10 signs you may have kidney disease

In its early stages, chronic kidney disease (CKD) is ‘silent’ and doesn’t usually cause symptoms, but as it gets more advanced, there are some signs you may notice.

Your body can cope with some reduced kidney function so it can often maintain a balance for quite a while even if you have early stage chronic kidney disease (CKD). Plus, even if you do have symptoms, they can be quite vague and you may link them with other things (rather than problems with your kidneys).

At this stage, CKD is usually only likely to be picked up in routine tests for another condition.

10 symptoms of chronic kidney disease

These are all typical signs you might notice once your kidneys have some significant damage. But it’s important to bear in mind they can all be symptoms of other conditions.

Only your doctor can confirm CKD is causing them. Always make an appointment if you notice any of these symptoms.

1. Blood in your wee (urine)

This can be caused by lots of different things but kidney disease is one of them.

When your kidneys are working properly, they keep the blood cells in your body when they’re filtering waste out of your blood. If the kidneys’ filters are damaged, though, some blood cells can leak into your wee. If you see blood in your wee, you should always see your doctor urgently so they can rule out infections, plus more serious things such as cancer of the bladder and kidneys.

2. Puffy eyes, ankles and feet

Noticed puffiness around your eyes and/or swollen ankles and feet? When your kidneys are not removing excess water and waste from your body, it can build up in your tissues. This leads to swelling, usually in your lower body, although it can affect other areas, including around your eyes and sometimes your hands. If untreated, it may progress to excess water in the lungs causing shortness of breath. Doctors call this ‘pulmonary oedema’.

3. Foamy wee

Froth in your wee is a sign there are high levels of protein in it, especially if you have to flush a few times to clear the bubbles. Hint: it may look like the foam you see on the surface when you’re scrambling eggs, because the type of protein that ends up in urine is the same as the albumin found in eggs.

4. Tiredness and brain fog

When your kidney function dips, toxins build up in your blood, which can make you feel tired and struggle to concentrate.

Also, CKD can cause anaemia – a lack of red blood cells – which can cause tiredness too.

5. Poor appetite

A common symptom of everything from stress to a range of serious illnesses, poor appetite can happen in CKD because of a build-up of toxins.

6. Nausea

CKD can cause feelings of sickness because your kidneys are not removing toxins from your body properly.

7. Needing to wee more often

Healthy kidneys filter your blood and pass waste out in your urine. But when the kidneys are damaged, they may make wee that contains mostly water, with few waste products. That means you may end up needing to go to the toilet more often, especially at night.

8. Dry, itchy skin

Experts don’t know exactly why kidney disease leads to very dry, itchy skin. But it may be connected to a few different factors including toxins in the blood and an imbalance in levels of minerals in your body.

9. Muscle cramps

Occasional cramps are normal, but poor kidney function can cause more muscle cramping.

10. Sleep problems

There are a few reasons CKD can affect your sleep. Toxins can build up and circulate in your blood, which can keep you awake.

Obesity is an underlying cause of both CKD and obstructive sleep apnoea, which can cause you to wake very briefly lots of times through the night. And needing to go to the loo in the night can seriously disrupt your sleep.

AstraZeneca has contributed to the funding of this material as part of a Patient Advocacy Group Partnership between Kidney Care UK and AstraZeneca UK Limited. AstraZeneca has had no editorial input into or control over the content which has been independently owned and created by Kidney Care UK.

More information about CKD diagnosis

  • Take control of your kidney health

    Over 3 million people in the UK have chronic kidney disease (CKD) but many of them are not aware of it as they have no symptoms. People who have diabetes, high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease may be more at risk.

  • Talking to doctors about kidney health

    Lots of people find it hard to talk to healthcare professionals. If you struggle with it, you’re not alone. We have some tips to help you discuss any concerns about your kidney health with your GP.

  • Dealing with a diagnosis of chronic kidney disease (CKD)

    There is lots of information available on the medical aspects of being diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD). However, it is also important to consider the emotional impact that a diagnosis is likely to have. Read on for advice on further support if you have been diagnosed with moderate or severe CKD.