be so severe that it can reach the lungs, something that will undoubtedly affect a patient’s breathing. Anemia or the lack of red blood cells in the organism can be another reason why patients may feel a lot of difficulty breathing.

Trouble sleeping

If kidneys stop working correctly, they amount of toxins that build up in the body will reach dangerous levels and will start affecting the organism in many ways. Patients report having trouble sleeping due to a constant feeling of discomfort that cannot be easily identified, they simply feel like they can’t sit still and have a lot of trouble resting.

Dry and itchy skin


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Dry skin and constant itching are also symptoms of excess toxin build up in the body. Bone disease is also something else that may be present when kidneys fail, and constant itching is a clear symptom of that complication. Most of this happens because kidneys are losing the ability to properly balance nutrients, toxins, and minerals in the body.

Swollen joints

Swollen joints and general swelling are a sign that the body is holding excess water because they kidneys are not able to properly regulate bodily fluids, so they stay inside the body longer than they need to be. All of this is a side effect of sodium retention, something that happens because they kidneys are failing, and as sodium is kept in the body, so is water because it is retained by the sodium itself.

Puffiness around the eyes

If the kidneys aren’t working correctly, then things like protein will start to leak into the urine or other areas of the body. This together with excess fluids being retained is going to start showing in the face of the patient as swelling of the eyelids and cheeks.

Poor appetite

Patients with kidney disease will not feel the need to eat as much as healthy individuals. This is rather significant since these patients will still continue to gain weight even as they eat less everyday. The lack of appetite happens due to excess toxin build up in the body.

Muscle cramps

Electrolyte imbalance can start to manifest in the muscle by cramping and general soreness of the area. Low-level calcium and an imbalance in phosphorous levels make it, so they body is not properly using the fluids that it retains, and that can create painful muscle cramps.

Dizziness and problem thinking clearly

Another one of the symptoms has to do with mental acuity and the ability to think clearly. The brain may not be getting enough oxygen, and that is how it starts to show. Patients with kidney failure may begin to feel dizzy and have flash episodes in which they faint or lose balance. The ability to think clearly and solve simple problems starts to diminish as the body deteriorates.

Understanding the 5 stages of Chronic Kidney Disease

We do not have to stress out or even define what CKD is because we have discussed it in this blog in several articles and we already know what it is all about.

Instead today we are going to take a deep look at the 5 stages of Chronic Kidney Disease that were developed or designed by the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) in order to understand better Kidney diseases and to give doctors  some sort of guideline that will help them identify the evolution of the kidney disease and know how to give the patient the best care possible for each stage.

FIVE_5 stages of Chronic Kidney Disease

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Let’s take a look at those 5 stages.

Stage 1 and 2:

Somebody that is in stage 1 or 2 of CKD has a small kidney damage and his or her glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is normal or a bit higher than 90 ml/min. in this stage, symptoms are not common and the kidneys are still working normally. If the person is to find out he or she is on stage 1 CKD it is because the person was being tested for other things and the results came out with certain amount of creatinine levels or they discovered blood or protein in the urine or there was an imaging test and the results said there was a kidney damage.

For people that are in this stage the treatment only focuses on a healthy diet including whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, no fats or low fat diets, control the intake of sugar and sodium, have a good weight and exercise very regularly, take vitamins recommended by doctors and definitively stop smoking and having bad habits for the body.

When it comes to stage 2, the description is just the same with the disease having no symptoms and the kidney working at a very good level. The only difference here is that the kidney already has a mild damage and it is getting a bit late to discover it or to treat it and the glomerular filtration rate is around 60-89 ml/min.

Stage 3:

Here the person has already a moderate kidney damage. This stage has two parts which are called A and B. in stage 3A the glomerular filtration rate is 45-59 mL/min, and in stage 3B the glomerular filtration rate is 30-44 mL/min.  Here the disease is already noticeable and patients start to feel the symptoms. A condition called uremia appears and secondary complications such as high blood pressure, anemia and bone disease start to appear as well.

The symptoms for this stage are the feeling of being tired all the time, high retention of fluids, extremities start to swell and the patient starts feeling that his or her breath is just not enough, urine changes color to a more reddish, brownish color or it even contains blood which will make it red, lower back pain, problems with sleep and muscle cramps.

In this stage, the kidney is working at a 50% performance and the idea is to help the patient keep their kidneys working as long as possible.

In this stage, a very controlled diet and medications are essential to make the kidney live longer. When it comes to medications ( the diet is very important even since stage 1) in this stage they become essential to control glucose levels and have a very good blood pressure in order to maintain the kidney working for as long as possible. The medications doctors prescribe in this stage are ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors and ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers).

Stage 4:

Here the patient has a real problem that needs to be tackled as soon as possible and with the correct treatment. Their glomerular filtration rate is 15-30 ml/min. and treatments are now very viable options. Unfortunately, a patient with stage 4 CKD will have to get a kidney transplant in the near future. In this stage conditions like anemia, uremia, bone disease, high blood pressure, heart complications and cardiovascular diseases start to become present.

The symptoms in this stage are fatigue, hard kidney pain in the lower back, sleeping problems, nausea, vomiting, a  metallic taste in their mouth, bad breath, loss of appetite due to the flavor in their mouth, difficulty in concentrating and numbness or tingling in the toes or fingers.

In this stage, there are 3 different types of treatments which are Hemodialysis, Peritoneal dialysis and, Kidney transplant

Stage 5:

Unfortunately, at this stage, the person has no options and it is a terminal disease called end-stage renal disease (ESRD) that has a glomerular filtration rate of 15 ml/min or less. In this stage, the kidneys no longer work and don’t have the ability to do anything at all. In this stage dialysis or a kidney transplant will be needed to survive.  

It is very important to understand these five stages so patients and doctors can find out about the disease in the early stages and give patients the option of having a very good quality of life.

Be sure to also read this post about how to choose the right treatment in case of renal failure?

What can cause kidney failure and how you can prevent it?

A silent disease that is affecting more than 26 million Americans and that according to research 1 out of 3 Americans is in risk of developing a kidney failure disease, kidney failure is a disease that can stay silent for several years and only manifest itself once you have already have a lot of damage. Most people are diagnosed when they suffer diabetes or uncontrolled blood pressure, but there are other ways of damaging your kidneys.  There are several causes that are becoming the main causes of Kidney failure, the most frequent ones are diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking and heart disease. Once there is kidney failure the patient needs to start treatment with dialysis or with a kidney transplant. Joe Cosgrove has a great article about how you can identify if you have kidney failure, where you can follow up after this.


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What is it that Kidneys actually do?

Your kidneys are bean shaped internal organs that are located in your mid back, they have a very special mission: they are the ones in charge of cleaning your blood, maintaining a proper balance of minerals in your body as well as your blood pressure. Your kidneys have a renal artery and a renal vein, and are connected to your ureter, helping you re-absorb water, amino acids and sugar, as well as eliminating toxic waste through your urine.

What causes kidney failure?

There are two causes for having Kidney failure lets see a little bit more about each one:

1. Acute Kidney injuries

There are 3 main causes for suffering acute kidney failure: Having a very low blood flow to the kidneys; having a direct injury to the kidneys or having an excess of urine retained in the kidneys. However there are other reasons you can get Acute kidney failure, like taking some medicines or drugs that affect the kidney function, most common ones are antibiotics that contain gentamicin and streptomycin and pain pills that contain ibuprofen. Some of the symptoms you need to be aware of if you are not urinating enough during the day, if you have swelling in your feet and legs, feeling pain in your lower back and feeling nauseas. These kind of kidney failure can have different types of treatments, it can be with medication if it is not that severe, they can be to balance the amount of fluids in your blood, to control the levels of potassium or of calcium, when the degree of toxicity is higher then the patient will need dialysis to remove the toxins from the blood.

2. Chronic Kidney disease

This is the hardest one to diagnose since it’s being building up for years. Most frequent causes are diabetes, the leading cause for kidney failure right now or high blood pressure for many years that has been uncontrolled, at the moment about 165,000 patients have kidney failure due to high blood pressure. As well as the acute failure, consumption of many medicines that affect the kidneys function can lead to a chronic kidney failure. Most common symptoms you should be aware of are: increase or decrease of daily urine, swelling in several body parts, itchiness or numbness, dry skin, feeling nauseous, weight loss and muscle cramps. If you have a series of these symptoms visit your doctor and ask for a checkup a simple blood test can let your doctor know if your kidneys are failing. In Chronic Kidney disease most of the times the patient will need dialysis, the levels of toxicity in the blood flow is higher than normal and will need a detox to save the kidney from stop working for good. A great quantity of patients will be needing a kidney transplant as well.

How can you prevent kidney failure

  1. If you have diabetes you need to keep your sugar levels controlled under a targeted range that can be discussed with your doctor.
  2. If you have high blood pressure, try taking your meds and eating properly so you can keep it in a 130/80 range. Speak with your physician on how you can control your blood pressure.
  3. Maintain a healthy weight, being overweight can increase the possibility of having high blood pressure, develop a heart disease and even become diabetic.
  4. Keep other levels normal, cholesterol, triglycerides and others checked and in a normal range.
  5. No smoking, tobacco produces atherosclerosis which  that reduces blood flow including to the kidneys.
  6. Avoid taking pain medicine that contains ibuprofen or naproxen in a daily basis. These medicines tend to damage the kidney functions, ask your doctor for other ways of dealing with the pain or taking pills that are less aggressive on your kidneys.

Changing your habits to healthier ones, drinking enough water daily, avoiding medicines that damage your kidneys, exercising regularly are great ways to start preventing kidney failure. With age our body starts changing and all we do to it during our 40 years is reflected, many of our organs start failing because our blood flow decreases and all of the bad decisions we made with bad nutrition, drinking sodas and sugary drinks instead of water and becoming sedentary.