By Yolanda Smith, BPharm
Most people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) do not notice any symptoms of the condition because the body naturally has greater kidney function than necessary and can tolerate a significant reduction without effects.
In fact, many cases of chronic kidney disease are detected with a routine blood test or urinalysis. Patients with CKD usually have regular tests to monitor the kidney function and take prophylactic action if necessary to prevent the presentation of symptoms.
As the severity of the condition progress and the kidney function decreases significantly, there may be some symptoms evident. However, these are non-specific symptoms that may be caused by many different health conditions of varied severity. The most common symptoms are outlined below.
As the primary function of the kidneys is to produce urine, the urine output is likely to change in patients with severe CKD.
It is common to urinate more frequently than normal, particularly during the night, and there may be some discomfort or pressure when urinating. The urine may change in appearance to look foamy, bubbly, cloudy or reddened, due to the presence of protein, blood or other substances.
When the function of the kidneys decreases, they become less efficient at removing excess fluid from the body. As a result, this can build up and cause swelling in the extremities such as the feet and hands, known as peripheral edema.
This may make it difficult to put shoes on, to walk around or to make fine movements with the hands.
Erythropoietin (EPO) is produced in the kidneys and is important in the production of hemoglobin and red blood cells. Patients with CKD tend to produce less EPO and, as a result, the concentration of red blood cells in the circulation decreases. This can cause anemia and symptoms such as fatigue because the muscles and brain tires more readily.
When the kidney function is reduced, the body is less effective at excreting waste from the bloodstream in the urine. Stemming from this, the waste products can build up in the blood and cause significant itching.
Loss of Appetite and Weight Changes
Many patients with chronic kidney disease find that they have reduced appetite and may lose weight quickly. This can be linked to the accumulation of waste products in the blood, which can cause a foul metallic taste in the mouth, and bad breath. Certain foods such as meat may be less appealing and some people don’t feel like eating at all.
This may also cause nausea and vomiting in some cases, leading to a further loss of weight.
Shortness of Breath
Dyspnea, also commonly referred to as shortness of breath, is a frequent complaint in patients with CKD. The reason for this is two-fold: there may be a build-up of fluid in the lungs or anemia may cause increased load on the lungs to carry oxygen around the body.
Many patients may notice symptoms related to the function of the brain, due to the reduction in the oxygen supply. They may feel dizzy, have difficulty concentration or have problems with their memory.
The majority of patients with CKD are not associated with pain near the kidneys and, therefore, pain is usually linked to another condition. However, some patients do experience pain, particularly if they have a concurrent health condition such as polycystic kidney disease or an infection or stone in the renal tract.
Last Updated: Apr 24, 2016