Kidney failure symptoms
Depending on the stage and severity of the disease, we may encounter the following signs and symptoms:
- Hypertension and cardiovascular disease: This is probably the most important manifestation of kidney failure. Hypertension is prevalent in these patients because the kidneys regulate blood pressure in healthy individuals. The blood pressure of these patients is alarmingly high and difficult to lower using traditional methods. Moreover, they have a higher risk of heart attack, heart failure, sudden cardiac death, and arrhythmia. This manifestation is more common in chronic kidney failure and more severe in later stages of the disease. Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in advanced kidney failure. Thus, it is imperative to keep a careful watch on your heart and circulation.
- Edema: It features a volume increase clearly visible through the skin, usually located in the feet and legs due to liquid retention. Edema has two leading causes. One of them has to do with the renal function of elimination. When the kidneys are not active, and the urine output is very low, more liquid stays in the blood, causing hypertension and edema. Additionally, in some types of kidney failure, there’s a massive loss of protein in the urine. Albumin is an important protein in the blood that prevents water from leaking out of the blood vessels. Low albumin levels due to proteinuria (urine loss of protein) cause fluid leakage from the blood vessels to the interstitial space. On the outside, it looks like swelling of the legs, abdomen, and other parts of the body.
- Fatigue: As noted above, the kidneys clear the blood from toxins building up. Not dealing with them appropriately will make them build up in different tissues, including the brain. Urea buildup in the brain triggers an inflammatory pathway, changes in neurotransmitter levels, and much more. Patients may also feel muscle weakness because toxins are also building up in the muscle tissue.
- Cognitive impairments: As noted above, patients with kidney disease build up different toxins in the brain. Many brain structures are affected by this, including the hippocampus, an important area for cognitive function. These patients have progressive cognitive loss, and this is usually mistaken with dementia in older adults. Cognitive impairment symptoms include memory loss, learning problems, and mental fog.
- Encephalopathy: It is known as uremic encephalopathy because urea buildup is usually the cause. It features a more advanced cognitive impairment and usually happens in patients with acute kidney failure. It is not as common in chronic kidney failure but may still occur as a complication. These patients have a marked memory deficit, and in later stages of the disease, they may have personality changes, obnubilation, seizures, and coma.
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal symptoms: There’s a wide range of gastrointestinal symptoms in patients with kidney failure. They may experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Other symptoms of the advanced gastrointestinal disease include peptic ulcer disease, diverticulosis, and gastrointestinal hemorrhages.
- Dry skin and other skin changes: The skin often becomes very dry and scaly in patients with advanced kidney failure. It cracks easily and feels very tight. Another symptom of advanced disease is itchy skin that spreads to most parts of the body. You may also experience color changes in the skin when toxins keep building up. The skin may adopt a yellowish tone, a grayish hue, or a very pale color. Some patients may even develop blisters in their hands, feet, and face. They break over time, become dried, and get replaced with a crust and sometimes a scar. Besides skin changes, these patients may also develop pale nails, white bands across the nails, and other noticeable changes.
- Bleeding episodes: The platelet function in your blood is also affected by kidney failure. Platelets are responsible for blood clotting, which is fundamental to stop bleeding episodes. Thus, patients may develop easy bleeding through skin lesions in the gums and deep inside the gastrointestinal system.