Signs and symptoms of kidney disease may include foamy urine, fatigue, and swelling. Most people are unaware of the disease in its early stages.

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that play a crucial role in maintaining good health. Their main function is to filter out extra fluid, wastes, and toxins from your blood.

Kidney disease occurs when the kidneys are damaged and unable to filter blood properly. This gradually causes a buildup of fluid and toxic waste in the body, which can lead to health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

In its early stages, kidney disease typically does not cause any symptoms. Without early diagnosis or treatment, kidney disease may worsen, leading to symptoms like foamy urine, swelling, and fatigue.

In this article, we explain the early and later symptoms of kidney disease and when to get medical help.

People with early stage kidney disease usually have no symptoms. In fact, as many as 9 in 10 U.S. adults with chronic kidney disease (CKD) do not know they have the condition.

During the early stages of kidney disease, the kidneys can still function enough to keep you feeling healthy.

As kidney disease progresses from early to later stages, the following symptoms may occur.

Foamy urine

One of the earliest symptoms of kidney disease is protein that leaks into the urine. This is called proteinuria.

Signs of proteinuria include persistent foam or bubbles in the urine. The foamy urine may have several layers of small to medium bubbles that take multiple flushes to clear from a toilet bowl.

This is different from normal urine, which may have a single layer of large bubbles that quickly dissipate.

Frequent urination at night

Excess fluid buildup may cause excessive urination at night. This condition is called nocturia.

Waking up frequently during the night may also disrupt your sleep, leading to insomnia and fatigue.


When the kidneys aren’t able to clear extra fluid and waste from the body, you may experience swelling, or edema. The swelling may occur in the legs, feet, or ankles, and less commonly in the hands or face.

Along with swelling, some people have muscle cramps.


Kidney disease may cause you to feel tired and weak. You may also have difficulty concentrating.

A related complication of kidney disease is anemia, which can also cause weakness and fatigue.

Itchy skin

In addition to filtering your blood, the kidneys support bone health and proper mineral levels in your blood. Itchy skin may be a sign of mineral and bone disease related to advanced kidney disease.

Bone or joint pain

People with advanced kidney disease may experience bone or joint pain. The kidneys are responsible for filtering and maintaining certain minerals and hormones important for bone health.

Shortness of breath

Some people with more severe symptoms of kidney disease experience shortness of breath, also called dyspnea. This may occur during physical activity and interfere with daily activities.

In advanced stages of kidney disease, symptoms may include:

  • chest pain
  • dry skin
  • itching
  • numbness
  • feeling tired easily
  • shortness of breath
  • muscle cramps
  • worsening swelling
  • difficulty concentrating
  • loss of appetite
  • changes in taste and smell
  • sleep problems
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • weight loss

People with CKD can also develop other conditions, such as anemia, bone disease, and malnutrition.

Contact a doctor or other healthcare professional if you have persistent or worrying symptoms that you suspect may be related to kidney disease. These can include:

  • unintentional weight loss
  • poor appetite
  • swelling in the ankles, feet, or hands
  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue
  • frequent urination

In some cases, other medical conditions can cause symptoms of kidney disease. A doctor can evaluate your symptoms and health to determine the underlying cause.

Most often, kidney disease develops from conditions that strain the kidneys. It can also occur from a combination of different health problems.

Common causes of kidney disease include:

Doctors can diagnose kidney disease with blood and urine tests. These tests check for atypical levels of substances in your blood and urine that signal your kidneys aren’t functioning properly.

A doctor may also monitor your blood pressure or order additional tests to check for kidney problems, such as:

In many cases, kidney disease is diagnosed during a routine blood or urine test for another health problem.

People at high risk of developing kidney disease, such as those with diabetes or high blood pressure, may need to have regular tests for kidney disease. Regular monitoring helps ensure the disease is found at an early stage.

There is no cure for kidney disease, but treatment can help manage symptoms, improve underlying disease, and prevent it from worsening.

Treatment for kidney disease depends on the severity of your condition.

Treatment options include:

  • lifestyle strategies, such as regular exercise or not smoking
  • diet changes, such as reducing fat, salt, protein, and potassium
  • supplements, such as iron, calcium, and vitamin D
  • medications to manage associated conditions like high blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • dialysis
  • kidney transplant

It’s recommended to discuss any dietary changes, medications, or supplements with your doctor.

Learn more about treatments for kidney disease.

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about the symptoms of kidney disease.

What can cause damage to your kidneys?

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of kidney disease. Other causes of kidney damage include:

  • cigarette smoking
  • long-term use of NSAIDs
  • a diet high in salt
  • drinking large amounts of soft drinks
  • genetic conditions
  • infections
  • autoimmune conditions

How do you know if something’s wrong with your kidneys?

One of the earliest symptoms of kidney disease is protein that leaks into the urine. This may cause your urine to appear persistently foamy with multiple layers of small to medium bubbles.

Other symptoms can include fatigue, itchy skin, and swelling. The best way to know if there’s anything wrong with your kidneys is to contact a doctor. They can order tests to look for signs of kidney damage.

What is the best thing to drink and eat for your kidneys?

To support kidney health, choose foods that are healthy for your heart and entire body. This includes a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat or fat-free dairy products, and small portions of protein-rich foods.

Avoid or limit foods with added sugars, and limit daily sodium consumption as well as alcohol intake. People with CKD can work with a registered dietitian to create a meal plan that supports their kidney health and well-being.

During the early stages of kidney disease, most people do not experience any symptoms.

As the disease progresses, you may experience foamy urine, fatigue, swelling, or dry, itchy skin.

If you’re concerned you may have symptoms of kidney disease, speak with a doctor. They can order tests to check the health of your kidneys and diagnose any underlying conditions.