20 Warning Signs Your Kidneys Send You

Is it lower back pain? Or something far more serious?

man kidney function back pain

Your kidneys are among the most important organs in your body, responsible for filtering waste, producing red blood cells, and even keeping your bones strong and sturdy. However, despite the vital role they play in keeping us healthy, many of us don't realize signs that they're not living up to their full potential until it's far too late. In other words: it's good to know the warning signs before any issues sideline you. With that in mind, we've compiled the 20 most common (and debilitating) herein. If you're experiencing a few of these with any frequency, get thee to a doctor—stat. And for more great health advice, learn The 10 Secrets for Maximizing Any Doctor's Visit.

Back Pain

man with chronic pain having sex

One of the first symptoms of a kidney health issue people experience is back pain. While your kidneys are actually higher up in your abdomen—closer to your lower ribs—than many people realize, a kidney infection can cause intense pain in your mid-back. In some cases, this pain can extend into the lower back if the infection moves to the bladder, as well. And when you want to get rid of those day-to-day (i.e., not kidney-related) backaches for good, Eliminate Back Pain Forever with These 5 Easy Exercises.

Persistent Fatigue

Tired Business Man

Did you forget your second cup of coffee this morning, or are your kidneys trying to send you a message? When your kidneys aren't properly filtering waste products out of your bloodstream, you'll find yourself feeling fatigued as a result. And if you need an extra kick in the seat, start with the 40 Ways to Have More Energy Over 40.


sleep after 40

That dizzy feeling could stem from you skipping breakfast this morning, but it might also be a signal that your kidneys aren't working at their full capacity. Patients with kidney failure often develop anemia due to a lack of EPO, a hormone generally produced by healthy kidneys that typically triggers the production of red blood cells. Without adequate red blood cells, anemia is more likely to occur, and that'll make anyone feel woozy and out of sorts. And for more great health advice, This Is Why You Should Never Use a Bathroom Hand Dryer.

Brain Fog

Stressed out man

If you're feeling a little mentally fuzzy, your kidneys could be to blame. According to researchers at Temple University, decreased kidney function has a strong correlation with brain fog, so if you feel like you're not firing on all cylinders, it might be worth checking in with your doctor. And if you want to boost your mental acuity, start with the 50 Best Foods for Your Brain.

Severe Itchiness

Itching arm

That dry, itchy skin may be more than just another unpleasant side effect of rapid weather shifts. For many people with kidney health issues, the excessive urea in the bloodstream associated with kidney problems can cause serious itching. Unfortunately, the more advanced your kidney health issues, the more likely you are to suffer itchy skin. In fact, research suggests that up to 40 percent of people with life-threatening kidney disease develop uremic pruritus, or chronic itching. And if you've noticed a sudden change in your skin, make sure it's not one of the 20 Skin Symptoms That Indicate More Serious Health Issues.

Feeling Cold

bad puns

If you find yourself needing a sweater even on a warm day, that may be a sign your kidneys are struggling. The anemia that often plagues those with kidney disease often comes along with a feeling of coldness, particularly in the extremities. And when you want to beat the cold, start with the 12 Genius Ways to Stay Warm This Winter.

Swollen Hands

Hands with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Did your wedding ring fall right off a few days ago, only to be seemingly stuck on your finger today? That might be an indication your kidneys aren't doing their job. If your kidneys aren't properly getting rid of excess fluid in your body, that often manifests as swelling in the hands. Before you head to another doctor's appointment, make sure you're armed with the 20 Surprising Cancer Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore.

Bad Breath

bad breath grooming

When your kidneys aren't on top of their filtering duties, those waste products often show up in unexpected places. Case in point: the bad breath that so often accompanies kidney health issues. 
And when you want to improve your oral health, start with these 20 Secrets for Whiter Teeth After 40.

Frequent Trips to the Bathroom

Toilet with lid up

If you find yourself heading to the restroom with increased frequency, it could be a sign that something is up with your kidneys. "If the kidney filters are damaged, it can cause an urge to urinate, especially at night," says Dr. Renee Matthews, MD. Considering that frequent urination is also associated with a whole host of health issues, including pregnancy and diabetes, this symptom definitely merits a trip to the doctor. If you're waking up frequently, make sure you're not making the problem worse with the 15 Worst Things to Do When You're Awake at Night.

Shortness of Breath

tell people you're working out

That winded feeling you're experiencing just a few minutes into your workout might be the result of a kidney issue. When your kidneys aren't properly filtering and excreting waste products and fluid, shortness of breath can occur, particularly if fluid builds in your lungs. And for when you want to take some healthy changes to your routine, discover the 100 Ways to Live to 100.



If you're experiencing an unsettled feeling in your stomach, it might be more than a questionable Chipotle order. Nausea is a common symptom of chronic kidney disease and may even accompany other kidney health issues, including kidney infections and, in extreme cases, kidney stones.

Abdominal Swelling

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Did your jeans seem to shrink a size overnight? It could be your kidneys giving you the heads up that something's amiss. When your kidneys aren't properly filtering fluid, it can accumulate throughout your body, including your belly, giving it an uncomfortable, distended look.

Weight Loss

weight loss motivation

Weight loss isn't always a positive sign, especially if it's unintentional. The nausea that often comes along with kidney health issues can cause unintentional weight loss in those whose kidneys aren't functioning properly.

Facial Puffiness

best skin

That puffy face could be the result of those salt-rimmed margaritas you had last night, but it could also be the sign of something more serious. If your kidneys aren't ridding your body of an adequate amount of fluid, it can build up in surprising places, causing facial swelling.


Woman passing out

While fainting episodes almost always merit a trip to the doctor, many people don't realize they can be triggered by kidney health issues. High blood pressure and kidney health issues are often interconnected, the former sometimes triggering fainting episodes, and both kidney failure and kidney stones—even independent of high blood pressure—can cause dizziness and fainting, as well.

Foamy Urine


A telltale sign you're dealing with kidney issues? "Your urine has bubbles that won't go away when you flush the toilet," says Dr. Matthews. "This foam is similar to the foam you see when scrambling eggs because the protein found in urine is albumin, which is the same protein that is found in eggs."

A Metallic Taste in Your Mouth

covering mouth spotting a lie

If you have a metallic taste in your mouth, but no identifiable injuries, it could be your kidneys. If your kidneys aren't properly filtering waste products, their accumulation can cause a metallic taste in your mouth and may even make your favorite foods seem less appetizing.

Blood in Your Urine

Bathroom with shower

According to Dr. Matthews, blood in the urine is a common symptom of kidney disease, and may make your urine look red or brown. If you notice blood in your urine, even if you're not experiencing any pain, it's important that you get to a doctor before you're saddled with more serious symptoms.

Swollen Feet

Swollen feet Liver Warning signs

That same fluid build-up that causes swelling in your hands and face may cause the same symptoms in your feet, as well. In fact, finding that your shoes are suddenly too tight is often one of the first symptoms people notice when they're dealing with kidney health issues. And when you want to improve your whole-body health in no time, it's time to learn that This Is the Difference Between a "Cleanse" and a "Detox."

Stomach Pain

Rib pain surprising cancer symptom

Your kidneys are located close to the lower part of your rib cage, so it's no surprise that abdominal pain can be a symptom that they're in distress. Often, the pain caused by kidney health issues can radiate to other parts of your abdomen, so don't be surprised if your discomfort isn't solely in the vicinity of the kidneys themselves. And for more health issues to keep an eye out for, learn the 20 Warning Signs Your Liver Sends You.

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