What Are the Signs (Symptoms) of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

In the early stages of chronic kidney disease, there may be no symptoms and patients usually do not feel ill at all.

In later stages, and particularly in end-stage kidney disease, the following may occur:

  • Nausea or vomiting, 
  • Tiredness, 
  • Headaches, 
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss, 
  • Decreased mental sharpness, 
  • Yellowish-brown skin colour, 
  • Unusual itching, and 
  • Sleeping problems

mainly because of the higher amount of waste products in the blood.

Chronic kidney disease may cause fatigue, nausea, headaches, muscle cramps, and itching, among other symptoms.

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  • Swelling (oedema) in hands/face and legs, and 
  • High blood pressure

because the kidneys are excreting less water.

  • Muscle twitches and cramps

because of the altered amount of electrolytes (minerals) in the blood

  • Anaemia (low red blood cell count)

mainly because the kidneys produce less erythropoietin.

because of altered bone metabolism. For example, the kidneys’ ability to produce active vitamin D is decreased, which reduces calcium absorption from the intestines. Other factors also contribute to bone disease.

In renal anaemia the production of new red blood cells is insufficient.

Cardiovascular diseases secondary to chronic kidney disease

Many people with chronic kidney disease develop diseases of the heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular diseases), such as arteriosclerosis of heart vessels (coronary artery disease) and heart failure. The high risk for developing cardiovascular diseases is mainly due to high blood pressure and anaemia. Therefore, treatment of chronic kidney disease aims to reduce these risk factors as well.

Content last updated
  1. National Kidney Foundation http://www.kidney.org/kidneydisease/ckd/index.cfm (last visited 30.03.2010)
  2. Fauci A, Braunwald E, Kasper DL et al.: Harrison´s Principles of Internal Medicine, 17th Edition, 2008