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Chronic Kidney Disease affects up to 1 in 10 of the population, but up to 90% of people don't know they have it. Here, we explore our baker's dozen of signs that you might have kidney disease.

Only 10% of the 26 million patients with Chronic Kidney Disease living in the US know that they have it. One of the main reasons for this under-diagnosis is that symptoms of kidney disease are vague and can be caused by many other illnesses. They also creep on over time, appearing at different times, rather than all at once. This makes it harder to realise that all your symptoms are related.

Chronic Kidney Disease does not necessarily mean that your kidneys are functioning abnormally. In Stage 1 Chronic Kidney Disease, your kidneys function normally but excrete higher levels of protein or blood than normal, or your kidneys may exhibit other abnormalities (e.g. inflammation).

It's best if Chronic Kidney Disease can be diagnosed at this early stage, allowing patients to be monitored and treated as necessary, slowing long-term damage and loss of kidney function, as far as possible.

Complications of CKD

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) can cause many complications, including: anaemia, excessive potassium levels, weak bones leading to fractures, pregnancy complications causing problems for the expectant mother and unborn foetus, and a higher risk of infection.

It is for that reason that kidney function is monitored if you have been diagnosed with CKD, and that you are tested annually for CKD if you are in an at-risk group. Kidney function can be assessed with a simple blood test.

At risk-groups include:

  • Over 60s
  • Diabetics
  • People with high blood pressure
  • People with family history
  • Are from a population with a higher risk, such as African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans.
You should also mention the following symptoms to your doctor, even if none of the above apply.


Different-Looking Urine

Urine color can tell a lot about your health and health of your kidneys. If your urine looks foamy/frothy, or there's visible blood in it, these could both be signs of kidney disease.

Froth, foam or bubbles in the urine suggest a high level of protein in the urine (proteinuria). Meanwhile, blood leaking into the urine (haematuria) is a sign that kidney damage is preventing your kidneys filtering the blood cells.

Haematuria may not be a sign of kidney disease, however. A simple infection could cause it. Always consult a doctor.


Different Frequency of Urination

If you find yourself urinating more (especially at night), urinating less, or struggling to urinate at all, consider seeing your doctor.

Needing to urinate more is a sign that the filters in the kidneys are damaged. However, some patients find the urge desperate but that they strain to produce two or three drops when they get there. This may also be a sign of a urinary tract infection, so always ask a doctor.


Damaged kidneys no longer filter all the extra fluid. This then builds up in your body. Be especially aware of swelling feet, ankles (especially swelling that stops you fitting your shoes) and puffiness around your eyes (especially when you first wake up).

Itchy Skin and Rashes

When our kidneys can no longer remove waste products from our bodies, they build up and cause itchy skin and rashes.

Nausea and Vomiting

Uraemia (where waste products are unable to be excreted and collect in your body) is one of the leading causes of nausea and vomiting. You may feel so nauseous it's difficult to take your prescribed medication without vomiting. If that is the case, you should see a doctor, whatever the cause. There is a wide range of anti-emetics that may help, depending on your personal circumstances.

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