More than 37 million people are estimated to have chronic kidney disease (CKD), according to the CDC—and 9 out of 10 people don't even know they have it. "There are a number of physical signs of kidney disease, but sometimes people attribute them to other conditions," says Dr. Joseph Vassalotti, Chief Medical Officer at the National Kidney Foundation. "Also, those with kidney disease tend not to experience symptoms until the very late stages, when the kidneys are failing or when there are large amounts of protein in the urine. This is one of the reasons why only 10% of people with chronic kidney disease know that they have it." Here are five sure symptoms of kidney disease, according to doctors. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Unexplained fatigue could be a sign of kidney disease, doctors warn. "In addition to filtering waste, healthy kidneys make a hormone called erythropoietin (EPO), which tells your bone marrow to make red blood cells. If your kidneys aren't working as well as they should, they won't make enough of this important hormone," according to Staci Leisman, MD, kidney specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "As a result, you produce fewer red blood cells, which could lead to a condition called anemia."
Foamy, discolored, bloody urine could be a sign of kidney disease, doctors warn. Changes in urination—for example, urinating more or less than usual—could also be a red flag. "Even a little blood can change the color of urine dramatically," says nephrologist Juan Calle, MD.
Nausea and vomiting are often reported as particularly unpleasant symptoms of kidney disease. "The earliest signs are you may get nauseated especially in the morning, or you have an appetite and you smell food and then it just turns your stomach," says nephrologist James Simon, MD. "You are actually nauseated all day, a bitter and metallic taste in your mouth. Those are the earliest signs."
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure could be a sign of kidney disease, but physicians are unsure how they are connected. "High blood pressure may be a sign of kidney disease, or it may cause it. It's the chicken-or-egg dilemma," says Dr. Calle. "Anyone who has high blood pressure and diabetes needs to be screened for kidney diseases."
What Are the Risk Factors of CKD?
Knowing the risk factors for chronic kidney disease is key for prevention. "Primary risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, a family history of kidney failure and age over 60," says Leslie Spry, MD, FACP. "Secondary risk factors include obesity, autoimmune diseases, urinary tract infections, systemic infections, and kidney loss, damage, injury or infection. Taking care of overall health helps protect kidney health. Wise practices include exercising regularly, low salt diet, controlling weight, monitoring blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, not smoking, drinking moderately, avoiding non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and getting an annual physical."