Millions of people are living with kidney disease without realising that something is wrong. But how do you know if you have an underlying condition and what are the signs that something is wrong with your kidneys? In this guide, we’ll point out the most common symptoms to watch out for and the causes of kidney problems.
Signs to watch out for
The most common signs that could be an indication that something is wrong with your kidneys are:
- Feeling tired and lethargic more often than normal, due to a build-up of toxins and impurities in the blood that will leave you feeling like you have no energy. This build-up can also reduce the number of red blood cells which will leave you feeling weak, having difficulties concentrating and increasing tiredness.
- Changes to your urine frequency and quantity
- Blood in your urine, such as brown-coloured urine, due to the damage to the filters in the kidneys
- Frothy or foamy urine, which can be caused by an infection in the kidneys or an issue with albumin being filtered out of the urine (which is a protein that can signify kidney damage)
- A puffy face and swollen ankles, which is due to a loss of proteins in the body and occurs overnight while you’re asleep and then dissipates during the day
- Difficulty sleeping, including restless leg syndrome and sleep apnoea
- Dry and itchy skin, which is due to the imbalance of nutrients in the body caused by a build-up of toxins
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle cramps
If you notice that you are suffering from any of these symptoms, it’s important to speak to your doctor and get checked as soon as possible. Some kidney issues can be early signs of chronic kidney disease which can get worse over time, so getting checked early is key to resolving the issue.
What causes kidney diseases and problems?
Kidney issues can be caused by numerous things, from lifestyle factors to genetic conditions. Even ethnicity plays a part, with some ethnicities more prone to kidney problems, including Hispanic, African American and Asian American people. Some of the most common causes of poor kidney health include:
- High blood pressure
- Age (people over 60 years old have an increased risk)
- A family history of kidney disease and hereditary diseases such as polycystic kidney disease
- Glomerulonephritis, which is an inflammatory disease affecting small blood vessels in the kidneys
- Enlarged prostate
- Kidney stones
How to prevent kidney diseases
There are ways you can minimise your risk of developing kidney disease and other kidney-related problems.
A healthy diet that is rich in nutrients is one of the best ways to prevent kidney failure. Foods which are rich in fat and high in salt (such as junk food, preserved foods and ready meals) are bad for your health and can put a lot of strain on your kidneys over time. It’s also important to stay hydrated each day by drinking plenty of water and non-sugary drinks to help flush out toxins from the kidneys.
Along with a healthy diet, you should prioritise exercising for at least 30 minutes five times per week to help regulate your blood sugar levels, maintain healthy blood pressure and keep your weight at a healthy level. Avoid alcohol and smoking, as these can damage various organs, not just your kidneys.
If you notice that you’ve developed signs of a urinary tract infection (UTI), then you should seek out treatment quickly. These are often neglected and can develop into urinary tract stones and kidney damage in the long-term.
You should also avoid self-medicating and supplements without proper guidance from a medical professional. Many over the counter supplements and painkillers can put a lot of stress on the kidneys, so it’s always advised that you check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medication.
A routine check-up with your GP can also help to prevent kidney problems from developing. Kidney issues often appear later on after other symptoms have been ignored for a long period of time, making the issue much worse and more difficult to treat.