Kidneys play a vital role in our health, removing waste and toxins. But they can be damaged and stop working completely.
Knowing the warning signs of early kidney disease is important so you can get treatment before it becomes more serious. It can be a life-threatening condition, and delay in treatment may lead to permanent kidney damage.
Blood in the Urine
Hematuria, or blood in the urine, is a sign of a serious medical problem. It can be caused by cancer, infection, or a kidney stone.
If you see bright red or pink blood in your urine, or if it turns brown or tea-colored, it is very scary and needs to be checked by a doctor. They will ask you about symptoms and perform a physical exam.
So how to treat early signs of kidney disease? Your doctor may do a test called a urinalysis to check for blood and other cells or chemicals. It can also help find a urinary tract infection or kidney stones.
Then, your doctor may order imaging tests, like a CT or MRI scan or an ultrasound exam. They might also do a cystoscopy, which uses a tiny camera to look at the inside of your bladder and urethra.
Most cases of hematuria are not dangerous, but they should be looked at immediately. If you notice blood in your urine and other symptoms, call your GP as soon as possible to make an appointment for testing.
Changes in Urination
If your urine changes in color or smell, it may indicate a serious medical problem, such as kidney or bladder cancer. These symptoms should be monitored and addressed as soon as possible to minimize kidney damage.
The kidneys filter waste, excess fluids, and toxins from the blood, which are then removed through the urine. If your kidneys fail, they can’t perform this crucial function properly.
This can lead to various symptoms, but one of the most common is fatigue or weakness. This is often linked to anemia, which occurs when the kidneys don’t produce enough of the hormone erythropoietin, which tells your body to make oxygen-carrying red blood cells.
This symptom can be difficult to detect, but it’s important to watch for. If you’re tired, have trouble concentrating, or experience dizziness, contact your doctor to get checked out.
Back or Flank Pain
If you have back or flank pain, it can be a sign of serious problems. The kidneys sit on either side of your rib cage and rest against the back muscles.
Flank pain is usually sharp, achy, or throbbing. A chronic ache may worsen with movement or when you sit, lie, or bend forward.
Kidney infections can cause flank pain because the bacteria can invade your bladder, urethra, or ureters and irritate the lining of your urinary tract. Your doctor will diagnose the infection and start antibiotics.
Infections that affect the liver and pancreas also can cause flank pain. Some diseases, such as autoimmune hepatitis and blocked bile ducts due to gallstones, are life-threatening without treatment.
Other conditions can cause flank pain, including spinal arthritis and vertebral fractures. Depending on the cause, your doctor will prescribe physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and antibiotics.
Loss of Appetite
Loss of appetite is one of the most common signs of kidney disease. It can occur on its own or in conjunction with other symptoms.
As the kidneys gradually deteriorate, they cannot remove metabolic waste products from the blood as efficiently as they used to. This buildup can lead to fatigue, weakness, and weight loss. It also makes it harder to keep your body hydrated and can cause anemia (lack of red blood cells that carry oxygen).
If your loss of appetite is not caused by a recent illness or lasts longer than a week, see your doctor to ensure you aren’t dealing with a more serious medical problem. Medications and therapy can help address the underlying cause of your appetite loss.
A loss of appetite can also be caused by stomach problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or Crohn’s disease. These conditions can trigger nausea, diarrhea, or bloating and cause you to lose your desire to eat.
Puffy eyes are a common symptom of kidney disease and can be caused by some factors. Some are harmless, like sleep problems and dietary changes. Others are more serious, such as an infection or thyroid eye disease.
The thin skin around the eyes is prone to fluid retention, also known as edema, which can result in puffy eyes. It’s especially prevalent as you age and may be exacerbated by allergies.
If you have persistent puffy eyes, talk to your GP about treating them. Depending on the underlying cause, treatments can include over-the-counter products or surgery to tighten skin and reduce puffiness.
You can help minimize puffy eyes by reducing salt intake and drinking fluids before bedtime. In addition, increasing your potassium intake can help your body eliminate extra fluids.