Symptoms and signs of chronic renal failure


Because the kidneys play such an important role in ensuring the optimal function of the body’s cells, every organ in the body is affected when they fail. However, the body can function even if the kidneys are not working optimally or if there is only one kidney.

CRF develops over varying periods of time e.g. days, weeks to years. Symptoms appear late in the course of the disease and are often non-specific like increased fatigue and lethargy. Early symptoms can include:

• insomnia (sleep problems) 
• increased urination at night 

Symptoms of advanced kidney failure include: 

shortness of breath with exertion 
nausea  and vomiting 
loss of appetite 
skin that may become itchy, pale or yellow 
As renal failure worsens, confusion and seizures can occur.

Reviewed and revised by Professor A M Meyers, MBBCh, FCP (SA), Cert Nephrology (SA), FRCP (London), Donald Gordon Medical Centre, Klerksdorp Hospital, and National Kidney Foundation of South Africa, March 2015.

Originally written by Dr K. Coetzee, reviewed by Dr R. Moosa, Tygerberg Academic Hospital

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