What Are the First Signs of Kidney Disease?

Located below the rib cage on each side of the spine, the kidneys play an essential role in keeping the body healthy. In addition to filtering waste and excess water out of the blood—which helps balance minerals, salts and water within the bloodstream—they also produce hormones that help create red blood cells, control blood pressure and support bone tissue.

Unfortunately, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 in 7 U.S. adults are estimated to have chronic kidney disease, a condition that can impair kidney function and eventually lead to serious complications. What’s more, as many as 9 in 10 adults with chronic kidney disease aren’t aware that they have the illness.

Below, we explore what chronic kidney disease is and how it’s staged. We also discuss common signs of kidney disease—including both early and late kidney disease symptoms—as well as treatment options. Plus, we share where you can turn for kidney disease diagnosis and treatment in Tampa Bay.

What Is Chronic Kidney Disease?

Chronic kidney disease occurs when an underlying condition causes the kidneys to gradually lose their function over time. Some of the conditions that can lead to chronic kidney disease include:

  • Diabetes (type 1 or type 2)
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Interstitial nephritis
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Recurrent pyelonephritis
  • Vesicoureteral reflux

Chronic kidney disease can also develop when the urinary tract is obstructed for an extended period of time (for example, due to kidney stones, a tumor, or an enlarged prostate). It’s important to distinguish chronic kidney disease from an acute kidney injury, which occurs when an illness, injury, or medication causes the kidneys to suddenly fail—while an acute kidney injury is generally reversible, chronic kidney disease is usually irreversible.

How Is Kidney Disease Staged?

Doctors commonly classify chronic kidney disease into one of the following stages based on the results of an estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) test, a type of blood test that measures how well the kidneys are functioning:

  • Stage 1 (eGFR is at least 90) – The kidneys have sustained only mild damage and are working approximately as well as healthy ones would.
  • Stage 2 (eGFR is 60 to 89) – The damage to the kidneys is still minor and the kidneys are still operating relatively well.
  • Stage 3a (eGFR is 45 to 59) – The kidneys have sustained mild to moderate damage and have stopped functioning as well as they should.
  • Stage 3b (eGFR is 30 to 44) – The kidneys are moderately to severely damaged and aren’t working well.
  • Stage 4 (eGFR is 15 to 29) – The kidneys have sustained severe damage and are barely functioning.
  • Stage 5 (eGFR is less than 15) – The kidneys are severely damaged and are close to failing or have completely stopped working.

What Are the First Signs of Kidney Problems?

Because the kidneys still function well during the early stages of chronic kidney disease, stage 1 kidney disease and stage 2 kidney disease typically don’t produce any noticeable symptoms. However, even if early-stage kidney disease isn’t causing symptoms, there may be other signs of kidney damage, such as protein within the urine—for this reason, it’s important to regularly attend medical checkups, especially if you’re at risk for kidney disease.

The first signs of kidney disease often appear once the condition has reached its third stage, which is when the kidney function declines significantly. At this point, many people begin experiencing fatigue, weakness, high blood pressure and swelling within the hands and feet.

What Are the Later Signs of Kidney Disease?

As chronic kidney disease continues to progress, it may also cause:

  • Shortness of breath increased or decreased urination
  • Frothy urine
  • Blood in the urine
  • swelling with or without eye puffiness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle cramping
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Skin dryness and itchiness

Because the first signs of kidney disease typically don’t appear until the condition has reached a more advanced stage, and because early symptoms can easily be mistaken for those of another illness, kidney disease is often diagnosed in its late stages.

What Does Kidney Disease Treatment Involve?

If you think you might have chronic kidney disease, it’s important to promptly seek treatment from an experienced nephrologist (a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions affecting the kidneys). When the kidneys  decline , they can allow waste, electrolytes and fluids to accumulate within the body, potentially leading to serious complications like anemia, heart disease, hyperkalemia, pericarditis, pulmonary edema and seizures. Kidney disease can also weaken bones, increasing the risk of sustaining a fracture.

Because there’s currently no cure for chronic kidney disease, the goal of treatment is usually to manage the condition (i.e., slow its progression, relieve symptoms and prevent complications). For example, depending on the symptoms a patient is experiencing, a doctor may prescribe medication to relieve swelling or lower blood pressure. Many physicians recommend a diet low in protein, since digesting protein produces significant amounts of waste, which the kidneys must then filter from the blood. Once kidney disease has reached its end stages, the patient may require dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Kidney Disease Diagnosis & Treatment in Tampa Bay

If you’re concerned that you might have kidney disease, you can rely on the experienced nephrologists at Florida Medical Clinic for diagnosis and treatment. With offices in North Tampa, Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills, we’re a convenient choice for members of this community. Request an appointment with Dr. Siddiqi online or by calling us at (813) 782-3727.

About Nauman A. Siddiqi, MD

After earning his medical degree from Aga Khan University, Dr. Siddiqi went on to complete an internal medicine residency at the University of Tennessee, as well as a nephrology fellowship at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Dr. Siddiqi is board certified in both internal medicine and nephrology, and his research has been published multiple times in peer-reviewed journals. When Dr. Siddiqi isn’t treating patients, he enjoys reading, cooking, hiking, traveling and spending time with family and friends.



Recommended Articles


Renal (Kidney) Hypertension – What Is It & How It’s Treated

Humberto A. Rovira Alvarado, MD

You may have spoken to your primary care physician or cardiologist about hypertension or high blood pressure. This is because it is one of the most common cardiovascular concerns in the US. Renal hypertension, which is high blood pressure resulting from the narrowing of the arteries feeding the kidneys, is less prevalent and less often […]


What Is Hypertension?

Beverly Deliz-Tirado, MD

Hypertension is more commonly known as high blood pressure. As blood circulates through the body, it presses against the walls of the arteries, exerting pressure on them. A blood pressure reading takes two types of pressure into account: Systolic blood pressure – This is the first number in a blood pressure reading (for example, the […]
Skip to content