What Are the Signs of Kidney Damage?

Updated December 15, 2016

Your kidneys, a major component of your urinary system, are delicate organs that can be damaged by any number of conditions. Kidney disease is often called a silent killer because it can be asymptomatic as it slowly worsens. By the time the signs become apparent, it can often be too late to prevent major kidney damage. However, if you respond to the symptoms as soon as possible, you may be able to save your kidneys from total renal failure.


Although it can be hard to pinpoint, lethargy is an important sign of kidney disease. When your kidneys are not functioning properly, they can send a ripple effect through your entire system. You may feel generally ill but have no real reason to feel that way. You may experience a lack of appetite or have no interest in food. Unexplained fatigue is another symptom of kidney disease.

High Blood Pressure

One of the more important functions of the kidneys is to aid in regulating blood pressure because blood pressure is one of the tools in the filtering of your blood. High blood pressure, or hypertension, can be a sign that your kidneys are not functioning properly. Although high blood pressure can be a symptom of any number of diseases and conditions, it is often the first sign of kidney disease and your health-care provider will almost always start to monitor your kidneys as soon as he diagnoses you with hypertension.


Your kidneys release hormones that promote the production of red blood cells. Red blood cells are important because these are the cells that carry oxygen in your blood to the various organs in your body. If your kidneys are diseased, your red blood cell count will decrease. When there are not enough red blood cells in your blood, your cells will not have enough oxygen to function, causing anaemia. Anemia can make you feel tired and weak. In severe cases, it can cause heart palpitations, angina and even heart failure.

Metabolic Acidosis

Another sign of kidney disease is metabolic acidosis. Metabolic acidosis is an increase in the acidity of your body. This is brought on when you body cannot manufacture bicarbonate in your kidneys, causing your blood to have a low or acid pH. pH is very important for your organ function, and even just little change in pH can cause great damage. In worst-case scenarios, metabolic acidosis can lead serious conditions, including organ failure, coma and death.


Uremia, a condition where too much of the waste product urea is present in your blood, is another sign of kidney disease. Your kidneys are responsible for filtering wastes like urea out of your blood. It then mixes excess urine and urea together to form urine, which is excreted from the body. Uremia can negatively affect heart, brain and muscle functions too.


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About the Author

Michaele Curtis began writing professionally in 2001. As a freelance writer for the Centers for Disease Control, Nationwide Insurance and AT&T Interactive, her work has appeared in "Insurance Today," "Mobiles and PDAs" and "Curve Magazine." Curtis holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from Louisiana State University.