Many people who have chronic kidney disease don't know it. The early signs can be very subtle. It can take many years to go from chronic kidney disease to kidney failure. Some people with chronic kidney disease live out their lives without ever reaching kidney failure. However, for people at any stage of kidney disease, knowing the symptoms of kidney disease can help you get the treatment you need to feel your best.

It’s important that you see your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms:

Changes in Urination

Kidneys make urine, so when the kidneys are failing, you may have to urinate more frequently. You may feel pain or pressure when you urinate or your urine may contain blood.


Failing kidneys don't remove extra fluid, which builds up in your body causing swelling in the legs, ankles, feet, face, and/or hands.


Healthy kidneys make a hormone called erythropoietin (a-rith'-ro-po'-uh-tin) that tells your body to make oxygen-carrying red blood cells. As the kidneys fail, they make less erythropoietin. With fewer red blood cells to carry oxygen, your muscles and brain become tired very quickly. This condition is called anemia, and it can be treated.

Skin Rash/Itching

Kidneys remove wastes from the bloodstream. When the kidneys fail, the buildup of wastes in your blood can cause severe itching.

Metallic Taste in Mouth/Ammonia Breath

A buildup of wastes in the blood (called uremia) can make food taste different and cause bad breath. You may also notice that you stop liking to eat meat, or that you are losing weight because you just don't feel like eating.

Nausea and Vomiting

A severe buildup of wastes in the blood (uremia) can also cause nausea and vomiting. Loss of appetite can lead to weight loss.

Shortness of Breath

Trouble catching your breath can be related to the kidneys in two ways: extra fluid in the body builds up in the lungs and anemia (a shortage of red blood cells) can leave your body deprived of oxygen.

Feeling Cold

Anemia can make you feel cold all the time.

Dizziness and Trouble Concentrating

Anemia related to kidney failure means that your brain is not getting enough oxygen. This can lead to problems with memory, concentration and dizziness.

Leg/Flank Pain

Some people with kidney problems may have pain in the back or side related to the affected kidney.

While any of these symptoms or combination of symptoms might signal kidney disease, they could also be symptoms of other conditions and you should visit with your doctor to get a firm diagnosis. Your primary care doctor may refer you to a nephrologist who specializes in kidney disease.