10 signs that something’s not quite right with your kidneys

The human body is a highly complex and sensitive system, which is maintained by the proper functioning of its organs. Kidneys, for example, are responsible for filtering about 120 to 150 quarts of blood to produce about 1 to 2 quarts of urine, composed of waste and extra fluid. 

As long as you are feeling fine, you don't usually worry about how your organs are actually functioning, but what if, for example, your kidneys are no longer doing their job properly? What messages would your body send you to let you know this is the case? 


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There are some typical warning signs you should pay attention to, especially if two or three occur at the same time. We have listed them below and if you feel concerned about any of these symptoms, you shouldn't hesitate to consult your doctor. It's always better to be safe than sorry.

1. Dry and itchy skin


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Rashes and dry, itchy skin can be rather unpleasant and annoying. If you can rule out atopic dermatitis and allergies towards your laundry washing powder, then your kidneys may be the culprit. As already mentioned, kidneys that function properly remove waste and extra fluid from the blood but they also produce red blood cells and ensure the right balance of minerals and nutrients in the body. However, if the kidneys are no longer working reliably, these toxins will not be excreted and will instead collect in the skin making it feel itchy and irritable. If symptoms persist, you should drink plenty of water and consult your physician. 

2. Swelling in the joints

If you experience swelling in your joints, it may be caused by malfunctioning kidneys — especially if your feet and hands swell up. When your kidneys fail to work properly, they don't manage to remove extra fluid from the body, resulting in sodium retention. This is in turn causes swelling in the joints. 

3. Trouble sleeping

When something is not quite right with your kidneys, toxins are no longer filtered out of the blood and therefore remain in the body. The higher the level of toxins in the blood, the harder it is to fall asleep. People who suffer from chronic kidney problems may also experience respiratory failure for up to one minute at a time. 

4. Fatigue and exhaustion

Not only can a lack of sleep cause fatigue and exhaustion; a malfunctioning kidney doesn't produce enough red blood cells. This in turn results in a lack of oxygen being carried to the organs, which ultimately means fatigue in the muscles and brain. Healthy kidneys convert vitamin D in our bodies into the hormone erythropoietin, which is responsible, among other things, for the formation of red blood cells. If the kidneys are unable to metabolize enough vitamin D, this leads to a lack of oxygen in the body. 

5. High blood pressure



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A poor diet and lack of exercise are among the most common causes of high blood pressure. What some people might not be aware of is that impaired kidney function can also be responsible for an increase in blood pressure. If the kidneys can't remove toxins from the blood, the blood cells can become brittle. It is then important to eat foods high in folic acid to prevent anemia. 

6. Changes in urine

The kidneys are responsible for the production of urine, which then gets excreted by the bladder. If you notice any changes to the color of your urine or feel you have to pee more frequently than usual, this may indicate a problem with your kidneys, in addition to a bladder infection. The most common symptoms you should look out for are blood in the urine, frequent urination (especially at night) and foamy urine. Regardless of whether it is a bladder infection or a damaged kidney, a doctor should be consulted in any case. 

7. Bad breath


A further symptom, which is often perceived as harmless, if not a bit annoying, is having bad breath. When waste builds up in the blood, this can leave a metallic taste in your mouth. If it is also accompanied by a loss of appetite, and weight loss, you should talk to your doctor. 

8. Puffy eyes


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An early indicator that your kidneys' filter system is damaged is the onset of protein in the urine. And if you've not just had a rough night or suffered some kind of allergy recently, puffy eyes can be explained by the fact that your kidneys are excreting too many proteins into the urine rather than keeping it distributed around the body, including in your head and around your eyes. 

9. Back pain

Back pain is a widespread condition that can result from poor posture, lack of exercise, sitting too long, or carrying objects that are too heavy. However, if the pain is deep and below the rib cage and occurs along with nausea, vomiting and fever, a kidney problem could be behind it. If painkillers don't help and the condition worsens, you should definitely consult your doctor. 

10. Shortness of breath

Kidneys that are not properly functioning can often cause shortness of breath, especially after little effort. This is mainly due to the reduced number of blood cells, which are responsible for the oxygen supply. Another factor may be extra fluid in the body which moves to the lungs when the kidneys stop working well. 

What may seem like harmless, everyday symptoms may in fact indicate something more serious. When in doubt, always seek medical assistance to treat the symptoms but more importantly, the causes. 


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