Symptoms of Kidney Problems – Early Signs and Causes

The kidneys filters the blood to remove wastes, balance the electrolytes in the bloodstream and manages fluid volume in the body. If the kidney function is disturbed either by intrinsic or extrinsic factors, certain early signs and symptoms may become evident. With time this can progress to more generalized signs and symptoms as kidney functioning diminishes due to disease progression.

The kidney does not exist in isolation within the body. Other systems impact upon kidney (renal) functioning and the kidneys are also dependent on the rest of the urinary tract to excrete urine efficiently in order to continue with its activities. Any disruption may result in acute renal failure.

Generalized Signs and Symptoms

These signs and symptoms may not always be indicative of a kidney problem and some are more likely to occur over time rather than in the early stages.

  • Edema – swelling in the legs, arms, face, abdomen or throughout the entire body
  • Itchy skin and skin rashes
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Flank or loin pain
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Changes in heart rate
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Metallic taste in the mouth

Causes of Kidney Problems

The causes can be divided into the following categories :


This may indicate a cause outside of the kidney (not the urinary tract) and accounts for 40% to 70% of kidney problems.

Some early signs and symptoms include :

  • Urine output – oliguria, anuria, urinary frequency, polyuria.
  • Concentrated or ‘dilute’ urine.
  • Hematuria – blood in the urine
  • Proteinuria – protein in the urine

Some of the causes include :

  • Hypertension
  • Heart failure
  • Diabetes (insipidus/mellitus)
  • Liver disease (cirrhosis)
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of fluid/blood (shock)
  • Sepsis
  • Renal artery stenosis


This indicates a problem within the kidney itself and accounts for 20% to 50% of kidney problems.

Some early signs and symptoms include :

  • Kidney pain (flank or loin pain)
  • Hematuria
  • Proteinuria
  • Leukocyturia – white blood cells in the urine

Some of the causes include :

  • Muscle breakdown after trauma
  • Blood transfusion
  • Sepsis
  • Recent surgery
  • Shock
  • Autoimmune diseases like SLE (lupus), Goodpasture’s syndrome
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Drugs like NSAIDs, certain antibiotics, diuretics and ACE inhibitors.


This may indicate a problem within theĀ  ureter, bladder or urethra. In men, the prostate gland may also be responsible. This accounts for 10% to 20% of kidney problems.

Some early signs and symptoms include :


  • Hematuria
  • Renal colic
  • Loin pain


  • Hematuria
  • Urinary retention – oliguria/anuria
  • Pain/discomfort (suprapubic)
  • Incontinence
  • Dysuria – painful urination
  • Recurrent UTI’s (urinary tract infections)


  • Hematuria
  • Urinary retention – oliguria/anuria
  • Dysuria – painful urination
  • Recurrent UTI’s (urinary tract infections)

Prostate (Men)

  • Frequent urination or urinary retention
  • Post-micturition dribble, hesitancy, straining
  • Recurrent UTI’s (urinary tract infections)

Some of the causes include :

  • Urinary stones
  • Bladder or prostate tumor
  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s)

Related Article

  1. Urine Problems – Color, Odor, Output, Volume

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