Chronic kidney disease : Symptoms & Signs, Diagnosis & Tests

Symptoms & Signs

The early symptoms of chronic kidney disease often occur with other illnesses, as well. These symptoms may be the only signs of kidney disease until the condition is more advanced.

Symptoms may include:

  • General ill feeling and fatigue
  • Generalized itching (pruritus) and dry skin
  • Headaches
  • Weight loss without trying to lose weight
  • Appetite loss
  • Nausea

Other symptoms that may develop, especially when kidney function has worsened:

  • Abnormally dark or light skin
  • Bone pain
  • Brain and nervous system symptoms
    • Drowsiness and confusion
    • Problems concentrating or thinking
    • Numbness in the hands, feet, or other areas
    • Muscle twitching or cramps
  • Breath odor
  • Easy bruising, bleeding, or blood in the stool
  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent hiccups
  • Low level of sexual interest and impotence
  • Menstrual periods stop (amenorrhea)
  • Sleep problems, such as insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and obstructive sleep apnea
  • Swelling of the feet and hands (edema)
  • Vomiting, typically in the morning

Diagnosis & Tests

High blood pressure is almost always present during all stages of chronic kidney disease. A neurologic examination may show signs of nerve damage. The health care provider may hear abnormal heart or lung sounds with a stethoscope.

A urinalysis may show protein or other changes. These changes may appear 6 months to 10 or more years before symptoms appear.

Tests that check how well the kidneys are working include:

  • Creatinine levels
  • BUN
  • Creatinine clearance

Chronic kidney disease changes the results of several other tests. Every patient needs to have the following checked regularly, as often as every 2 – 3 months when kidney disease gets worse:

  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Albumin
  • Phosphorous
  • Calcium
  • Cholesterol
  • Magnesium
  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Electrolytes

Causes of chronic kidney disease may be seen on:

  • Abdominal CT scan
  • Abdominal MRI
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Renal scan

This disease may also change the results of the following tests:

  • Erythropoietin
  • PTH
  • Bone density test


Review Date : 8/12/2009
Reviewed By : Parul Patel, MD, Private practice specializing in Nephrology and Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation, Affiliated with California Medical Center, Department of Transplantation, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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