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Chronic Kidney Disease (cont.)

Chronic Kidney Disease Symptoms and When to Seek Medical Care

The kidneys are remarkable in their ability to compensate for problems in their function. That is why chronic kidney disease may progress without symptoms for a long time until only very minimal kidney function is left.

Because the kidneys perform so many functions for the body, kidney disease can affect the body in a large number of different ways. Symptoms vary greatly. Several different body systems may be affected. Notably, most patients have no decrease in urine output even with very advanced chronic kidney disease.

Effects and symptoms of chronic kidney disease include:

  • need to urinate frequently, especially at night (nocturia);
  • swelling of the legs and puffiness around the eyes (fluid retention);
  • high blood pressure;
  • fatigue and weakness (from anemia or accumulation of waste products in the body);
  • loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting;
  • itching, easy bruising, and pale skin (from anemia);
  • shortness of breath from fluid accumulation in the lungs;
  • headaches, numbness in the feet or hands (peripheral neuropathy), disturbed sleep, altered mental status (encephalopathy from the accumulation of waste products or uremic poisons), and restless legs syndrome;
  • chest pain due to pericarditis (inflammation around the heart);
  • bleeding (due to poor blood clotting);
  • bone pain and fractures; and
  • decreased sexual interest and erectile dysfunction.

When to Seek Medical Care

Several signs and symptoms may suggest complications of chronic kidney disease. One should call a health care professional if they notice any of the following symptoms:

  • change in energy level or strength;
  • increased water retention (puffiness or swelling) in the legs, around the eyes, or in other parts of the body;
  • shortness of breath or change from normal breathing;
  • nausea or vomiting;
  • lightheadedness;
  • bone or joint pain;
  • easy bruising; or
  • itching.

If a woman has known kidney problems, she should see a health care professional right away if she knows or suspects that she is pregnant.

See a health care practitioner as recommended for monitoring and treatment of chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

The following signs and symptoms represent the possibility of a severe complication of chronic kidney disease and warrant a visit to the nearest hospital emergency department.

  • Change in level of consciousness -- extreme sleepiness or difficult to awaken
  • Severe fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe nausea and vomiting
  • Severe bleeding (from any source)
  • Muscle weakness
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/13/2012
Medical Author:

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Chronic Kidney Disease »

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is characterized by an irreversible deterioration of renal function that gradually progresses to end-stage renal disease (ESRD).

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