Chronic Kidney Failure Signs & Symptoms
The kidneys filter waste, electrolytes, sodium and surplus fluid from the bloodstream to be excreted in the urine. If the kidneys lose function, toxic levels of fluid, electrolytes, sodium and waste products will build up in the body and cause many health problems. End-stage kidney disease is fatal and may require dialysis (artificial filtering of the bloodstream) or kidney transplant. The loss of kidney function occurs gradually over months or years. Chronic deterioration of kidney function is known as chronic kidney failure, chronic renal disease or chronic kidney disease (CKD).
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Some patients experience few symptoms of CKD, especially in the early stages of the disease. In fact, some patients do not experience any symptoms until they have unknowingly suffered significant kidney function impairment. Since the symptoms of CKD are broad and vary so extensively in each patient, it is often diagnosed only when it causes a complication for which a patient sees his physician.
Diabetes, glomerulonephritis and hypertension cause about 75% of chronic kidney failure cases. Patients with diabetes, high blood pressure and biological relatives with kidney failure should be screened for chronic kidney disease.
Contemporary medicine classifies chronic kidney disease into five distinct stages. The first stage is the mildest and generally causes few symptoms. The fifth stage is known as established chronic kidney disease. The later stages of CKD offer the lowest chance of survival if left untreated.
Regardless of what stage of progression CKD maintains, there is a blood test available to detect kidney failure. The test measures levels of creatinine in the blood. If kidney disease is present, there will be higher levels of creatinine in the bloodstream because of the impaired glomerular filtration rate of creatinine from the blood along with other waste products. It is possible for creatinine levels to be normal in the earlier stages of CKD, but the disease can be detected by a urinalysis. A patient with kidney failure will have excess protein or red blood cells in his urine because his kidney is allowing for the loss of these valuable products into the urine.
As kidney function worsens, fluid overloads the bloodstream, the kidneys produce vasoactive hormones, and waste is not filtered from the blood. Symptoms generate slowly. Upon the development of chronic kidney disease, the following symptoms may result:
- Accumulation of urea may lead to azotemia and uremia, causing such symptoms as pericarditis, drowsiness and encephalopathy
- Hyperkalemia (accumulation of potassium), causing such symptoms as terminal cardiac arrhythmias
- High blood pressure, increasing the risk of developing hypertension and congestive heart failure
- Hypocalcemia (lack of calcium), which causes renal osteodystrophy, secondary hyperparathyroidism, heart disease and calcification in the veins
- Excess fluid in the body, which causes edemas such as fatal pulmonary edema
- Accelerated atherosclerosis
- Metabolic acidosis
- Hyperphosphatemia (accumulation of phosphate)
- Cardiovascular disease
- Loss of appetite
- Urine output increase or decrease
- Trouble sleeping
- Muscle cramping
- Muscle twitching
- Mental impairment
- Shortness of breath
- Chest heaviness
Talk to your doctor if you experience kidney disease. Kidney failure is manageable with the help of medications, dialysis and other clinical routes. By treating the underlying cause of kidney failure, your doctor could provide you with an even better chance of tackling your CKD diagnosis.