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Chronic Kidney Disease: What Are the Signs and Symptoms?

Medically reviewed by Elfred Landas, MD · General Practitioner · Maxicare Primary Care Center

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Sep 08, 2021

Chronic Kidney Disease: What Are the Signs and Symptoms?

Chronic kidney disease or CKD is a problem that affects millions of people worldwide. One of the major reasons why CKD is such a big problem, aside from lack of access to healthcare, is that a lot of people are not aware of what are the signs and symptoms of chronic kidney disease.

CKD is also a degenerative disease, which means that it gets worse over time. And a lack of knowledge on what are the signs of chronic kidney disease, as well as its symptoms, usually leads to people seeking treatment when it’s too late.

By simply knowing the symptoms of CKD, people can seek treatment sooner, which helps manage CKD before it gets worse.

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What are the signs and symptoms of chronic kidney disease?

In the earlier stages of the disease, it is relatively uncommon to notice any symptoms. This is because our kidneys do their job well, even if they suffer some damage.

Our kidneys are so efficient that we can even donate one of our healthy kidneys, and still stay healthy.

Despite being such amazing organs, our kidneys are not immune to getting damaged. And for people with CKD, this can be a very serious problem.

As the disease progresses, people with CKD would experience more and more symptoms, such as the following:


When someone asks, “What are the signs and symptoms of chronic kidney disease?” one of the more common symptoms is fatigue.

One of the reasons why this happens is because of a hormone called erythropoietin. This hormone tells the body that it needs to produce red blood cells.

Normally, healthy kidneys produce this hormone. But for people with CKD, the ability of the kidneys to produce this hormone is affected, which means that the body is producing less blood cells.

This can eventually lead to anemia and cause fatigue.

Feeling dizzy or weak

This is another symptom of CKD that is related to anemia. Feeling dizzy or weak usually means that the brain is not getting enough oxygen from the blood.

This is a common symptom for people with advanced cases of CKD.

Having shortness of breath

Shortness of breath can happen as a result of two things. First, fluid can build up in the lungs as a result of kidney damage. This makes it harder for the lungs to oxygenate a person’s blood.

Second, people with CKD can also have anemia, or a shortage of red blood cells. This means that the body is not getting enough oxygen, and causes someone to be out of breath.


Itchiness is a peculiar symptom of chronic kidney disease.

The kidneys’ main function is to filter waste from a person’s blood, and expel them as urine. For people with CKD, their kidneys are unable to filter the waste out of their blood, and this leads to severe itching.

Difficulty urinating

Your kidneys are also responsible for the production of urine. This means that if you have a problem in your kidneys, your urine is also affected.

In this case, you might notice that it’s much more difficult to urinate, or that you need to ‘push’ in order to urinate.

Some patients have noted that it feels like there is a pressure in their bladder, or that they could not get all of the urine out after they urinate.

Foam or bubbles in your urine

Another symptom of CKD related to urine is having foam or bubbles.

Foamy or bubbly urine usually means that there is an abundance of protein in the urine. This is usually a sign that a person’s kidneys are failing.

Breath smells like ammonia

Because of the kidney’s inability to filter out the waste in the blood, some people with CKD might experience their breath smelling like ammonia.

Puffiness in the face

Your kidneys also play a role in removing the extra fluid in your body. People with CKD usually experience puffiness because of fluid buildup in their body.

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What are the risk factors for CKD?

Here are some of the risk factors for CKD:

If you have any of these conditions, it would be a good idea to take steps in order to lower your risk of being diagnosed with CKD.

What steps can you take to lower your risk of chronic kidney disease?

Now we know what are the signs and symptoms of chronic kidney disease, as well as the risk factors, we need to talk about how to lower your risk.

Here are some steps that you can take in order to lower your risk of CKD:

  • If you have any underlying conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, or obesity, be sure to get these conditions under control.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking increases a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease, which is a risk factor for CKD.
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help lower your risk of CKD. Be sure to eat lots of vegetables and fruits, and eat less processed and sugary foods.
  • Engage in daily exercise. Ideally, you should exercise for at least 30 minutes each day.
  • Some pain killers can potentially cause kidney damage. If you have a history of CKD, or have any underlying conditions, be sure to check if any painkillers you are using can damage your kidneys.
  • Drink moderately. Drinking too much alcohol can also damage your kidneys. So it is important to drink moderately, or not drink alcohol at all.

Key Takeaways

Though chronic kidney disease is not easy to detect in its earlier stages, adopting healthy habits can help reduce the risk. And once you experience symptoms, seeking prompt medical intervention can greatly help.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Elfred Landas, MD

General Practitioner · Maxicare Primary Care Center

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Sep 08, 2021

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