As far as vital organs go, it’s safe to say that the average person knows far more about their heart, brain, lungs, or stomach than they do about their kidneys. But knowing exactly what your kidneys do to keep your body healthy — and learning which signs and symptoms may indicate that they’re not working as well as they should — is often the best way to identify kidney disease in its earliest, most treatable stage.
Situated toward the back of your upper abdominal cavity, your kidneys are primarily responsible for filtering extra water and waste products out of your blood, so it can be excreted from your body through urine.
Although these fist-sized, bean-shaped organs are strong and efficient when they’re healthy, they’re also susceptible to damage — particularly when they’re consistently subjected to the effects of uncontrolled diabetes, high blood pressure, or some other condition that impairs kidney function.
If your kidneys sustain too much damage over time, they’re no longer able to filter your blood properly. This chronic and progressive condition, commonly known as chronic kidney disease, affects more than 30 million adults in the United States, many of whom won’t even know they have it until it’s either very advanced or leads to kidney failure.
Although getting tested for kidney disease is the only way to know for sure if you have it, knowing how to recognize its early symptoms may be exactly what prompts you to get tested in the first place.
Dr. W. Cooper Buschemeyer at the Stone Relief Center in Woodlands, Texas, offers the following 8 signs to look out for.
When kidney function declines, your blood contains higher concentrations of toxins and other impurities. In addition to sapping your energy levels, this toxic buildup can make it harder to concentrate and leave you feeling weaker and less resilient than normal.
Besides filtering waste materials and extra fluid from your blood, your kidneys also play an important role in maintaining the right balance of minerals in your blood and keeping your bones healthy.
Dry, itchy skin can be a side effect of the mineral and bone disease that often occurs with chronic kidney disease when your kidneys are no longer able to keep sodium, potassium, calcium, and other important minerals in your blood properly balanced.
You may think you have a urinary tract infection if you feel the need to urinate more often than you used to, but an increased urge to go to the bathroom — especially at night — can also be a sign of chronic kidney disease.
Although blood in your urine can be caused by a variety of underlying health problems ranging from bladder cancer to kidney stones, it’s also a common sign of chronic kidney disease. Because damaged kidney filters can’t always properly separate blood cells from waste material, these “leaked” blood cells can wind up in your urine.
If you notice excessive amounts of bubbles, froth, or foam in the toilet after you go to the bathroom, you may have high concentrations of protein in your urine.
While removing extra fluids and wastes from your blood, healthy kidneys allow proteins and other important nutrients to return to your bloodstream. Damaged kidneys, on the other hand, are more likely to let some protein escape through your urine.
Frothy urine isn’t the only symptom of protein leakage related to kidney disease. If your kidneys are allowing large amounts of protein to escape through your urine, you may also begin to experience persistent puffiness around your eyes.
Although chronic swelling in your calves, ankles, or feet can be an indication of other serious problems, such as heart disease or liver disease, poor kidney function can also cause an imbalance of sodium in your blood that leads to persistent swelling in your hands or feet.
Because your kidneys help balance the minerals in your blood — many of which also function as electrolytes — chronic kidney disease can lead to electrolyte imbalances that hinder muscle function and contribute to cramping.
Remember, your risk of developing chronic kidney disease increases if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, a family history of kidney failure, or if you’re past the age of 60.
If you have any of these risk factors, particularly if you’re experiencing any of the common signs and symptoms of kidney disease, give us a call at 281-674-8021. You can also use our online booking tool to request an appointment.
The sooner you know you have chronic kidney disease, the sooner you can take steps to protect your kidneys and prevent further damage.