CKD is a serious health condition and progressive disease that affects the kidneys and gradually damages them over time. It is often called a “silent” disease, meaning patients may not experience any symptoms until the damage has become severe. This can make it difficult to diagnose until it’s too late.
One of the reasons why CKD is called a silent progressive disease is that early-stage symptoms are often non-specific and easily confused with other illnesses. For example, fatigue, nausea, and loss of appetite are common symptoms of several conditions, so patients may not realize they have kidney problems. Additionally, people can lose up to 90% of their kidney function without experiencing noticeable changes in their health.
We have outlined the common symptoms of CKD below. Of note, most of these symptoms are non-specific and may also present with other body conditions. Therefore, consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis if you experience the following symptoms.
Poor appetite and weight loss
One of the most common symptoms of CKD is poor appetite and weight loss. This can occur for several reasons, including changes in metabolism, hormonal imbalances, and digestive disorders.
When your kidneys are not functioning properly, they may not be able to eliminate waste from your body as efficiently as they should. As a result, toxins can build up in your system and cause nausea or vomiting, affecting your appetite. Additionally, when you have CKD, you may experience hormone changes, such as insulin or thyroid hormone levels leading to metabolic disturbances that could contribute to weight loss.
Shortness of breath (SOB)
SOB is a common symptom of CKD. It is an early sign that indicates that the kidneys are not functioning optimally and may require immediate medical attention.
In CKD, kidneys gradually (in different stages) lose their filtration ability. With disease progression, patients may experience shortness of breath due to fluid buildup in their lungs, which can make it difficult for them to breathe. This buildup occurs because the kidneys can no longer remove excess fluid from the body, leading to swelling in various parts of the body. SOB can also occur due to anemia, which is common among CKD patients.
Tiredness can be a chronic kidney disease symptoms (CKD) symptom, affecting up to 70% of patients. It is often one of the first signs that something is not quite right with the kidneys. There are several reasons why CKD can cause tiredness, including anemia, mineral and vitamin deficiencies, and buildup of waste products in the blood.
Anemia occurs when the body lacks enough RBCs to carry oxygen and nutrients to tissues and organs, leading to fatigue. In CKD patients, anemia is caused by kidney damage that reduces their ability to produce erythropoietin – a hormone that stimulates RBCs production in the bone marrow. Mineral and vitamin deficiencies like iron, folic acid, and vitamin B12 can also lead to anemia and tiredness.
Swollen ankles, feet, or hands
Swollen ankles, feet, or hands are a common symptom of CKD. As the kidneys become less efficient in filtering waste products and excess bodily fluids, these fluids can build up and cause swelling in various body parts.
Edema, or swelling caused by fluid retention, is often one of the first signs that an individual may have CKD. It typically occurs in the lower extremities, such as ankles, feet, and hands but can also affect other body parts like the face or belly. The swelling may be mild initially but can worsen if left untreated. Notably, edema can also be a sign of other health conditions such as heart failure, liver disease, or certain medications.
Urinary urgency is one of the most common symptoms of CKD. This symptom refers to a sudden and strong urge to urinate, usually accompanied by an inability to hold urine for long periods. The urgency can be so severe that it may interrupt daily activities and affect the quality of life.
Studies show that urinary urgency occurs due to kidney damage, which leads to decreased urine output and increased pressure on the bladder. As a result, the bladder becomes more sensitive and prone to involuntary contractions, causing urinary urgency.
Blood in urine
Blood in the urine (hematuria) can be an early sign of kidney damage and should not be ignored. There are several reasons why blood may appear in the urine of those with CKD. One possible cause is inflammation or infection in the urinary tract, which can cause bleeding and signify an underlying problem.
Another reason for hematuria could be due to kidney stones, which are common among individuals with CKD. In some cases, high blood pressure can also lead to blood in the urine, which puts excessive strain on fragile kidney tissues.
Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
For patients with CKD, sleep disturbances can be a frustrating and debilitating part of their daily lives.
There are several reasons why people with CKD may experience difficulty sleeping. One possible explanation is that the build-up of waste products in the bloodstream can cause restlessness and anxiety, making it challenging to fall and stay asleep throughout the night. Additionally, people with CKD may suffer from nocturia, a condition where they must urinate frequently at night, further disrupting their sleep patterns.
Itchy skin is common in people with CKD. It can cause discomfort/irritation and affect a patient’s quality of life. It is thought to be related to the buildup of toxins in the bloodstream normally removed by healthy kidneys.
As CKD progresses, it becomes more difficult for the kidneys to filter fluids and waste products from the blood. This leads to an accumulation of toxins in the body, including urea and other chemicals that can irritate the skin. Additionally, patients with CKD may experience dry skin due to dehydration or as a side effect of medication used to treat their condition.
I have symptoms of kidney failure. What should I do?
If you suspect symptoms of kidney failure, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention. Contact your healthcare provider or visit the nearest emergency room. Kidney failure requires prompt diagnosis and treatment by a medical professional to prevent further complications.
Can I estimate the stage of my kidney disease based on the severity of my symptoms?
No, estimating the stage of kidney disease based solely on the severity of symptoms is not possible. Kidney disease can have a wide range of symptoms that may vary depending on the underlying cause and individual factors. The stage of kidney disease is typically determined through medical tests and evaluations that assess kidney function, such as blood tests, urine tests, and imaging studies. These tests provide important information to accurately diagnose and classify the kidney disease stage.
How is kidney disease diagnosed?
Kidney disease can be diagnosed through various methods, including;
- Blood tests (such as creatinine and blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
- Urine tests (such as urine R/E and urine C/S)
- Imaging tests (such as ultrasound KUB, CT scan, or MRI)
- Kidney biopsy
- Estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR)
- Protein-creatinine ratio
- Albumin-to-creatinine ratio
Based on the outcomes of these diagnostic tests, healthcare professionals can determine the presence, type, and stage of kidney disease, guiding the appropriate treatment and management strategies. Consulting a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate care is important.
What is the prognosis for chronic kidney disease (CKD)?
The prognosis for chronic kidney disease (CKD) varies depending on several factors, such as the
- Underlying cause
- Stage of the disease
- The overall health of the individual
- Response to medical treatment
- Adherence to treatment
CKD is a progressive condition that tends to worsen over time. However, early detection, appropriate management, and lifestyle modifications can slow down the progression and manage the symptoms effectively. Regular monitoring, adherence to treatment plans, and working closely with healthcare professionals can help optimize outcomes and improve the quality of life for individuals with CKD.