How to Know if You Have Kidney Disease

kidney pain

You have two kidneys. They are twin, fist-sized organs located at the bottom of the rib cage on either side of the spine. They perform functions like filtering waste products, excess water, and other impurities out of blood.


These waste products are stored in bladder and later expelled from the body as urine. They also help control blood pressure and make hormones that your body needs to stay healthy. When the kidneys are damaged, wastes can build up in the body.

Many people who have chronic kidney disease don’t know it because the early signs can be very subtle. It can take many years to go from chronic kidney disease to kidney failure. Knowing the symptoms of kidney disease can help you get the treatment you need to feel your best.


Changes in Urination

  • Kidneys make urine, so when the kidneys are failing, the urine may change.
  • You may have to get up at night to urinate.
  • Urine may be foamy or bubbly.
  • You may urinate more often, or in greater amounts than usual, with pale urine.
  • You may urinate less often, or in smaller amounts than usual, with dark-colored urine.
  • Your urine may contain blood.
  • You may feel pressure or have difficulty urinating.


Failing kidneys don’t remove extra fluid, which builds up in your body causing swelling in the legs, ankles, feet, face, and/or hands.


Healthy kidneys make a hormone called erythropoietin (EPO) that tells your body to make oxygen-carrying red blood cells. As the kidneys fail, they make less EPO. With fewer red blood cells to carry oxygen, your muscles and brain tire very quickly. This is anemia, and it can be treated.


Kidneys remove wastes from the bloodstream. When the kidneys fail, the build-up of wastes in your blood can cause severe itching.

Metallic Taste in Mouth

A build-up of wastes in the blood (called uremia) can make food taste different and cause bad breath. You may also notice that you stop liking to eat meat, or that you are losing weight because you just don’t feel like eating.

Nausea and Vomiting

A severe build-up of wastes in the blood (uremia) can also cause nausea and vomiting. Loss of appetite can lead to weight loss.

Shortness of Breath

Trouble catching your breath can be related to the kidneys in two ways. First, extra fluid in the body can build up in the lungs. And second, anemia (a shortage of oxygen-carrying red blood cells) can leave your body oxygen-starved and short of breath.


feeling cold

Feeling Cold

Anemia can make you feel cold all the time, even in a warm room.


Anemia related to kidney failure means that your brain is not getting enough oxygen. This can lead to memory problems, trouble with concentration, and dizziness.

Causes of Kidney Disease

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the leading causes of kidney disease. These conditions cause about 70% of kidney failure cases. Early kidney disease has no signs or symptoms. The only way to know if your elderly parent has kidney disease is to get checked. Kidney disease does not go away. It may get worse over time and can lead to kidney failure. If the kidneys fail, the only options are dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Testing for Kidney Disease

If you suspect kidney disease, get blood and urine tests to check for kidney disease. A blood test measures GFR (glomerular filtration rate), which indicates how well the kidneys are working.

A urine test measures the amount of protein in the urine. Protein can leak into the urine when the kidneys are not working well. Ask your doctor about blood pressure medicines that can help slow down kidney disease.


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