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Sure Signs You May Have Kidney Damage, According to CDC

“Kidneys that function properly are critical for maintaining good health,” says the CDC.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek
woman Having Spinal Or Kidney Pain

Your kidneys may not be as famous as the heart or lungs but you want to watch for signs of kidney damage because the organ is essential. "Your kidneys, each just the size of a computer mouse, filter all the blood in your body every 30 minutes," says the CDC. "They work hard to remove wastes, toxins, and excess fluid. They also help control blood pressure, stimulate production of red blood cells, keep your bones healthy, and regulate blood chemicals that are essential to life. Kidneys that function properly are critical for maintaining good health, however, more than one in seven American adults are estimated to have chronic kidney disease (CKD)." Read on to see if you have the signs of CKD—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Had COVID and Didn't Know It.

1

You May Have Anemia or Low Number of Red Blood Cells

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Anemia—"a condition in which your blood has a lower-than-normal amount of red blood cells or hemoglobin," according to the NIH, "is a common complication of chronic kidney disease (CKD). CKD means your kidneys are damaged and can't filter blood the way they should. This damage can cause wastes and fluid to build up in your body. CKD can also cause other health problems. Anemia is less common in early kidney disease, and it often gets worse as kidney disease progresses and more kidney function is lost."

2

You May Develop Other Diseases or Have a Stroke

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CKD is a "condition in which the kidneys are damaged and cannot filter blood as well as they should. Because of this, excess fluid and waste from blood remain in the body and may cause other health problems, such as heart disease and stroke," says the CDC. "Renal failure is a potent risk factor for stroke, which is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. The risk of stroke is 5–30 times higher in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD), especially on dialysis," according to one study. "Case fatality rates are also higher reaching almost 90%. It is therefore important to understand the factors that predispose to stroke in this vulnerable population to better apply preventive strategies."

3

You May Have These Blood Levels Off

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The CDC says you may have "low calcium levels, high potassium levels, and high phosphorus levels in the blood" if you have kidney disease. "Damaged kidneys must work harder to clear phosphorus from the body," says the NIH. "High levels of phosphorus cause lower levels of calcium in the blood, resulting in the following series of events: When a person's blood calcium level becomes too low, the parathyroid glands release parathyroid hormone."

4

You May Have a Loss of Appetite or Eat Less

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"Patients with CKD frequently experience poor appetite related to uremia, complications of CKD and other co-morbidities," says BC Renal. "Appetite may worsen with progression of kidney disease leading to malnutrition. As nutrition status is an important factor in dialysis and/ or transplant outcomes, management of anorexia depends largely on the goals of care for each patient."

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5

You May Have Depression or Lower Quality of Life

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Watch for being depressed after your diagnosis. "Depression is highly prevalent and is associated with poor quality of life and increased mortality among adults with chronic kidney disease (CKD), including those with end-stage renal disease (ESRD)," says one study

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6

You May Also Have These Symptoms if CKD is Not Caught Early

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The NIH says "a number of symptoms can develop if kidney disease is not found early or it gets worse despite treatment. Symptoms can include:

  • weight loss and poor appetite
  • swollen ankles, feet or hands – as a result of water retention (oedema) 
  • shortness of breath
  • tiredness
  • blood in your pee (urine)
  • an increased need to pee – particularly at night 
  • difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • itchy skin
  • muscle cramps
  • feeling sick
  • headaches
  • erectile dysfunction in men"

7

What to Do If You Experience These Symptoms

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"CKD has varying levels of seriousness. It usually gets worse over time though treatment has been shown to slow progression," says the CDC. "If left untreated, CKD can progress to kidney failure and early cardiovascular disease. When the kidneys stop working, dialysis or kidney transplant is needed for survival. Kidney failure treated with dialysis or kidney transplant is called end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Learn more about ESRD. Not all patients with kidney disease progress to kidney failure. To help prevent CKD and lower the risk for kidney failure, control risk factors for CKD, get tested yearly, make lifestyle changes, take medicine as needed, and see your health care team regularly." So do so, and to protect your health, don't miss these Signs You're Getting One of the "Most Deadly" Cancers.

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