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Kidney disease symptoms

2-minute read

Kidney disease can cause many different problems.

The most common problems are:

  • anaemia (a lack of red blood cells, which in turn can make you tired, breathless, dizzy, depressed and prone to feeling the cold)
  • pain in the bones, joints, muscles or nerves
  • muscle cramps, especially in the legs
  • changes in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhoea
  • nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite
  • problems with your mouth or teeth (for example, bad breath, a metallic taste in the mouth)
  • itchy skin
  • bruising
  • depression, anxiety, irritability, moodiness
  • trouble sleeping
  • hair loss

If you have a kidney stone, the movement of the stone inside the kidney or ureter (a tube connecting the kidney and the bladder) can cause symptoms such as strong pain below the ribs at the back, painful, discoloured or foul-smelling urine, or other problems with urination such as a persistent urge to go to the toilet. A kidney infection can cause similar symptoms.

The body can cope with the kidneys not working properly for quite a while. This can be a problem, because signs and symptoms of kidney disease may not appear until a lot of damage has already been done. People can lose 90% of their kidney function before they experience any symptoms. This makes it particularly important to take notice of any symptoms that do appear, and seek medical advice.

Signs you may have problems with your kidneys include:

  • high blood pressure
  • changes in the amount and number of times you pass urine
  • changes in how your urine looks (such as frothy or foaming urine)
  • blood in your urine
  • puffiness in your legs, ankles or around your eyes
  • pain in your kidney area
  • tiredness, difficulty sleeping
  • loss of appetite
  • headaches
  • poor concentration
  • itching
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea and vomiting
  • bad breath and a metallic taste in your mouth
  • muscle cramps
  • pins and needles in your fingers or toes

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: January 2019

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