If you have kidney disease, it’s important to monitor your symptoms. Some symptoms can indicate that your kidney disease may be progressing.

Noticing new or unusual symptoms, tracking the evolution of current symptoms, and sharing that information with your doctor is essential to creating a treatment plan tailored to your individual needs.

If you’re concerned that your kidney disease may be getting worse, here’s everything you need to know about symptoms to look for, secondary conditions to be aware of, and ways to track your symptoms so you can partner with your doctor to effectively manage your condition.

People who have been diagnosed with kidney disease have kidneys that are damaged and don’t filter blood properly, which can have a number of health consequences.

Properly functioning kidneys are important for removing waste, controlling blood pressure, keeping your bones healthy, and regulating blood chemicals.

Kidney disease that becomes progressively worse is known as chronic kidney disease.

Kidney disease has five stages. Stages 1–3, or early stages, mean that your kidneys are still able to filter waste out of your blood. Stages 4–5, or later stages, mean that your kidneys are working harder to filter your blood or may stop working altogether.

Kidney failure, the most serious outcome of kidney disease, occurs when kidneys are only working at 15 percent capacity or lower.

Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, which means people with type 2 diabetes who have also been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease should be extra vigilant about tracking symptoms.

Black and Latinx communities are also at higher risk for chronic kidney disease. Black individuals in particular are three times more likely to have kidney failure when compared to white individuals. One reason for this may be inequities in healthcare.

Kidney disease has also been linked to heart disease. Chronic kidney disease can cause the heart to work harder to get blood to the kidneys, which can lead to the development of heart disease. It can also cause changes in blood pressure.

Worsening kidney disease is associated with a number of symptoms.

Some symptoms may be gradual, while others come on quickly, so it’s important to check in regularly with your doctor to manage your kidney disease, even if you feel fine.

Here’s what to look out for:

  • lower back pain or flank pain
  • fatigue or weakness
  • swelling, especially in your hands or feet, or under your eyes
  • a bad taste in your mouth, or food doesn’t taste good
  • feeling cold
  • poor concentration
  • shortness of breath
  • itching skin
  • cramping in hands and legs
  • nausea and vomiting

These symptoms can be a sign that you may be developing certain secondary conditions as a result of your kidney disease. These conditions can include:


Anemia occurs when your body has a lower number of healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin, which carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.

Symptoms of anemia include fatigue, dizziness, and pale skin.

Mineral and bone disorder

Mineral and bone disorder is when hormone and mineral levels in your body, including calcium and phosphate, become imbalanced.

Symptoms may include pain in your bones and joints, although you may not have noticeable symptoms.

Fluid overload

Fluid overload occurs when your kidneys are not able to help your body maintain the right amount of fluids and there is fluid accumulation in your body.

Symptoms may include swelling, especially in your feet and legs, weight gain, and shortness of breath.

Metabolic acidosis

Metabolic acidosis is when acid builds up in your body because your kidneys are not functioning properly.

Symptoms may include headaches, dizziness, nausea, and loss of appetite.

Be sure to talk with your doctor about any new or worsening symptoms, or if you suspect you are developing a secondary condition as a result of worsening kidney disease.

Symptoms of worsening kidney disease are different for everyone. Your lab test results, including eGFR and urine albumin values, can help identify your stage of kidney disease and track its progression.

Monitoring and tracking your symptoms can help both you and your doctor better manage your kidney disease. If your doctor recommends it, you can monitor your blood pressure at home.

You can also keep track of test results (such as your eGFR and urine albumin values) or other details from doctor visits to monitor your long-term kidney health.

One of the easiest ways to track symptoms is through simple note-taking. You can take notes by hand or use a note app on your smartphone. Be sure to include the date, time, symptoms, severity of symptoms, and anything that might have contributed to them.

You’ll also want to write down what improves symptoms or makes them worse.

Those who prefer not to write can use voice memos to track symptoms. You can use voice recording apps or a handheld voice recorder to log the same information above.

A number of other smartphone apps can also help you track symptoms. A few popular apps to consider are Symple, Teamscope, Symptom Tracker, and CareClinic.

Many smartphone symptom tracking apps will let you share symptoms and reports directly with your doctor. You can also bring any traditional notes or voice memos with you to your appointments.

Tracking your test results is just as important as tracking your symptoms. You’ll want to keep either hard or electronic copies of test results or other reports from all doctor visits, which you can bring with you to your appointments. This can be especially helpful if you’re visiting multiple doctors.

Consider scanning any hard copies of paperwork from doctor visits or test results and storing them in one folder on your computer or cloud drive. If needed, you’ll be able to easily access your records, print additional copies, or email them to a doctor’s office.

While a kidney disease diagnosis may feel overwhelming at times, your doctor can work with you on a plan to manage your condition. This can include a modified diet, exercise, medication, and more, to help alleviate or address any new or worsening symptoms.

Understanding the symptoms of worsening kidney disease can help you better communicate with your doctor. Monitoring and tracking your symptoms can also go a long way toward helping you manage your kidney disease so that you can promptly get treatment when needed.