Definition and Symptoms of Chronic Kidney Disease

What Is Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)?

Healthy kidneys function to remove extra water and waste, help control blood pressure, keep body chemicals in balance, keep bones strong, tell your body to make red blood cells and help children grow normally. CKD occurs when kidneys are no longer able to clean toxins and waste product from the blood and perform their functions to full capacity. This can happen all of a sudden or over time.

What Is Acute Renal Failure?

"Renal" means related to the kidneys. "Acute" means sudden. So acute renal failure means the kidneys have failed suddenly, often due to a toxin (a drug allergy or poison) or severe blood loss or trauma. Dialysis is used to clean the blood and give the kidneys a rest. If the cause is treated, the kidneys may be able to recover some or all of their function.

What Are the Symptoms of Chronic Kidney Disease?

Knowing the symptoms of kidney disease can help you detect it early enough to get treatment. Symptoms can include the following:

  • Changes in urination — Making more or less urine than usual, feeling pressure when urinating, changes in the color of urine, foamy or bubbly urine or having to get up at night to urinate.
  • Swelling of the feet, ankles, hands or face — Fluid the kidneys can't remove may stay in the tissues.
  • Fatigue or weakness — A buildup of waste or a shortage of red blood cells (anemia) can cause these problems when the kidneys begin to fail.
  • Shortness of breath — Kidney failure is sometimes confused with asthma or heart failure, because fluid can build up in the lungs.
  • Ammonia breath or an ammonia or metal taste in the mouth — Waste buildup in the body can cause bad breath, changes in taste or an aversion to protein foods like meat.
  • Back or side pain — The kidneys are located on either side of the spine, in the back.
  • Itching — Waste buildup in the body can cause severe itching, especially of the legs.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • More hypoglycemic episodes, if diabetic

If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor about your concerns. This is especially important if you have a close family member who has kidney disease, or if you have diabetes or high blood pressure, which are the main causes of kidney failure.

How Can I Find Out If I Have Kidney Disease?

Kidney disease can be found through lab tests or by symptoms. High blood levels of creatinine and urea or high levels of protein in your urine suggest kidney disease. Diabetics should have a yearly urine test for microalbumin, small amounts of protein that don't show up on standard urine protein test.

If I Have Signs of Kidney Disease, What Should I Do?

After you have basic screening tests done, if you have signs of kidney disease, you should ask for a referral to a nephrologist, a specialist in treating kidney disease. A nephrologist will perform an evaluation then suggest medications or lifestyle changes to help slow the progression of kidney disease.

DaVita Culture

Discover DaVita's commitment to improving patient care and becoming the greatest healthcare company the world has ever seen.

View Awards

Find a Dialysis Center

Locate a center near you.

Search Now

DaVita Clinical Research

Leading the charge in clinical research, innovation and operations.

Learn More
Back to Top