Symptoms and Diagnosis of Chronic Kidney Failure

Chronic kidney failure leads to high blood pressure, tiredness, anemia, and poor appetite. Continue reading to learn what are the symptoms and how doctors diagnose it.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Chronic Kidney Failure
Leonardo Biolatto

Written and verified by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 27 May, 2022

Chronic kidney failure is a gradual process in which these organs stop working properly. You may already know how essential they are as they’re responsible for filtering the blood and excreting waste substances through the urine.

As if that wasn’t enough, they also fulfill hormonal, electrolyte, and metabolic functions. Thus, when the disease progresses and function is irreversibly lost, the situation becomes incompatible with your life if you don’t begin immediate treatment.

This condition is usually asymptomatic in the beginning so reaching a diagnosis can be complex. In today’s article, we’ll explain the symptoms that may appear and how a doctor would diagnose chronic kidney failure.

Symptoms of chronic kidney failure

Chronic kidney failure manifests in many ways and it’s because, as we pointed out above, kidneys fulfill numerous body functions.

Anorexia is one of the most common symptoms and then there’s nausea and vomiting. According to a study published in Revista de Nefrología, these signs are caused by increased urea in the blood. Unfortunately, it can linger even after treatment, increasing the risk of malnutrition.

High blood pressure, fatigue, and trouble sleeping are other common manifestations. There’s general fluid retention when the kidneys stop working and it leads to shortness of breath, leg swelling, and chest pain.

A woman with back pain.
Lack of appetite, anemia, and pain in the lower back are incipient signs of possible kidney failure.

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Electrolyte disturbances

These alterations usually appear when the kidneys are already quite damaged. The electrolytes that are most often affected are baking soda, sodium, and potassium. Potassium tends to rise in the blood, leading to cardiac rhythm disturbances.

Baking soda is essential for regulating the levels of internal acidity in the body. Metabolic acidosis occurs when there’s advanced chronic kidney failure.

Cardiovascular manifestations of chronic renal failure

An article in Anales de Cirugía Cardiaca y Vascular states that kidney failure has similar risk factors as those of cardiovascular disease: being a senior, smoking, and dyslipidemia.

High levels of urea in the blood cause an acceleration of the atherosclerosis process. This consists of the formation of cholesterol plaques in the blood vessels that prevent adequate blood flow. Hence, there’s a higher risk of ischemic heart disease and heart failure, among other problems.

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Hematological abnormalities

Anemia is one of the earliest symptoms of this disease. In fact, this disorder also worsens as chronic kidney failure progresses. It’s caused by a deficiency of erythropoietin, a substance synthesized in the kidneys that stimulate the formation of red blood cells.

Osteomuscular disorders due to chronic renal failure

Renal osteodystrophy refers to all skeletal symptoms secondary to kidney disease. Deformities in some bones, such as fingers, and a higher incidence of fractures are common. In addition, bone tissue pain is present in most patients with this condition.

Hormonal changes

There are alterations of a sexual nature in both men and women. According to Clinica de la Universidad de Navarra, females tend to present menstrual alterations while men have erectile dysfunction and present a decrease in sperm count.

Skin problems

Chronic kidney failure also leads to skin changes. In fact, these symptoms appear as a result of hemodialysis treatment. For example, there may be itching, dryness, changes in the hair. Also, anemia causes pale skin.

A person undergoing hemodialysis.
Hemodialysis could lead to complications; thus, many symptoms come from therapy.

Diagnosis of chronic kidney failure

Symptoms appear when the disease is already advanced. Therefore, it’s important to conduct a series of tests in order to diagnose the early signs of renal insufficiency.

Firstly, doctors may do a blood test that shows creatinine and urea levels. This is because these are two indicators of kidney function. They may also do a urinalysis in order to quantify the expelled volume in a full day.

Imaging tests such as ultrasound or MRI can complement a diagnosis. Kidneys tend to decrease in size, as does the amount of urine excreted. A physician can record this via imaging.

A complex disease

Chronic kidney failure is a complex disease you must treat as efficiently as possible, depending on the available resources. Usually, hemodialysis is the technique of choice but you must keep in mind it influences many aspects of your body.

Similarly, smoking increases the risk posed by this disease and also your chances of both cardiovascular and kidney complications. This is why it’s essential to take it into account.

You must follow the nephrologist’s recommendations in regard to its care and treatment approach. This is because your quality of life depends on these indications as well as in your observance of a specific diet and changes in your lifestyle.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.