Signs & Symptoms Of Kidney Failure

symptoms of kidney failure

In people with chronic kidney disease, kidney failure may occur gradually. In case of acute kidney failure, the function of the kidney deteriorates at a faster rate. Recognizing the symptoms of kidney failure can help you to seek prompt medical intervention.

Symptoms Of Kidney Failure

Fluid Retention

Fluid retention is the most common symptom of kidney failure. In most cases, people with chronic kidney disease suspect kidney failure when they notice generalized swelling. Fluid retention also pushes up the blood pressure level. It also leads to shortness of breath. Often people with chronic kidney disease associate kidney failure with reduction in urine production. However, it has been observed that at the early stage of kidney failure, there is rarely any noticeable change in the urine output. Even a mild electrolyte imbalance is sufficient to trigger fluid retention in people suffering from kidney failure. Therefore, any sign of tissue swelling should not be ignored by people diagnosed with kidney problems. The excess fluid may be transported to the lungs, leading to congestive heart failure.

Generalized Weakness

Fatigue, poor memory, concentration problems and sleeping difficulties are common symptoms of kidney failure. These signs of kidney failure are related to anemia that occurs when the kidney cannot support the production of red blood cells. The kidneys produce the hormone erythropoietin that stimulates the bone marrows to manufacture red blood cells. When there are insufficient red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body, you become exhausted even after mild physical activities. Moreover, low oxygen level in the blood encourages anaerobic metabolism, which raises the level of toxic substances in the body. The diseased kidney cannot eliminate the toxins from the body, worsening fatigue.

Elevated Urea Level

The reduced ability of the kidney to excrete metabolic wastes increases the urea levels in the blood. The condition, known as uremia, affects the functioning of the brain, heart and muscles. The abnormal brain function or encephalopathy leads to confusion, changes in the personality and memory loss. Excess urea circulating in the blood may swell the heart lining. Too much urea in the blood also reduces muscle function. A blood test helps to ascertain the urea level in the blood.

High Potassium Level

Hyperkalemia or elevated potassium level in the blood is another common symptom of kidney failure. Loss of kidney function prevents excretion of potassium from the body. Potassium accumulating in the blood affects the heart rhythm. Hyperkalemia may lead to fatal arrhythmia such as ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia.


Excess acidity is a sign of kidney failure. Kidney failure reduces the ability of the kidney to produce bicarbonates that help to balance the acid-base balance of the body. As the kidneys cannot lower the acid load in the body, the lungs try to reduce the acidity by increasing exhalation of carbon dioxide. This leads to rapid breathing.


People with kidney failure may experience itching all over the body. Accumulation of phosphorous and calcium triggers itching. Itching may also occur due to the toxins irritating the nerves in the skin.

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