What Are the First Signs of Kidney Problems?

Medically Reviewed on 2/15/2022
kidney disease
Keeping an eye out for these early warning signs of kidney problems can help you detect and treat the condition in a timely manner.

Because kidney disease has no symptoms in its early stages, it is easy for it to go unnoticed until it has progressed to a serious stage. You could be suffering from a life-threatening illness without even realizing it.

Keep an eye out for the following early warning signs:

13 common signs of kidney problems

  1. Passing more urine than what is normal for you
  2. Passing less urine than what is normal for you
  3. You are always tired
  4. You have trouble concentrating
  5. Dry and itchy skin
  6. Feel the need to urinate more often
  7. Pain during urination
  8. Foamy urine
  9. Cola colored urine
  10. Persistent puffiness around the eyes
  11. Muscle cramps
  12. Sudden pain in the upper back pain or flank pain that radiates to the front of the body
  13. Lower back pain

14 severe signs of kidney problems

  1. Fever with the inability to pass urine
  2. Blood in the urine
  3. Frequent urinary tract infections with smelly urine
  4. High blood pressure that does not respond to medications
  5. Metallic taste in the mouth
  6. Shortness of breath
  7. Dizziness
  8. Less immunity prone to frequent cold or cold-like symptoms
  9. Ammonia-like breath
  10. Gum diseases
  11. Confusion
  12. Elevated blood sugar levels
  13. Nose bleeds
  14. Anemia

The kidneys filter between 120 to 150 quarts of blood a day to produce approximately one to two quarts of waste. The waste from the kidneys is drained into the bladder when the blood is filtered.

Because the body is a closed system, you can only eliminate waste by sweating, breathing, and urinating or during bowel movements. The consequences of a failure in any of these systems can be severe.

5 stages of kidney disease

The five stages of kidney disease include:

  1. Stage I
    • The kidneys function normally. There could be a few symptoms of mild kidney disease.
    • Urinalysis or blood work may reveal some abnormalities, such as borderline elevation of blood creatinine levels or presence of protein 1+ in the urine.
    • A high risk of kidney disease can be predicted based on genetic traits.
    • Treatment may include dietary changes and low-dose blood pressure medication.
  2. Stage II
    • Kidney function is slightly impaired. There could be a few symptoms of mild kidney disease.
    • The kidneys function between 60 and 89 percent of the time.
    • Other indicators of kidney disease include urinalysis for proteins, casts, blood work, and genetic traits.
  3. Stage III
    • Even at stage III, it is possible to feel normal and have no signs of kidney failure. If you do experience symptoms at this stage, you may:
      • Feel tired
      • Have swelling
      • Have appetite changes
      • Have a dull back pain
      • Notice changes in the urine
      • Develop hypertension or digestive issues
    • Stage III is distinguished by moderately reduced kidney function, with kidneys functioning at 40 to 59 percent of their normal capacity.
  4. Stage IV
  5. Stage V

If you notice these symptoms, contact your doctor right away because they could indicate kidney disease or be life-threatening signs of kidney failure.


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2 types of kidney failure

Kidney failure is classified into two types:

  1. Acute renal failure: Normal kidneys suddenly cease to function properly. This may be reversible and over time, kidney function improves. However, the kidneys may be left with irreversible chronic scarring and may never fully function again. This may result from:
  2. Chronic renal failure:
    • This is a progressive permanent kidney condition that progresses from stage I to stage V and then to end-stage renal disease, which requires dialysis or transplant.
    • Diabetes, high blood pressure, hereditary kidney disease, kidney inflammatory conditions, and other medical conditions can all contribute to it.
    • It usually does not cause symptoms until it has progressed to the advanced stages.

Risk factors of kidney disease

Anyone can develop kidney disease, but some factors cause or increase your risk of developing kidney disease, such as:

If you are at risk of developing kidney disease, consult your doctor about how frequently you should be tested.

Early treatment by a kidney specialist can greatly reduce the severity of kidney disease. Be aware of the daily stress you place on your kidneys to reduce your risk of developing kidney disease.

Follow the directions on over-the-counter medications, and limit your intake of alcohol, tobacco, other drugs, pesticides, chemicals, and other toxins.

What are the treatment options for kidney disease?

The treatment of kidney disease entails attempting to slow or control the disease's underlying cause. The cause and treatment options may differ. Most kidney diseases are caused by another underlying condition, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure.

Kidney diseases are simple to treat when detected early, and the survival rate is high.

Adequate hydration, alkalinization of urine, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, anticholesterol drugs, and a low protein and sodium diet (DASH diet) are necessary to manage kidney disease.

Dialysis is often required in many cases that are in waiting for a renal transplant.

Doctors administer treatments based on the severity of the disease, which the most effective treatments for kidney problems include:

  • Antibiotics: The doctor will prescribe antibiotics to fight bacteria based on the results of the blood and urine tests.
  • Nephrostomy:
    • It is a procedure used to drain the urine that has clogged in the kidneys, and additional treatment is administered to clear the blockage.
    • This procedure involves inserting a catheter through the skin into the kidneys.
  • Nephrectomy:
    • This is a surgery that is performed on patients who have kidney cancer or other severe kidney problems. 
    • During this surgery, the damaged kidney is completely removed.


This technique purifies blood using machines, which is performed when the kidneys are on the verge of failing or are completely damaged. It is a time-consuming process that should be done one time every few days or weeks and is repeated until a donor is found.

There are two types of dialysis:

  1. Hemodialysis
    • The impure blood from the body is pumped into a machine, which extracts all the impurities and returns the pure blood to the body.
    • Depending on your preferences, this procedure can be performed at home or in a hospital.
    • The procedure is carried out three times per week.
    • Muscle cramping, low blood pressure, and itching are some of the most common side effects of this dialysis.
  2. Peritoneal dialysis
    • This procedure involves inserting a catheter into the abdomen and a large amount of fluid called dialysate.
    • Waste products are passed from the kidneys to the abdominal fluid via the peritoneum (a membrane that covers the abdominal wall).
    • Once the fluid has collected all the waste products, it is extracted from the abdomen and discarded.

Kidney transplant

When both kidneys fail, this procedure is performed. A kidney transplant can restore normalcy in a person's life. This is accomplished by obtaining a healthy kidney from an organ donor, either living or deceased.

Regenerative medication

Some prefer not to receive any treatment for kidney failure, and many hospitals now have a dedicated team of nurses who can provide support and care to these patients and their families.

Patients who refuse treatment are usually managed in the same way as other patients with chronic kidney disease until the kidney fails. At this point, the priority of care is to relieve symptoms of kidney failure and manage its complications.

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Medically Reviewed on 2/15/2022
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chronic Kidney Disease Basics. https://www.cdc.gov/kidneydisease/basics.html

Urology of Virginia. 20 Warning Signs Your Kidneys Send You. https://www.urologyofva.net/articles/category/nephrology/4120763/03/11/2020/20-warning-signs-your-kidneys-send-you

Kidney Health Australia. Symptoms of kidney disease. https://kidney.org.au/your-kidneys/what-is-kidney-disease/symptoms-of-kidney-disease

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Newman T. Symptoms, causes, and treatment of chronic kidney disease (CKD). Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/172179

News18. Kidney Disease: Here are Some Early Warning Signs to Look Out for. https://www.news18.com/news/lifestyle/kidney-disease-here-are-some-early-warning-signs-to-look-out-for-4578089.html