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These Symptoms Can Mean You Have Kidney Damage

If you feel any of these symptoms, see a doctor.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Detecting chronic kidney disease is important for early treatment, especially as many people won't recognise the symptoms. "The most common causes of kidney failure in America are diabetes and high blood pressure. Both of those affect the blood vessels in different ways," says nephrologist James Simon, MD. "Diabetes has special effects on the filtering units that are a little different because of the high sugar levels and the things that can happen that way." Here are five symptoms of kidney damage experts want you to know about. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.



Sick woman coughing, experiencing hiccup.

Nausea is one of the most common signs of kidney damage, experts say. "The earliest signs are you may get nauseated especially in the morning, or you have an appetite and you smell food and then it just turns your stomach," says Dr. Simon. "You are actually nauseated all day, a bitter and metallic taste in your mouth. Those are the earliest signs."


Change In Urination

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Changes in urination—and especially blood in the urine—should never be ignored. "There's a common misconception that if you see blood in your urine once and then it goes away that you're in the clear," says Angela B. Smith, MD, Assistant Professor of Urology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill. "But it's important to seek care the very first time you see blood in the urine, so your doctor can confirm that it's there and refer you to a urologist for an evaluation."


Fatigue and Weight Loss

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Unexplained fatigue and weight loss could be signs of kidney cancer. "Kidney cancer, for the most part, is symptomless – but some signs of more advanced cancer can include blood in the urine, pain on one side of your lower back that isn't related to something else, anemia, unintentional weight loss or fatigue," says urologic surgeon Craig Rogers, M.D.


Sleep Issues

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Poor sleep can be a symptom of kidney disease, experts warn. "Kidney function is actually regulated by the sleep-wake cycle," says Dr. Ciaran McMullan of Brigham and Women's Hospital. "We also know that nocturnal patterns can affect chronic kidney disease and that people who sleep less usually have faster kidney function decline."


These Drugs Can Damage Kidneys

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Certain over the counter painkillers can damage kidneys, doctors warn. "So nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, Ibuprofen, Motrin, Aleve, Naproxen, anything you can take over the counter for fever or pain other than Tylenol or Acetaminophen, basically it'll say and say it on the bottle, NSAID. Those can be very harmful to the kidneys if you take them over and over and over again for long periods of time," says Dr. Simon.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan
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