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RISK FACTORS & SYMPTOMS OF KIDNEY DISEASE? Minimize

Are you at increased risk? Take the test at Check my Kidneys>

Approximately 1.7 million Australians (1 in 10) aged 18 years and over have indicators of chronic kidney disease (CKD) such as reduced kidney function and/or the presence of albumin in the urine.

Knowing the risk factors for CKD and asking your GP for a kidney health check can help detect chronic kidney disease early, and improve long term outcomes. 

You are at increased risk of chronic kidney disease if you:

  • are 60 years or older
  • have diabetes
  • have a family history of kidney disease
  • have established heart problems (heart failure or heart attack) and/or have had a stroke
  • have high blood pressure
  • are obese - Body Mass Index (BMI) - more than or equal to 30 
  • are a smoker
  • are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin

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WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF KIDNEY DISEASE?

There are no warning signs for CKD and individuals can lose up to 90% of their kidney function before they feel any symptoms - and by then it's too late.

The symptoms of reduced kidney function may include:

  • high blood pressure
  • changes in the amount and number of times urine is passed, e.g. at night
  • changes in the appearance of urine
  • blood in the urine
  • puffiness e.g. legs and ankles
  • pain in the kidney area
  • tiredness
  • loss of appetite
  • difficulty sleeping
  • headaches
  • lack of concentration
  • itching
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea and vomiting
  • bad breath and a metallic taste in the mouth

These symptoms may worsen gradually as kidney function declines. However, the symptoms are very general and may be caused by other illness. If you are you are at increased risk of kidney disease, as explained above, or are experiencing many of these symptoms, ask your doctor for a kidney health check

WHAT ARE THE STAGES OF KIDNEY FAILURE - WHAT DO THEY MEAN?

These images represent different stages used by doctors to determine the severity of chronic kidney disease:


Image taken from Kidney Stories - for Indigenous Australians - presented with graphics made available by NT Renal Services

Early stages of kidney failure - small amount of kidney damage, although GFR may be normal

  • Often there are no symptoms in the early stages of kidney disease, blood tests can be normal.
  • There may be scarring and blockages that change blood flow to parts of the kidney so they don't work as well as they should.
  • There is an increased risk of heart disease. You doctor can help you reduce your risk of heart disease.

Middle stages of kidney failure - sometimes discovered because level of waste product in the blood rises

  • Some people begin to feel unwell and notice an increase in urine frequency.
  • Blood pressure can rise as the kidneys slow down. High blood pressure further increases the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
  • Early signs of bone disease may be present.
  • Anaemia may appear, caused when there are not enough red blood cells in the blood to carry oxygen around the body. Symptoms include weakness, fatigue and a shortness of breath.

Later stages of kidney failure

  • High blood pressure almost always occurs.
  • You may start to notice changes in the amount of urine you pass.
  • Lack of energy, increased tiredness and reduced appetite are common symptoms.
  • You may need to make dietary changes, including limiting the use of salt or reducing the amount of potassium or phosphorus in your diet.

End-Stage Kidney Disease (ESKD)

  • The kidneys are only functioning at 10-15 per cent of their capacity and are unable to properly filter waste products, remove extra water from the body and help maintain the blood's chemical balance.
  • This is the time to consider commencing dialysis or having a kidney transplant.

Adjusting to kidney failure is more difficult for some people than others, even with time to prepare for it. When there is no time to prepare, the sudden impact makes dealing with kidney failure much harder.

Useful reading: Kidney Disease: Are You 1 In 3? A Good Medicine advertorial

External resources: Your Health, Your Choices - Online Tools and Calculators NHS - UK


Updated 21 May 2014
Disclaimer: Information provided is intended as an introduction to this topic and not meant to substitute for your doctor's or health professional's advice. All care is taken to ensure this information is relevant and applicable to each Australian state. Kidney Health Australia recognises each person's experience is individual and variations do occur in treatment and management due to personal circumstances. Consult a healthcare professional for specific treatment recommendations.
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  The material contained on this site does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for information purposes only. Published by Kidney Health Australia. Privacy Policy. For information about website content please contact the National Communications Manager.

© 2008 Kidney Health Australia

Last updated: Jul 2014.