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  • Dr Garima Aggarwal

Warning signs that indicate you may be suffering from kidney disease

Updated: Jul 15, 2022

It is estimated that one in 10 individuals around the world suffer from some form of kidney disease. People with Diabetes and hypertension are considered most at risk of developing kidney disease. India has one of the highest burdens of Diabetes and hypertension in the world. According to a crude population survey published in 2018 around 8% of Indians suffer from Diabetes and 25% suffer from Hypertension. Hence it is believed that the burden of kidney disease in India is very high.

Millions of people in India and around the world are suffering from kidney disease but most don’t even know it. The physical symptoms of kidney disease are often attributed to other diseases, and most often these symptoms appear very late in the disease when both the kidneys have failed. Kidney damage can be of two types. It maybe sudden, also known as acute, which may be reversible. More often individuals diagnosed with kidney disease have irreversible damage to both kidneys, also known as chronic kidney disease.

10 Signs that may indicate Kidney disease

  1. Feeling tired or fatigued very often: A severe decrease in kidney function can lead to accumulation of harmful toxins in the blood. This can cause people to feel tired, weak and drowsy. People with kidney disease also suffer from anemia or decreased hemoglobin in blood, which can cause weakness and fatigue.

  2. Swelling of ankles and feet: Decreased kidney function can lead to sodium and water retention, causing swelling of feet and ankles. A rapid gain of weight despite a poor appetite may also be a sign of excessive fluid retention in the body. Swelling of feet can be a sign of several diseases like heart disease, liver disease and chronic leg vein problems.

  3. Experiencing persistent puffiness around eyes: This puffiness around eyes can be due to the fact that your kidneys are leaking a large amount of protein in the urine, rather than keeping it in the body.

  4. Having difficulty in breathing: Especially while walking/doing routine work/ exercises. Patients may experience difficulty in sleeping at night due to feeling of chest congestion/heaviness or inability to breathe while lying down. Kidneys remove excess water from the body via urine. In patients with kidney disease fluid builds up in the body, this extra fluid often collects in the lungs and decreases the person’s ability to breathe, especially on doing any kind of exertion or on lying down.

  5. Need to urinate frequently: The need to urinate more often, especially at night, can be a sign of kidney disease. Urinary infections also tend cause the urge to urinate frequently at very short intervals, accompanied with pain or burning sensation while urinating. Men suffering from enlarged prostate gland can also have the urge to urinate frequently and a feeling of incomplete emptying of bladder.

  6. Presence of blood in urine or “reddish colour in urine”: Normal urine does not have blood or red blood cells in it, but when the kidney's filters have been damaged, blood cells "leak" out into the urine. In addition to kidney disease, blood in the urine can be indicative of tumors, kidney stones or an infection.

  7. Foamy urine or frothing in urine “noticed excessive soap like bubbles in urine”: Excessive bubbles in the urine – especially those that require you to flush several times before they go away, often indicate protein in the urine. This foam may look like the foam you see when scrambling eggs, as the common protein found in urine, albumin, is the same protein that is found in eggs.

  8. Decreased appetite (don’t feel like eating food) or feeling nauseous: Accumulation of harmful toxins due from decreased kidney function can cause suppression of appetite and feeling of nausea. Nausea and vomiting, along with fever may also be a sign of urinary infection. Patients suffering from kidney failure are often malnourished.

  9. Dry and itchy skin: Healthy kidneys remove wastes and extra fluid from the body along with maintaining the balance of electrolytes and minerals in the blood. Dry and itchy skin is a sign of mineral and bone disease that accompanies advanced kidney disease, when the kidneys are no longer able to keep the right balance of minerals and nutrients in your blood.

  10. Difficult to control blood pressure – Being diagnosed as having very high blood pressure or a sudden rise in blood pressure which was previously well controlled on medications – may be a sign of underlying kidney disease.

If you or your loved ones are experiencing any of these symptoms, please consult a doctor.

The doctor will likely advise some basic tests to evaluate whether kidney disease. These could include:

- Urine tests - Urine Routine examination– to look for protein, blood cells, or infections in urine

- Blood tests for Creatinine, Urea, Potassium and Sodium (often grouped together as Kidney Function Tests, in most labs) – to evaluate the kidney functioning and electrolyte balance

- Ultrasound scan of the abdomen to look at kidneys, ureters and bladder – to look for kidney stones, infections, prostate enlargement or any abnormality in kidney size.

Some special tests may also include:

- Urine Protein or Albumin - Urine collection for quantifying protein leakage in urine

- Estimated GFR test – calculated from the blood creatinine values, to assess the level of kidney function.

- Blood Hemoglobin or complete blood count test – to rule out anemia

If blood and urine tests indicate decreased kidney function, it signifies that both the kidneys are damaged. Kidney disease is often irreversible, but if detected early the progress of kidney disease can be slowed down. Patients having kidney problems should be on regular follow up with nephrologists so they can get timely intervention.


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