Your kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that filter your blood and remove waste from your body. They’re located in your lower back, below your rib cage, on both sides.
Your kidneys are essential for keeping you healthy. If something goes wrong, it can get much worse quickly and is often life-threatening.
That’s why it’s important to be aware of and alert to the warning signs of kidney problems.
Your kidneys filter out waste products by making urine. If your kidneys are not functioning correctly, the waste products will build up in your blood, and you may feel the need to urinate more frequently.
If you’ve been drinking a lot of water or fluids, frequent trips to the bathroom are probably just a result of that. But if you’re not drinking any more fluids than usual and yet you constantly feel the urge to urinate, it could be a sign of kidney damage. This symptom is also common with urinary tract infections.
Foamy or Bloody Urine
If your urine is very foamy, it indicates high amounts of protein in it. Specifically, a protein called albumin. Albumin is also the same protein that is found in eggs, which is why your urine may have a foamy, egg-ish appearance.
If blood is leaking into your urine, something is seriously wrong. It may be a kidney stone, an infection, or possibly even a tumor. Bloody urine may appear reddish or brownish in color.
Swollen Feet or Ankles
If your kidneys are not filtering waste products properly, they will build up in your body and cause you to retain fluid. This may cause your feet or ankles to swell. You might also notice swelling in your face or hands.
If parts of your body have suddenly become bloated or swollen, it’s a good idea to see your doctor.
Your kidneys regulate the level of electrolytes in your body. Electrolytes, such as potassium and sodium, are minerals in your blood that carry electrical impulses between cells.
When your electrolyte levels are out of balance, the nerves that send electrical signals to your muscles may be affected. This can cause muscle cramping or spasms.
If you are experiencing abnormal cramps, twitches, or spasms, this may indicate that your kidneys are not regulating your electrolyte balance the way they are supposed to.
Dry and Itchy Skin
If your kidneys cannot remove waste from your blood properly, it can cause toxins to build up, which may provoke an itchy skin reaction.
More often than not, a patch of dry or itchy skin is just a skin irritation or a sign that you need to moisturize with some lotion. But if the itchiness is felt all over your body or is accompanied by other kidney symptoms, the underlying cause may be related to kidney problems.
Shortness of Breath
Kidney disease can diminish the production of a hormone called erythropoietin, which is responsible for stimulating the production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells.
Low erythropoietin then leads to anemia (low red blood cell count), which can cause shortness of breath. Kidney disease may also cause fluid buildup in or around the lungs, making breathing difficult.
If you are having trouble catching your breath, feeling out of breath for no apparent reason, or feeling tired all the time, check with your doctor. These may be signs of kidney disease.
While each of these symptoms on their own may be associated with a less serious condition, you should still be alert to the possibility of kidney disease if you are experiencing any combination of these symptoms.
If you have any concerns about your health, contact your primary care physician immediately.