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Warning Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Disease

According to the CDC, kidney disease is a serious health condition affecting about 1 in 7 adults, or 37 million Americans. It is important to recognize the early warning signs and symptoms of renal damage so that appropriate treatment can be started as soon as possible. 

In this blog post, we will discuss everything you need to know about kidney disease, how to spot it early on, and the treatment options for this condition. 

What are kidneys and what do they do?

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located on either side of the spine, just below the rib cage. Their primary function is to filter waste and excess fluids from the blood and eliminate them from the body in the form of urine. The kidneys also help to regulate blood pressure, produce hormones that stimulate red blood cell production, and maintain the balance of electrolytes in the body.

What is kidney disease?

Kidney disease occurs when the kidneys are damaged and can no longer function properly. There are different types of renal disorders; the most common ones are chronic kidney disease (CKD) and acute kidney injury (AKI). 

CKD is a long-term condition in which the kidneys gradually lose their ability to function over time, while AKI is a sudden, severe decline in kidney function that can occur within hours or days.

What are the symptoms of kidney disease?

The signs and symptoms of kidney disease can be subtle and may seem like a minor health condition when viewed on its own. But if the following symptoms occur simultaneously, then it’s time to seek the help of a doctor from an urgent care center. 

Warning-Signs-and-Symptoms-of-Kidney-Disease-UCPB Warning Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Disease
  1. Fatigue and weakness

Feeling tired and weak even after getting enough sleep can indicate a kidney disorder, especially in its advanced stages. This is because the kidneys play an essential role in producing a hormone called erythropoietin, which stimulates the production of red blood cells. 

When the kidneys are not functioning properly, the body may not produce enough of this hormone, leading to anemia or a low red blood cell count. As a result, the body’s vital organs won’t receive the right amount of oxygen and nutrients, causing patients to get tired and weak easily.  

  1. Edema or swelling

Edema, or swelling, is a common symptom of renal damage. It occurs when excess fluid builds up in the tissues, causing them to become swollen and puffy. This fluid buildup is often seen in the feet, ankles, legs, and hands but can also occur in other body areas, like the face.

  • Reduced urine output 

The kidneys play a crucial role in removing excess fluid from the body through urine production. In renal disease, the kidneys may not be able to produce enough urine, leading to fluid retention and edema.

  • Sodium and water retention

The kidneys are responsible for maintaining a balance of sodium and water in the body. During renal damage, the kidneys may be unable to regulate sodium and water levels, leading to fluid retention and edema.

  • Protein leakage

In some types of renal damage, such as nephrotic syndrome, the kidneys may leak protein into the urine. This can lead to a decrease in the amount of protein in the blood, causing fluid to leak into the tissues and resulting in edema.

  1. Changes in urination

Kidney disease can cause changes in urination due to the kidneys' role in filtering waste products and excess fluid from the body. Some of the specific changes in one’s urination include frequent urinating, having less urine output than usual, or experiencing pain or burning during urination.

  1. Sleeping difficulties

Kidney disorders can also cause difficulty sleeping, possibly due to factors such as restless legs syndrome, muscle cramps, or sleep apnea.

  1. Nausea and vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of a kidney condition and can be caused by various factors related to the disease. One major reason is the build-up of waste products. 

The kidneys play a crucial role in removing waste products from the body. During renal problems, the kidneys may not function properly, leading to a buildup of waste products in the blood. This can cause nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, and loss of appetite.

Other causes of nausea and vomiting during a kidney disorder may be due to acidosis, medications, anemia, and high blood pressure.

  1. Shortness of breath

When the kidneys are not functioning properly, excess fluids can build up in the lungs, causing shortness of breath.

  1. Pressure or pain in the chest

Kidney disease can cause pain or pressure in the chest, which can be a sign of fluid buildup in the lining around the heart.

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  1. Ammonia breath

Ammonia breath is a common symptom in people with kidney disorders, particularly those experiencing advanced stages of the disease. There are a few possible reasons why someone with such a condition may have ammonia breath:

  • Uremia

One of the main functions of the kidneys is to filter waste products from the blood. When the kidneys are not functioning properly, waste products such as urea can build up in the body. This can lead to a condition called uremia, which is characterized by a high level of urea in the blood. Urea can be broken down into ammonia in the mouth, causing a strong odor known as ammonia breath.

  • Dehydration

Dehydration is a common complication of kidney conditions, specifically in the later stages of the disease. When the body is dehydrated, it produces less saliva, leading to a dry mouth and an increase in bacteria that produce ammonia.

  • Infections

Infections are common in people with damaged kidneys, particularly those on dialysis. Infections in the mouth or respiratory tract can cause an increase in bacteria that produce ammonia, leading to ammonia breath.

How is kidney disease diagnosed?

Doctors diagnose kidney problems through a combination of medical history, physical examination, laboratory tests, and imaging studies. Here are some of the common steps involved in diagnosing renal damage:

Medical history

The doctor will ask about the patient's medical history, including any previous kidney problems, family history of kidney conditions, and any medications or supplements the patient takes.

Physical examination

The physician will perform a physical exam to check for signs of kidney damage, such as swelling in the legs and feet, high blood pressure, or abnormal heart sounds.

Urine tests

Urine tests are commonly used to check kidney function and diagnose kidney disorders. These tests can detect the presence of protein, blood, or other abnormalities in the urine.

Blood tests

Blood tests are used to measure levels of creatinine, a waste product that the kidneys normally filter from the blood. High creatinine levels in the blood can indicate a damaged kidney.

Once a diagnosis of kidney disease has been made, the doctor will work with the patient to develop a treatment plan based on the type and severity of the disease.

What are the treatment options for kidney disease?

The treatment options for renal diseases depend on the type and severity of the disease. Here are some of the common treatment options:


Medications may be prescribed to treat the underlying cause of kidney damage, manage the symptoms, and prevent complications. Some examples include the following:

  • Blood pressure medications
  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs
  • Erythropoietin-stimulating agents (ESAs)
  • Phosphate binders
  • Diuretics
  • Immunosuppressants

Dietary changes

Dietary changes can help manage kidney conditions by reducing the workload on the kidneys and controlling symptoms. For example, a low-sodium diet can help manage high blood pressure, while a low-protein diet can reduce waste products the kidneys need to filter.


Dialysis is a treatment that can be used when the kidneys can no longer filter waste products from the blood effectively. During dialysis, a machine is used to remove excess fluids and waste products from the blood. There are two main types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.

Kidney transplant

A kidney transplant may be an option for people with end-stage renal disease who are not candidates for dialysis or have not responded well to other treatments. During a kidney transplant, a healthy kidney from a donor is transplanted into the patient's body to take over the function of the damaged kidneys.

Managing complications

In addition to treating the underlying cause of kidney disorders, it is important to manage complications such as anemia, bone disease, and high blood pressure. This may involve other types of medications, dietary changes, or other treatment procedures.

It is important to work closely with a healthcare provider to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your specific needs and goals. Regular monitoring and follow-up are also important to manage the disease and prevent further health complications.

Where to find the best urgent care near me?

Kidney disease is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that requires prompt and appropriate treatment. If you’re experiencing one or more of the above-mentioned symptoms, then it’s time to seek medical attention from one of the best urgent care clinics.

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Urgent Care of the Palm Beaches provides exemplary medical services for non-emergency kidney-related issues or complications that may arise. We aim to provide convenient access to medical care and resources outside of regular office hours and without the need for an appointment.

Contact us now or visit one of our convenient locations near you:

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.

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