Kidney disease rarely shows any warning signs in the early stages. It must be at a relatively advanced stage before any of the below symptoms appear. The earliest warning sign for kidney problems is an abnormal level of creatinine or urea in the blood. A basic metabolic panel (BMP), which is a blood test often ordered as part of a routine physical exam, will detect any abnormalities in the levels of these two chemicals.

Other than blood test results, there are a number of physical symptoms that can indicate kidney disease.

Problems with Urination

Kidney function is closely tied to urine production. Abnormalities include urinating more or less frequently than normal, especially at night; experiencing pain or burning while urinating; seeing a decrease in the amount of urine; or having cloudy, foamy, or oddly colored urine.

Find other potential causes of increase urination and decreased urination. 

Blood in the Urine

Blood in the urine is also known as hematuria. This can be a sign of several problems and should be investigated immediately by your primary care doctor.

Learn about other causes of blood in the urine


The kidneys remove excess fluid from the blood, so when they aren't functioning properly, that fluid builds up in the body. This causes swelling in the ankles, legs, feet, hands, and face. Swelling can also occur in the lungs, which can cause shortness of breath.

Find out more about potential causes of swelling.

Back Pain

Kidney pain is felt in the back or sides, usually in the middle of the back just below the rib cage.

Learn about more possible causes of backpain.

Skin Rash or Itch

The buildup of waste products in the blood can cause a skin reaction, resulting in rashes or severe itching.

Find out what else might be causing your skin rash.


A secondary function of the kidneys is helping to make red blood cells that carry oxygen all around the body. A decrease in red blood cells is called anemia, which causes tiredness, decreased stamina, and sometimes dizziness or memory problems.

Learn about other possible causes of fatigue.