Kidney Failure Symptoms: Know the Signs Before It's Too Late

icon-blog By -Dr. Aaksha Shukla
icon-blog By -February 19, 2024
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Kidney Failure Symptoms: Know the Signs Before It's Too Late

Our kidneys put forth endless effort to filter our blood and maintain our health. However, occasionally, similarly to murmurs in the breeze, they convey subtle signs when assistance is needed. The problem is that the noise of daily existence tends to mute their murmurs. The purpose of this blog is to help you understand your kidneys' messages and to magnify their voice. Even if you haven't observed anything significant, we'll go through some typical, understandable symptoms that may indicate possible renal problems.
Why does this matter? When it comes to kidney health, early detection is crucial. Through the identification of these quiet indicators and quick action, you can enable yourself to prevent severe issues and live an active, well-being-focused existence. This blog is for you if you're having random tiredness, irregular urination, or symptoms that don't seem to be connected.

What Is Kidney Failure?

Kidney failure, also known as renal failure, occurs when one or both of your kidneys no longer work properly. Kidney failure is sometimes brief and occurs suddenly (acute). Other times, it's a chronic (long-term) ailment that gradually worsens. Kidney failure is the most critical stage of renal disease. It is lethal without treatment. If you suffer from renal failure, you may survive for a few days or weeks without therapy.

Types Of Kidney Failure

Kidney failure can be divided into acute and chronic kidney failure.

Acute Kidney Failure

Acute renal failure happens when your kidneys are suddenly unable to filter waste from your blood. When your kidneys lose their filtering abilities, harmful levels of waste can collect, and your blood's chemical makeup may go out of balance. Acute kidney failure, also known as acute renal failure or acute kidney damage, occurs quickly, typically within a few days. Acute renal failure is most likely in people who have already been hospitalized, particularly critically ill people who require intensive care. Acute renal failure can be deadly and requires diligent care. However, acute renal failure could be reversible. If you are generally healthy, you may regain normal or almost normal kidney function.

Chronic Kidney Failure

Chronic kidney disease, commonly known as chronic kidney failure, causes a gradual loss of kidney function. Your kidneys filter waste and surplus fluids from your blood, which are then excreted in your urine. Advanced chronic renal disease can cause harmful levels of fluid, electrolytes, and waste to accumulate in your body. In the early stages of chronic kidney disease, you may experience minimal signs or symptoms. You may not be aware that you have kidney disease until it is too late. Treatment for chronic renal disease focuses on reducing the progression of kidney damage, usually accomplished by addressing the underlying cause. However, merely dealing with the cause may not prevent kidney disease from worsening. Chronic renal illness can lead to end-stage kidney failure, which is lethal in the absence of artificial filtration (dialysis) or a kidney transplant.

Who Does Kidney Failure Affect?

Kidney failure can impact anyone. However, you may be at a higher risk of developing renal failure.

  • Systemic condition: Diabetes, Hypertension,  Heart Disease
  • Family History: Have a family history of kidney disease.
  • Morphological Abnormality: Have an abnormal kidney structure.
  • Racial Predilection: Are you black, Hispanic, Native American, Alaska Native, or First Nation
  • Age Predilection: Age over 60.
  • Medication: Have a long track record of using pain relievers, especially over-the-counter medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs).

How Common Is Kidney Failure?

Chronic kidney disease (CKD), which can eventually lead to kidney failure, is an incredibly common health problem that affects millions of individuals worldwide. Below is a breakdown of its global prevalence: 10% of the world's population, or around 800 million people, is thought to have CKD. In 2015, 1.2 million people died from renal failure, underscoring the severity of the problem.

  • Here's a closer look at the regional differences in CKD prevalence.
  • Low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) suffer a disproportionate burden of CKD, with rates of 13–17% compared to 8–10% in high-income nations.
  • This gap is largely due to restricted access to healthcare, early detection, and treatment options in low- and middle-income countries.

What Happens When Kidney Failure Starts?

There are different phases of kidney disease based on your estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR).
Your eGFR is a measure of how well your kidneys filter substances. A normal eGFR is approximately 100. The lowest eGFR is 0, indicating that the kidneys have no residual function.
The phases of any kidney disease are:

  • Stage I: Your GFR is greater than 90 but less than 100. At this point, your kidneys are slightly damaged but still function normally.
  • Stage II: Your GFR could be as low as 60 or as high as 89. Your kidneys have sustained more damage than in stage I, yet they continue to function normally.
  • Stage III: Your GFR could be as low as 30 or as high as 59. You may experience a minor or severe loss of renal function.
  • Stage IV: Your GFR might be as low as 15 or as high as 29. You have a serious loss of kidney function.
  • Stage V: Your GFR is under 15. Your kidneys are nearing or in complete failure.

What Are The Symptoms of Kidney Failure?

What are the first warning signs of kidney failure?

Many patients have few or no symptoms during the early stages of renal disease. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) can cause harm, even if you feel fine. CKD and renal failure symptoms differ across individuals. If your kidneys aren't operating properly, you might notice one or more of these symptoms:

  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion or problems concentrating
  • Swelling (edema), especially around the hands, ankles, and face
  • Peeing more often than usual
  • Cramps (muscular spasms)
  • Dry, itching skin
  • Food may taste metallic, or you may have a poor appetite.

Signs and symptoms of acute kidney failure may include:

  • Decreased urine output, although occasionally urine output remains normal
  • Fluid retention causes swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Seizures or comas in severe cases

Sometimes acute kidney failure causes no signs or symptoms and is detected through lab tests done for another reason.

Signs and symptoms of chronic kidney disease

Signs and symptoms of chronic kidney disease develop over time if kidney damage progresses slowly. Loss of kidney function can cause a buildup of fluid, body waste, or electrolyte problems. Depending on how severe it is, loss of kidney function can cause:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Sleep problems
  • Urinating more or less
  • Decreased mental sharpness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Swelling of the feet and ankles
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) that's difficult to control
  • Shortness of breath if fluid builds up in the lungs
  • Chest pain if fluid builds up around the lining of the heart

The signs and symptoms of renal illness are frequently nonspecific. Other diseases can cause this, as indicated. Because your kidneys can compensate for reduced function, you may not experience signs and symptoms until irreversible damage has occurred.

Causes Of Kidney Failure

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the leading causes of chronic kidney disease and renal failure.

  • Unmanaged diabetes: It can cause high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia). Consistently high blood sugar might harm your kidneys and other organs.
  • High blood pressure: indicates that blood flows forcefully through your body's blood vessels. The increased force can cause tissue damage to your kidneys over time if not treated.
  • Kidney failure normally: does not occur soon. Other CKD reasons that can result in renal failure include:
  • Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD): PKD is a genetic disorder in which fluid-filled sacs (cysts) form inside your kidneys.
  • Glomerular disease: Glomerular disorders impair how well your kidneys filter waste.
  • Lupus: It is an autoimmune illness that can lead to organ damage, joint pain, fever, and a skin rash.

Kidney failure might also occur quickly due to an unforeseen cause. Acute kidney failure (acute renal damage) occurs when your kidneys suddenly lose their ability to function. Acute renal failure can occur within hours or days. It is usually only temporary.

Common causes of acute kidney failure include:

  • Autoimmune kidney diseases.
  • Certain medications.
  • Severe dehydration.
  • A urinary tract obstruction.
  • Untreated systemic diseases, such as heart disease or liver disease,.

When Should You Visit a Doctor?

If you have symptoms like these, you should see your doctor. Fluid buildup in the body might lead to reduced urine production. Kidney illness often has no symptoms. It's also known as the 'silent disease'. However, certain risk factors can raise your chance of developing chronic renal disease. This includes:

If you have chronic renal disease, visit your doctor at least once a year. If you have risk factors for kidney disease, you should get a regular kidney health check. This involves three tests.

  • A blood test.
  • A urine test.
  • A blood pressure check

If you have diabetes or high blood pressure,you smoke or have a family history of kidney disease you should get a kidney health check regularly .In case you feel any abnormal symptoms immediately visit a health professional .

How Is Kidney Failure Diagnosed?

A medical professional may perform several kidney function tests to assess your kidneys and detect renal failure. If your doctor believes you're at risk for renal failure, routine testing includes:

  • Blood tests: Blood tests reveal how effectively your kidneys eliminate waste from your bloodstream. A fine needle will be used to extract a small amount of blood from a vein in your arm. Your blood sample will then be analyzed at a laboratory.
  • Urine tests: Urine tests detect certain components in your urine, such as protein or blood. Your urine sample will then be analyzed at a laboratory.
  • Imaging tests:Imaging examinations allow a practitioner to examine your kidneys and surrounding tissues for abnormalities or blockages. Common imaging studies include renal ultrasounds, CT urograms, and MRIs.

How Is Kidney Failure Treated?

Kidney failure treatment depends on the cause and extent of the problem. Treatment for a chronic medical condition can help reduce the progression of renal disease. If your kidneys gradually stopped working, your doctor may use a variety of methods to observe your health and keep your kidneys functioning as long as feasible. These methods could include:

  • Regular blood tests.
  • Blood pressure checks.
  • Medication.

If you have renal failure, you require treatment to remain alive. There are two primary treatments for renal failure.

  • Dialysis: Dialysis assists your body in filtering blood. There are two kinds of dialysis
  • Hemodialysis: Hemodialysis involves a machine cleaning your blood on a regular basis. Most patients undergo hemodialysis three to four days per week at a hospital or dialysis facility.
  • Peritoneal dialysis: Peritoneal dialysis involves the doctor attaching a bag containing dialysis solution to a catheter in your abdominal lining. The solution runs from the bag into your abdominal lining, where it collects waste and excess fluids before draining back into the bag. Peritoneal dialysis can occasionally be performed at home.
  • Kidney transplant: During a kidney transplant, a surgeon replaces your diseased kidney with a healthy one. A healthy kidney (donor organ) can originate from a deceased or living donor. You can live comfortably with just one healthy kidney.


Your kidneys are amazing organs that operate silently to keep you healthy. Now that you know how to spot their early warning signs, you may take an active role in your health. Embrace this knowledge, prioritize your health, and remember that early detection allows you to build your own health narrative. Don't let these warning signs cause you to panic; rather, they are a call to action! Schedule a check-up with your doctor, discuss any concerns, and make healthy lifestyle changes. Remember that even minor adjustments can have a substantial influence on renal health. Be proactive, take control, and live a fulfilling life! Sharing knowledge is essential in the fight against kidney disease. Share this information with your loved ones, create awareness in your community, and foster open discussions about kidney health. Remember, collectively, we can create a healthy future in which everyone understands their kidneys' whispers.


What causes poor kidney function?

The most common CKD risk factors are: Diabetes. High blood pressure (hypertension) Heart disease and/or heart failure.

What is the first stage of kidney failure?

In Stage 1 CKD, the damage to your kidneys is mild. Your kidneys are still working well, but you may have signs of kidney damage or physical damage to your kidneys. Stage 1 CKD means you have a normal estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) of 90 or greater, but there is protein in your urine (i.e., your pee).

How do you treat a weak kidney?

Treatment for end-stage kidney disease
Dialysis: Dialysis artificially removes waste products and extra fluid from your blood when your kidneys can no longer do this.
Kidney transplant. A kidney transplant involves surgically placing a healthy kidney from a donor into your body.

How do I know my kidneys are OK?

The blood test checks your GFR—glomerular filtration rate. GFR is an estimate of your kidney's filtering ability. A GFR below 60 is a sign of chronic kidney disease. A GFR below 15 is described as kidney failure.

Where is kidney pain felt?

Kidney pain is usually felt in your back, under the ribs, to either side of your spine. It may be caused by kidney stones, kidney infection or other kidney problems. Drinking plenty of water and avoiding urinary infections can help prevent kidney pain.

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