Signs and symptoms of kidney failure

The kidneys remove waste and excess fluid from your body and help maintain proper levels of various minerals. Without the correct levels of nutrients, nerves, cells, muscles and organs may not function properly.

Kidney failure is classified when your kidney function falls below 15% of normal.

It may precede kidney disease. Symptoms that appear are usually the result of a buildup of waste. There are treatments for kidney failure, and your healthcare provider can check which treatment is best for you.

This article will review the symptoms of kidney failure. Knowing your symptoms can help you identify warning signs early so you can speak to your healthcare provider about any concerns.

common symptoms

Signs of kidney failure can vary, and sometimes they are hard to notice at first. Early symptoms may include:

  • headache
  • itching
  • swelling, especially in the ankles, legs, and feet
  • Fatigue during the day, difficulty falling asleep at night
  • muscle cramps, weakness, or numbness
  • almost no urine output
  • upset stomach, changes in appetite and weight
  • joint pain or stiffness
  • confusion or memory problems

In acute renal failure, the kidneys stop working suddenly within two days.

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It’s not always permanent. For many people, treatment may return normal or near-normal function. Acute kidney failure can be caused by conditions such as heart attack, substance use disorder, major surgery, certain cancers or diseases, and injury.

Signs of acute kidney failure may include:

  • stomach ache
  • back pain
  • diarrhea
  • Vomit
  • nosebleed
  • rash
  • fever

When to see a healthcare provider for kidney pain


Complications are not signs of kidney failure. Rather, they are other diseases or symptoms that can occur as a result of the condition.

Your kidneys have many functions. When they don’t work properly, complications can occur. Not everyone experiences complications, and for those who do, not everyone experiences the same complications. Possible complications include:

  • High blood pressure: This can be a cause and a complication. The kidneys are unable to excrete excess water, which can lead to swelling, which can lead to high blood pressure.
  • Heart disease: If the kidneys are not working properly, they cannot help other organs work properly. Damaged kidneys fail to regulate blood pressure, resulting in high blood pressure. High blood pressure hardens the arteries, causing less blood and oxygen to enter the heart, ultimately leading to heart disease. Hypertension and type 2 diabetes often overlap, and insulin resistance is a common feature of these diseases.
  • Anemia: Anemia is a lack of healthy red blood cells. Damaged kidneys don’t make enough erythropoietin (EPO) to make red blood cells, so the organs get less oxygen.
  • Mineral and bone disorders: As kidneys lose function, the body is less able to absorb calcium and cannot remove as much phosphorus. Both can cause weak bones and/or bone or joint pain.
  • Malnutrition: As kidney failure worsens, food may taste different, you may not feel hungry, and infections can interfere with your consumption, resulting in a lack of proper nutrition. A nutritionist may be helpful.
  • Itching: Too much phosphorus in the blood can cause itchy skin.Your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to stop excess phosphorus from food entering your bloodstream
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When to see a healthcare provider

Talk to your healthcare provider if you start noticing signs such as changes in urine output, brain fog, or high blood pressure.

Also consult your healthcare provider if you have diabetes or heart disease and start noticing the above symptoms or other symptoms you didn’t have before (such as fatigue or changes in appetite or sleep).

Both high blood pressure and high blood sugar can lead to kidney disease and kidney failure. Seeing your healthcare provider early can change your prognosis (outlook) when you first notice symptoms and start treatment.

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While the signs and symptoms of kidney failure may not be obvious at first, it’s important to be aware of them. The sooner kidney failure is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can be started. If you start noticing any of these symptoms, consult your healthcare provider for an evaluation.

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VigorTip words

Reading about the signs and symptoms of kidney failure can be stressful or overwhelming. Remember that everyone is different and may experience different symptoms. With proper diagnosis and prompt treatment and management, many of these symptoms can be successfully treated and minimized.