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The kidneys work to remove toxins and waste from the blood, help control blood pressure, and produce hormones that regulate blood sugar levels. When your kidney function begins to decline, it can cause severe health problems such as chronic kidney disease (CKD) or even kidney failure.

With chronic kidney disease affecting more than 1 in 7 adults in the US, you or someone you know may likely develop the condition. The good news is that recognizing the early stages of declining kidney function can help you prevent CKD. In addition, making lifestyle changes early on may help you normalize your kidney function and avoid complications. 

Signs and Symptoms of Declining Kidney Function

Kidney disease is often asymptomatic until the disease has progressed significantly. However, there are some telltale signs of declining kidney function that you should be aware of.

Change in Urination Habits

The kidneys are responsible for filtering blood and removing waste products such as urine from the body. One of the first signs that your kidney function is declining is a change in your urination habits. 

This includes:

  • Urinating less than normal
  • Changes in urine color, such as a darkening of the urine
  • Frequent urination at night (nocturia)
  • Pain while urinating
  • Cloudy or blood-tinged urine
  • Smelly urine

If you are experiencing any of these changes in your urination habits, it is important to see a doctor to evaluate your kidney function. Excess protein in your urine (proteinuria) is another sign of declining kidney function. Urine tests can determine if there is excess protein in your urine and whether or not you have normal kidney function.


Declining kidney function may lead to sodium and water retention. Water and sodium may build up in your body when the kidneys cannot filter as usual. This results in swelling, also known as edema. While edema can affect any part of the body, it is most common in your hands, feet, arms, ankles, and legs.

In addition to declining kidney function, edema is also a common symptom of heart failure and liver cirrhosis. If you are experiencing swelling in your extremities, it is important to see a doctor and determine the cause.

Fatigue and Weakness

Feeling tired and weak is another common sign of declining kidney function. When the kidneys are not working as expected, your body becomes less efficient in converting food into energy.

Furthermore, a decrease in kidney function may lead to a build-up of toxins in the blood, causing you to feel weak or tired. You may also have trouble concentrating as a result of toxin build-up. Anemia is linked to a decrease in kidney function and is another cause of fatigue.

Trouble Sleeping

It is normal to have trouble sleeping every once in a while. However, if you are experiencing difficulty sleeping on a nightly basis, it could be an early sign of declining kidney function. Sleeping disorders such as sleep apnea and insomnia are common among CKD patients.

Your kidney function is regulated by the sleep/wake cycle. When your kidneys are not filtering properly, toxins stay in the blood rather than leaving the body through urine. This may disrupt your sleep/wake cycle, making it hard to sleep at night.

Muscle Cramps

Normal kidney function is essential to maintaining normal electrolyte levels. On the other hand, damaged kidneys may cause an electrolyte imbalance. Those with poor kidney function also tend to have low levels of calcium and poorly controlled phosphorus levels.

These abnormalities can lead to muscle cramps, twitches, and spasms. Experiencing frequent muscle cramps may be one of the earliest signs of declining kidney function and should not be ignored.

Shortness of Breath

Having trouble breathing is another sign of declining kidney function. Unfortunately, this symptom is often confused with other conditions such as asthma or allergies and tends to be ignored. However, damaged kidneys may accumulate fluid in the lungs, causing shortness of breath.

Contact Summit Medical Clinic

If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of declining kidney function, it is crucial to seek medical help. Summit Medical Clinic offers comprehensive, advanced nephrology and kidney care.

Our team of specialists offers treatment therapies for a wide range of kidney-related conditions. Request an appointment with Summit Medical Clinic today and find out how we can help normalize your kidney function.

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