What are signs of kidney trouble?

Updated December 15, 2016

Your kidneys are vital organs whose function affects many of the biological processes your life depends on. Kidneys are responsible for removing the waste products and excess water from your blood. They also release hormones that aid in maintaining safe blood pressure and promoting red blood cell production. Kidney damage is a serious problem because damage done to these organs is irreversible. If you are having trouble with your kidneys, there may be no signs at first but over time, some signs will begin to develop.

Changes in Your Urine

Your kidneys are the main component of your urinary system. Their main function is to remove waste products from your blood and use them to create urine. As the biggest byproduct of your kidneys, your urine can hold clues about any trouble brewing there. Hematuria, or blood in your urine, is a common sign of kidney trouble. It means that your kidney's filtering functions are working properly. Blood is being allowed through the system and into your urine. You should also be alert if your urine is darker than usual or cloudy. Smelly urine can also be a sign of kidney trouble.

Fluid Retention

Another often overlooked sign of kidney trouble is oedema, or fluid retention. You may notice that extremities like your legs or arms are swelling more than normal. This is especially true when you have been sitting upright for long periods. This can occur because your kidneys normally remove the excess water from your blood and use it to make urine. When your kidneys don't do this, the water must find somewhere else to go, often settling in your extremities and causing them to swell.


Although anaemia is a relatively harmless condition in itself, it can be sign of larger conditions like kidney trouble. The reason is that healthy kidneys produce hormones that signal the body to make red blood cells. Red bloods carry molecules of oxygen through blood to every part of the body, where cells use the oxygen for even the basest functions. If you having kidney trouble, your kidneys won't do this and you will end up with a low red blood cell count and low oxygen in your blood. This is called anaemia and it causes weakness, fatigue and a loss of energy.


Urea is a waste product that is produced as protein breaks down. Urea is removed from the blood by the kidneys, where it is then used to make urine. When the kidneys don't do that, the urea builds up in the blood, causing uremia. Uremia is very dangerous. Too much urea in your blood is toxic. Over time, it can cause your heart and brain to stop functioning, leading to death.


Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is probably the number one sign of kidney trouble. When you health care provider diagnoses you with hypertension, he will also test your kidneys for functioning troubles. Kidneys release hormones that help regulate your blood pressure and kidney trouble can lead to high blood pressure. Even if your kidneys are not causing the hypertension, your kidneys still depend on a healthy blood pressure to filter your blood. When blood pressure is too high, it can destroy the capillaries in the kidneys, making filtration very hard.

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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.