6 Symptoms Never to Ignore If You Have Kidney Disease

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  • Chronic kidney disease is the gradual loss of kidney function. Because the kidneys filter the blood and play an important role in the regulation of blood pressure and other bodily functions, kidney disease can cause a wide variety of complications. If you or someone you love has kidney disease, watch for warning signs that could indicate kidney disease complications, such as anemia, osteoporosis, or heart disease. Appropriate medical attention can prevent more serious problems and help people living with kidney disease remain as healthy as possible.

  • 1
    Dizziness
    first-aid-on-floor

    Dizziness and fainting can be symptoms of heart disease, a condition that is far more common in people with kidney disease than people who do not have kidney problems. Dizziness can also be a symptom of anemia, a kidney disease complication characterized by a reduced number of red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the tissues of the body, so a low red blood cell count can interfere with the delivery of oxygen to cells. Medical evaluation is necessary to determine the cause and appropriate treatment of dizziness.

  • 2
    Bone or joint pain
    Woman with elbow pain

    Normally, the kidneys regulate phosphorus and calcium, two minerals essential for bone health. In people with kidney disease, the proportion of these minerals may be abnormal. Osteoporosis is a common complication of chronic kidney disease. Oftentimes, the first physical symptom of it is a broken bone. Occasionally, people will complain of bone or joint pain. If you or a loved one experiences unusual bone or joint pain, call the doctor. If necessary, medical treatment can preserve bone health. Extra precautions in your living space can help prevent falls and fractures.

  • 3
    Chest pain
    Man with chest pain

    People who have kidney disease are more likely to develop heart disease. In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death for people who have been diagnosed with kidney disease. Chest pain can be a symptom of heart disease or a heart attack in progress. If you experience chest pain, especially chest pain that worsens with activity, call 911. Your healthcare provider will want to do a full medical workup to check the health and functioning of your heart.

  • 4
    Swollen feet
    senior woman on bed holding foot

    The kidneys regulate the amount of fluid in the body. When the kidneys aren’t working well, excess fluid can pool in the feet, arms and lungs. This is edema. Don’t ignore swollen feet and legs—notify your doctor. Your provider can prescribe medication to help your body get rid of the excess fluid. Changing your diet and activity may also help control the edema. Your doctor will work with you to figure out what you can safely eat and drink.

  • 5
    Fatigue
    Woman at work with head in hand

    Extreme tiredness and fatigue are symptoms of anemia. The red blood cells carry oxygen to the body’s tissues; you may feel sluggish if you don’t have enough red blood cells on the job. Anemia is a common complication of kidney disease, but that doesn’t mean you have to endure tiredness. Ask your doctor to check your red blood cell count. If your count is low, prescription medication can boost your red blood cell count—and your energy level.

  • 6
    Erectile dysfunction
    Older man in bed

    Kidney disease affects hormone levels and blood circulation, both of which can cause erectile dysfunction, or impotence. Kidney disease can also cause high blood pressure, and some of the medications used to control high blood pressure may cause erectile dysfunction. You don’t need to suffer in silence. If you experience erectile dysfunction, talk with a healthcare provider. Sometimes, a simple tweak of prescription medications can improve erectile function. A knowledgeable physician can help you explore possible solutions.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Aug 19
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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