Recognizing National Kidney Month: 7 Early Signs of Kidney Disease

Kidney disease isn’t something that comes up in conversation when discussing ailments. For one reason or another, people often do not realize the severity inherent to kidney problems. In North Carolina, kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death, kidney cancer specifically is number one!

Nephrologists are specialists who focus on disorders affecting the way the kidneys work and chronic kidney disease. While Urology Specialists focus on surgical kidney expertise, focusing primarily on patients with anatomical or surgical disorders of the kidney. Understanding this key difference allows the patient to seek out the best proper care.

National Kidney Month and World Kidney Day is the second Thursday in March. In honor of the day, we put together a list of the early signs of kidney disease to look out for. After all, early awareness and detection is always the best option.

With that being said, if you recognize any of these symptoms, you should consider reaching out for an appointment at your earliest convenience.

  1. Fatigue

Healthy kidneys produce a hormone called erythropoietin (a-rith’- ro-po’- uh-tin), commonly known as EPO. EPO signals the body to produce oxygen-rich red blood, which boosts energy levels and recovery. A lack of red blood cells results in tired muscles and a tired brain.

  1. Feeling Faint, Dizzy, or Weak

Anemia (lack of oxygen-rich red blood cells) as it relates to kidney failure, means the brain isn’t getting enough oxygen, often causing faint, dizzy, weak feelings. This problem will persist until the patient visits a professional to discuss treatment options.

  1. Swollen or Puffy Face

You are probably familiar with the age-old advice to drink a glass of water in the morning to reduce facial swelling. Well, in the case of failing kidneys, extra fluid is unable to be flushed out, resulting in an excess of fluid buildup and persistent facial swelling.

  1. Food Tasting like Metal

A build-up of wastes in the blood, caused by kidney failure, can make food taste different. For example, if someone is particularly fond of eating meat, it is common to develop an aversion to it while being impacted by kidney disease. This can make favorite foods a task to eat. The build up can also cause unfortunate bad breath.

  1. Itchy Rashes

When uric acid and waste products accumulate, the buildup can cause itchy patches on the skin. Typically, rashes resulting from kidney failure feel “deeper” than a normal rash and will be unresponsive to topical medication.

  1. Nausea and Vomiting

When you are suffering from kidney disease, your body is failing to flush out toxins, resulting in a particularly nasty buildup. The body needs to expel the toxins which can cause long periods of nausea and vomiting.

  1. Changes in Urine

Producing urine is one of the main functions of your kidneys, so paying attention to one’s urine when monitoring early signs of kidney disease should come as no surprise. One of the tell-tale signs of early disease is the sudden presence of blood in the urine, difficulty urinating (urinary retention), as well as an increase in urine output and the appearance of foggy or bubbly urine.

These symptoms can signal the presence of kidney disease, and if you are experiencing a combination of these symptoms, we strongly recommend that you speak with your primary care physician about whether a referral to Nephrology or Urology is right for you.

While you’re waiting for your appointment, be sure to browse through this list of nutritious foods for your kidneys to potentially help alleviate some of your symptoms.