10 Kidney Failure Symptoms Most People Will Miss!

Today we are discussing kidney failure symptoms and the signs of chronic kidney disease. Whether you realize it or not, you know of many people who are living with kidney disease, including Selena Gomez, Nick Cannon, Tracy Morgan, and George Lopez. Over 37 million Americans are living with kidney disease and many of them don't even know it. If you had symptoms of kidney failure, wouldn't you want to know? Well, today we are discussing 10 symptoms of kidney failure.

I'm Dr. Frita. I'm a triple board-certified medical doctor and I practice nephrology at Emory University Hospital Midtown. I'm also the medical director of a dialysis unit with DCI here in Atlanta. As a nephrologist, I diagnose and treat kidney failure. And I often find that many of my patients whom I diagnose had no idea of the kidney failure symptoms. Many of them were also unaware that they were even at risk for kidney failure.

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Causes Of Kidney Failure

The top two causes of kidney failure in this country are number one, diabetes, and number two, high blood pressure. Patients with lupus are also at high risk for kidney failure. And I want you to please watch my YouTube videos on diabetes and on lupus. For many of my patients, their kidney failure could have been prevented had they known the symptoms of kidney failure and had they known the risk factors.


Question: how many of you have been diagnosed with kidney disease and you were shocked because you did not know the symptoms and you did not know the risk factors? Please comment down below.


10 Kidney Failure Symptoms

1. Fatigue

A symptom of kidney failure can be fatigue or being excessively tired even when you've had good sleep. There are many reasons that you can be fatigued. Anemia is one of them or low blood count. And you can also be fatigued if you have a shortness of breath, especially if you have a fluid overload in your lungs related to kidney failure.

2. Insomnia

Insomnia, or not getting enough sleep, is another potential symptom of kidney failure. Again, there are many reasons that this could be: chemical imbalances, or electrolyte imbalances related to renal failure. If you are a person who is having difficulty sleeping, insomnia could be a symptom of kidney failure.


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3. Itchy Skin or Pruritus

There are certain electrolytes like phosphorous which are typically cleared by the kidneys.  If you have an elevated phosphorous level, which often happens later in the stages of kidney disease, then it could cause you to have itching skin.

4. Urinating Frequently

If you are a person who is urinating more and more frequently, especially if you're getting up in the middle of the night to use the restroom, this could be a symptom of kidney failure. There are many reasons. One, as the kidneys start to get worse, you don't concentrate your urine as well and so you may urinate more frequently. And there are other reasons that you could have urinary frequency outside of kidney disease alone, such as diabetes or an enlarged prostate or if you have a urinary tract infection. You may get a certain urgency and feel like you have to urinate frequently. At any rate, if you are urinating frequently, check with your physician because this could be a symptom of kidney failure.

5. Bubbly or Foamy Urine

If you urinate in the toilet and it looks very bubbly or foamy as if you've just poured a beer or something then this could also be a symptom of kidney failure. When patients have protein in the urine, if they're leaking protein in the urine, this could give that bubbly appearance of the urine in the toilet. Protein leakage is not normal and it is a sign of kidney failure. So pay attention to your urine. If it's looking foamy, this could be a symptom of kidney failure.


kidney failure symptoms


6. Leg or Ankle Swelling

Patients with kidney failure can get swelling in the ankles and legs for different reasons. It could be an issue with the way they're filtering their sodium. Also, if they have kidney failure then they can be retaining more fluid. Now, there are other things that can cause swelling of the ankles and legs as well. But if you're having ankle swelling, be sure to see your physician because this could be a symptom of kidney failure.

Question: Have you ever had leg or ankle swelling and you got a diagnosis for it? Please comment down below and let me know the reason. Was it kidney failure? Was it a blood clot? Was it heart failure? Was it poor circulation? Please comment.


7. Loss of Appetite or a Decreased Appetite

In the later stages of kidney failure, you could lose your appetite due to the elevated toxins that are not being filtered out by the kidneys. It can cause food to have a bad taste in your mouth or you just don't want to eat anything and you start to have weight loss.  So if you have an unintentional weight loss or a loss of an appetite, this could be a symptom of kidney failure.

8. Nausea and Vomiting

Of course, there are many, many reasons that a person could be nauseated but kidney failure is certainly one of them. So if you are having nausea and vomiting and you don't know why, see your physician because this could also be a symptom of kidney failure.

9. A Bad Taste in your Mouth or Bad Breath

In the later stages of kidney failure, you can get a metallic taste in your mouth, something that causes just about all food to just taste bad. It doesn't taste right. You may also notice a metallic smell of your breath or even an ammonia-like smell of your breath. So if you have a bad or metallic taste in your mouth or a changing way that your breath smells, be careful. See your doctor. This could be a sign of kidney failure.

10. Tremor or The Shakes

A tremor can be a symptom of kidney failure. When you have elevated toxins or poisons in the body that the kidneys are not filtering out properly, these toxins can be poisonous to your nerves and they can cause you to tremor or have the shakes. They can also cause you to have an abnormal gait or to walk in an unsteady fashion. You may even start falling more frequently.



These are just some of the kidney failure symptoms. There are many, many more, including memory loss. Oh and there's one important symptom of kidney failure, no symptom. Early on in kidney disease, you may have no symptoms at all. That is why it is so important that you see your primary care physician, ask to be screened for kidney disease, and find out what your risk factors are.  You want to stay healthy. Another way to stay healthy is to download my free PDF, 10 Healthy Habits For A Better You And A Better Life. This is a healthy habits checklist that I use personally. It works for me and I believe that it will work for you too. If you have not done so already, be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel and be sure to click the notification button so you'll always know when I publish a new video.   Also, follow me on Instagram @dr.frita. Do your best to live your healthiest, happiest life.

Dr. Frita - Frita McRae Fisher, M.D.
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  1. Dr. David Greene on March 23, 2021 at 2:21 am

    Thank you for sharing these symptoms and this is the knowledge will lead individuals to get a treatment before it gets serious.

  2. Lisa Przybysz on July 20, 2021 at 8:43 pm

    Thank you, Dr.Frita.

  3. James Jerry Kato on February 1, 2022 at 6:02 am

    Thank you for sharing this amazing piece Dr. Frita. I have been having this Tremor lately so I decided to go online and see the causes.
    Please I will appreciate if there any thing I can do to stop that. Thank you.
    James Jerry, Nigeria.

  4. Alicia M. on June 12, 2022 at 7:48 pm

    I appreciate the information. Did not know some of these.

  5. Sindy on December 3, 2022 at 8:04 am

    Thank you for sharing such vital information.

  6. kyla.belden@yahoo.com on February 7, 2023 at 7:16 am

    How intense are the tremors? I cannot stop shaking!!!

  7. Mayieps on February 20, 2023 at 5:20 pm

    I was admitted in hospital almost 2years ago because of kidney failure and I experienced all those symptoms + hiccups + spitting. I came across this article because I was wondering why I was always shivering. I would shake the whole time. One time an elderly nurse thought I was cold and she brought a heater to try and stop the shivering. It ended though and I’m much better now, my creatinine has dropped drastically..

  8. Martha on March 7, 2023 at 5:34 pm

    Dr. Frita. My husband started having shakes at his dialysis treatment on 2/27/23. He also had them through the night. We went to ER and told about the shakes. They knew he was a dialysis patient. They did tests which were EEG and MRI. The doctors did not come up with any solutions or reasons. I don’t think they conferred with Nephrology.

  9. mj on September 14, 2023 at 2:28 pm

    Ive been having tremors for over 2 years my kidneys are painful to the touch. Ive been very tired even though Ive slept well.

  10. Latricia on September 17, 2023 at 10:27 pm

    I’m just now starting to have the shakes..I’m experiencing all these symptoms..I’m diabetic and a little over a year ago suddenly started having severe hbp and was diagnosed with chronic on acute diastolic heart failure which in turn lead to my ckd..the drs thought my kidneys would recover after my chf episode but they never did..now I’m looking to get a kidney transplant..all of this is so scary and new and I’m relatively young..I wish the drs would have listened to me all those times I kept going to the er complaining and I don’t think I would be in this situation.

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