Kidney Disease: Learn the Symptoms

This coming week (August 11–15) is Kidney Disease Awareness and Education Week, which is sponsored each year by the American Nephrology Nurses’ Association (ANNA). The purpose of the week is to raise awareness about kidney disease, treatment options, and related legislative issues among policymakers as well as the general public. How much do you know about your risk for kidney disease?


Twenty-six million Americans have chronic kidney disease, and another 20 million are at increased risk of developing it. According to the National Kidney Foundation (, many people do not have symptoms of kidney disease until the disease is advanced. However, the following can be signs of kidney disease:

  • Feeling more tired than usual/having less energy
  • Trouble concentrating
  • A poor appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Muscle cramping at night
  • Swollen feet and ankles
  • Puffiness around your eyes, especially in the morning
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Needing to urinate more often, especially at night

People who have diabetes are at increased risk of developing kidney disease and should be screened annually for it, starting at diagnosis for people with Type 2 diabetes and after five years of living with diabetes for people with Type 1. Other factors that raise a person’s risk of developing kidney disease are high blood pressure, a family history of kidney disease, and being a member of certain ethnic or racial groups, including African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and American Indians.

If you are at high risk for kidney disease or think that you may be experiencing symptoms, talk to your doctor about getting screened. And to learn more about steps you can take to prevent and manage kidney disease, check out our article “Protecting Your Kidneys.” You can also get more information about Kidney Disease Awareness and Education Week at

Going beyond next week, the company Fresenius Medical Care, which specializes in dialysis, is offering free “Treatment Options Program” (TOP) sessions around the country. These sessions, which are geared toward people who have kidney disease or are at risk for it and their families, offer information about managing kidney disease and treatments such as dialysis and transplantation. You can look for an upcoming TOP session in your state here.

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  • anne

    It seems to me that this list of possible symptoms for kidney disease is a fairly general one, and cannot specifically address ONLY kidney problems. I mean, you can urinate at night more frequently because you have prostrate problems or urinary tract infection, or just because you drank more fluids than usual! I’m not trying to be negative, but isn’t there more specific things we as diabetics can know as far as signs leading to this problem, like are the blood sugars affected by it; is there any pain associated with it; what is the chain of progression after your kidneys quit working? These are some of the questions I have after almost 50 years of Type 1 diabetes. I get screened several times a year, but I still wonder about how I would know if I was having problems.

  • Tara Dairman, Web Editor

    These are good points, Anne. Kidney disease can be very hard to detect early, which is why regular screening is so important–it sounds like you are doing a great job there.

    The article “Protecting Your Kidneys” (linked above) delves into what happens “behind the scenes” in different stages of kidney disease–it may shed light on some of your questions.

  • Robert J. Reed

    The article was most helpful, offering solutions and hopefulness.

  • franciscadejesus

    when ears gets red and hot for no reason could it be kidney troubles.? I feel fine but a friend told it could be kidney desease ……thanks

  • Tara Dairman, Web Editor

    Hi franciscadejesus,

    It’s hard to say what may be causing your ears to get red and hot. It could be related to high blood pressure, which can be linked to kidney disease, but the only way to know for sure is to be checked out by your health-care provider.

  • GrannyPat

    To hear that Anne and anyone else who has had diabetes for many, many years gives me relief in knowing that diabetics do live long lives. Just learned I have kidney problems now and this has me running really scared. Received my first Aransep injection and I hope this treatment will work for my anemia. If it does, then perhaps I won’t be so tired all the time. Would like to hear how anyone else has improved while on Aransep. The insulin pump has helped some with improving my glucose levels, but I still spike after meals to mid 200’s. This does not seem right. I aim for 45 gr. carbs with each meal. Is that too many carbs?

  • Cyn

    An FDA advisory panel just recommended yesterday that the warning label for Covidien’s Optimark and GE’s Omnisca—drugs in the family of medications known as gadolinium-based contrast agents (DBCAs)—be updated to restrict their use in patients with severe kidney disease because of the potential for an increased risk of nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF). NSF causes thickening of the skin and organs. GBCAs carry a strong “black box” warning. This site has good information on this issue:

  • Diane

    This is my first time I got diabetic deases. I am worried too much I can’t eat what I usually eat all the time. I don’t eat and then I get diazzy, I took the pill but the sugar are still uncontrol. I know I do need help, I don’t want to die yet.

  • Lindsay Aristo

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