Sadly, more than 26 million people suffer from kidney disease in our country, and the number is only expected to grow. Chances are you’re suffering from some sort of kidney issue, too. Even worse, your kidneys might be in trouble without you realizing it.
Because not all kidney disease symptoms are super obvious, you should take a closer look at the signs your kidneys are sending you. Your body’s “master chemists” perform many important tasks, so keeping them in tip-top shape is essential for proper overall health.
However, two of the most important tasks your kidneys perform are filtering your blood in order to remove any waste and excess fluids and controlling your blood pressure by producing the right amount of hormones.
According to a spokesperson for the American Society of Nephrology, Joel Topf, MD, most kidney issues are “invisible.” Luckily, people could find out if they have any kidney issues through a simple urine screening test. But until then, it’s best to check out the following kidney disease symptoms and signs.
Did you know that approximately one million people end up in emergency rooms due to kidney stones? When someone has high levels of some minerals in the urine, kidney stores can form. It can form in one kidney or both of them.
The Medical Director and Chair of Emergency Medicine at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois, Douglas Propp, MD, says that the pain coming from your kidneys is often described as excruciating. He also added that while some patients can easily pass their kidney stones without medical help, others don’t.
If the pain is really unbearable, talk to your doctor, especially when you can’t remove your kidney stones by yourself.
Blood in your urine
No one wants to experience this, but it happens more often than you think. Blood in your urine can be caused by many kidney diseases, including kidney stones and kidney infections. According to the director of interventional nephrology at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Anil Agarwal, MD, the color of your urine is an important marker.
As soon as you spot that something’s wrong, call your doctor, especially when referring to blood in the urine. As a matter of fact, any change in your urine’s color or overall appearance should scare you. While there are certain foods, like asparagus, and some medications that could change the color and smell of your urine when consumed, in most cases, it’s something else.
The urge to pee frequently
Because one of the main tasks your kidneys have is producing urine, frequent or infrequent trips to the bathroom can be signs of kidney disease. In most cases, patients with kidney disease have a false urge to pee. However, this doesn’t mean that it can’t happen the other way around.
Pain when peeing
Another pretty common sign of kidney issues is experiencing pain when urinating. This could happen when someone has a kidney infection, a type of urinary tract infection. According to a urologist, Charles Modlin, MD, MBA, kidney infection means that bacteria invade the lining of the bladder and kidneys.
When left untreated, bacteria can also go into the tissues and nerve endings of your urinary tract. That’s why you’re experiencing pain when nature calls.
Smelling an unusual stench when peeing? If yes, it could also be a kidney infection. Smelly urine is actually the first, and also the most obvious, sign of a kidney infection. Dr. Modlin adds that smelly urine is basically the fermentation of the bacteria. Still, it’s not a good idea to panic.
Strong-smelling urine can also mean you’re dehydrated. Make sure you’re probably hydrated, and if you’re still noticing strong-smelling urine, head to the doctor’s office.
Pus in the urine
Nicole Ali, MD, a nephrologist at NYU Langone, says that, in severe cases, kidney infection could lead to pus in the urine. This happens due to a buildup of bacteria and white blood cells. If you also notice pus in your urine, note that you have a pretty bad infection. As soon as you spot it, head to the doctor.
In general, bladder infections don’t cause fever, but experiencing a high fever could mean that the infection got to your kidneys. Certain types of kidney stones can also lead to infections and, therefore, fevers. When your kidneys can’t do their jobs properly due to various reasons, such as an infection, a fever can appear.
If you think that your kidneys are in trouble, and you also experience fever, it’s time to head to the doctor.
Men with a kidney infection can experience pain in the groin, the area of the hip between the stomach and thigh. Dr. Modlin notes that the pain felt in the groin usually radiates to other body parts. If you experience groin pain, do not hesitate and call your doctor immediately.
Your smoking habit
Sadly, most kidney cancers are the result of smoking. Smoking has only negative effects on our bodies and overall health, and some smokers aren’t even aware of the possible health issues that come with this bad habit.
Jason Abel, MD, urologic surgeon and member of the UW Carbone Cancer Center, says that due to smoking, the risk of developing kidney cancer increases exponentially. In other words, if you want to lower your odds of developing kidney cancer (not just kidney cancer, but a wide range of health problems), get rid of this habit.
Subtle side pain
Like most cancers, kidney cancer can be subtle, too. In fact, Dr. Abel says that most of his kidney cancer patients experience subtle side effects in the early stages. In the beginning, this type of pain can come and go, but if you’re constantly feeling subtle side pain, see your doctor as soon as possible.
Your blood pressure
We’ve already mentioned that one of the main tasks your kidneys perform is managing your blood pressure, so when they aren’t in their best possible shape, it may come as no surprise that your risk of high blood pressure increases, making you more prone to heart disease.
A professor of Biomedical Sciences in the Cedars-Sinai Division of General Internal Medicine and Department of Biomedical Sciences in Los Angeles, Deborah Clegg, Ph.D., explains how this is possible. She says that uncontrolled high blood pressure reduces and constricts blood flow.
The saddest part? Approximately half of Americans have high blood pressure, and most of them don’t even know it.
Improper sodium and potassium balance
Because sodium is regulated by your body’s “master chemists,” helping you control fluid balance, people should be aware of their salt intake. But it’s not just that. Keeping a good balance between your sodium and potassium intake is equally essential.
In general, diets high in salt have a tendency to be pretty low in potassium; therefore, they may lead to an imbalance; and the only ones that have to suffer are your kidneys. Doctors say that people with heart failure, high blood pressure, and impaired kidney function should be cautious of their salt and potassium intakes.
For instance, way too much potassium in a patient’s diet could lead to hyperkalemia. If neglected, it can increase the patient’s risk for abnormal heart rhythms. In severe cases, hyperkalemia can even lead to death.
Obesity is America’s biggest health concern. More than 4 in 10 Americans are obese, and maybe that’s why kidney disease is so common among us. Kidney disease is often associated with obesity. Dr. Clegg says that being overweight puts you at risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes.
This means that you’re also more susceptible to kidney disease. Fortunately, losing weight can minimize your risk. If you spot a bigger number on the scale, it’s time to move.
You don’t eat enough veggies
A diet super low in fruits and veggies and high in animal proteins means trouble for your kidneys. The National Kidney Foundation recommends following a plant-based diet like the DASH diet. The DASH diet is abundant in fiber, low in salt, high in many essential nutrients, and low in saturated fats.
As a general rule, plant-based diets such as the DASH diet are super beneficial for your kidneys. Even though you don’t plan to follow a diet, in particular, it is a good idea to add more tasty fruits and green veggies into your diet. Besides, veggies are super versatile; you can include them at any meal of the day.
You eat a lot of sugar
Sugar consumption also harms your kidneys’ health. This is particularly true for people with poorly managed diabetes. Excessive amounts of sugar consumed on a regular basis can destroy the small blood vessels in your body, including those your kidneys need to do their job.
Jaime Uribarri, MD, the Director of the Home Dialysis Program at The Mount Sinai Hospital, and Professor of Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, says to reduce your sugar intake immediately, especially if you deal with diabetes.
Ahh, and when you’re craving something sweet, it’s best to make a diabetic-friendly dessert in the comfort of your own home, as most sweets available on the shelves of most grocery stores and supermarkets are filled with lots of sugar.
Lack of energy
Feeling tired all the time? If a granola bar didn’t help or a good night’s sleep didn’t help either, maybe your kidneys are in trouble. Fatigue is a symptom of many health issues, including kidney disease. When your kidneys are affected, you could experience anemia, which, of course, leads to chronic fatigue.
However, if tiredness is not accompanied by other symptoms such as dizziness, feeling cold, or being out of breath, you shouldn’t rush to make any conclusions. While the decline in kidney function is tied to your decreased energy levels, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your lack of energy is rooted in a kidney issue.
Maybe you have another underlying condition. It’s best to discuss the symptoms you experience with your doctor and make sure you don’t miss any of them.
This book has some great recipes that are recommended for healthy kidneys.
You should also check out: Top 10 Strangest Side Effects Alcohol Can Give You
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