modern-family actress Sarah Hyland has lived with kidney dysplasia her whole life—even undergoing a kidney transplant at 21 (which her body unfortunately rejected). “Twenty-seven years of almost always being in pain… I don’t think I’ve gone more than one or two years without being hospitalized,” Hyland says. “I don’t like to victimize myself. I don’t like other people to victimize me…I had almost 27 years of putting on a show, whether it was on Broadway or in my family living room.” Here are six signs you have kidney problems, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Poor sleep may be connected to kidney problems, doctors say. “Kidney function is actually regulated by the sleep-wake cycle,” says Dr. Ciaran McMullan of Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “We also know that nocturnal patterns can affect chronic kidney disease and that people who sleep less usually have faster kidney function decline.”
One study showed that 70% of patients diagnosed with kidney disease experienced fatigue. “For kidney disease patients, feeling tired and fatigued isn’t usually just about lack of sleep or a busy schedule,” says the American Association of Kidney Patients. “Instead, it can be a sign of anemia, a condition in which your body is not making enough healthy red blood cells. Frequently, people with kidney problems develop a type of anemia called iron deficiency anemia.1Iron deficiency anemia is caused by having too much little iron in your body.”
Blood in the urine should never be ignored. “There’s a common misconception that if you see blood in your urine once and then it goes away that you’re in the clear,” says Angela B. Smith, MD, Assistant Professor of Urology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill. “But it’s important to seek care the very first time you see blood in the urine, so your doctor can confirm that it’s there and refer you to a urologist for an evaluation.”
Nausea and vomiting can be symptoms of kidney problems, according to experts. “Nausea and vomiting is very common in kidney patients and has many causes,” says the National Kidney Foundation. “These causes include the build up of uremic toxins, medications, gastroparesis, ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease, gallbladder disease and many many more. You should be evaluated by your physician and once you have a specific diagnosis, then specific treatment can be prescribed. “
Dry, itchy, scaly skin could be a sign of kidney disease, experts warn. “Itching is very common. It affects around half of people with advanced kidney disease and almost everyone with kidney failure who is receiving dialysis or conservative care,” says Kidney Care UK. “You may find that you get itchier as your kidney function gets worse.”
“Kidney disease is often silent, but if you notice symptoms, such as swelling in the legs, fatigue, urinating frequently or at night, bubbly looking urine or suffer from unrelenting headaches, contact your primary care physician,” says Anita Patel, MD, a kidney disease specialist at Henry Ford Health. If you are worried about these symptoms (or any others) don’t hesitate to speak to a health professional and share your concerns. And to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more