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Chronic kidney disease

  • Alternative Names

    Kidney failure - chronic; Renal failure - chronic; Chronic renal insufficiency; Chronic kidney failure; Chronic renal failure


    The early symptoms of chronic kidney disease often occur with other illnesses, as well. These symptoms may be the only signs of kidney disease until the condition is more advanced.

    Symptoms may include:

    • General ill feeling and fatigue
    • Generalized itching (pruritus) and dry skin
    • Headaches
    • Weight loss without trying to lose weight
    • Appetite loss
    • Nausea

    Other symptoms that may develop, especially when kidney function has worsened:

    • Abnormally dark or light skin
    • Bone pain
    • Brain and nervous system symptoms
      • Drowsiness and confusion
      • Problems concentrating or thinking
      • Numbness in the hands, feet, or other areas
      • Muscle twitching or cramps
    • Breath odor
    • Easy bruising, bleeding, or blood in the stool
    • Excessive thirst
    • Frequent hiccups
    • Low level of sexual interest and impotence
    • Menstrual periods stop (amenorrhea)
    • Sleep problems, such as insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and obstructive sleep apnea
    • Swelling of the feet and hands (edema)
    • Vomiting, typically in the morning

    Signs and tests

    High blood pressure is almost always present during all stages of chronic kidney disease. A neurologic examination may show signs of nerve damage. The health care provider may hear abnormal heart or lung sounds with a stethoscope.

    A urinalysis may show protein or other changes. These changes may appear 6 months to 10 or more years before symptoms appear.

    Tests that check how well the kidneys are working include:

    • Creatinine levels
    • BUN
    • Creatinine clearance

    Chronic kidney disease changes the results of several other tests. Every patient needs to have the following checked regularly, as often as every 2 - 3 months when kidney disease gets worse:

    • Potassium
    • Sodium
    • Albumin
    • Phosphorous
    • Calcium
    • Cholesterol
    • Magnesium
    • Complete blood count (CBC)
    • Electrolytes

    Causes of chronic kidney disease may be seen on:

    • Abdominal CT scan
    • Abdominal MRI
    • Abdominal ultrasound
    • Renal scan

    This disease may also change the results of the following tests:

    • Erythropoietin
    • PTH
    • Bone density test