The kidneys are two of the smallest organs in the body, yet they perform one of the biggest physiological jobs: removing waste products and excess fluid from the body. They are located on either side of the spine at the lowest level of the ribcage. Each kidney contains a million functioning units called nephrons, which are in charge of filtering the blood, according to the body’s needs.
Healthy kidney function highly depends on what we eat, how much exercise we get, and what our daily habits are. However, one of the key factors in maintaining kidney health is recognizing the signs of ill-functioning kidneys.
Changes in Urine
This is one of the first signs that your kidneys may be in danger. Because kidneys are in charge of removing and filtering waste products that result in urine, paying attention to your pee is important.
- Pressure while urinating
- Foam in your urine
- Bloody urine
- Dark urine followed by less frequent urination in small amounts
- Pale urine followed by frequent urination in large amounts
When the kidneys start to become overwhelmed, they fail to remove the extra fluid that is meant to be flushed from the body. This fluid then builds up, causing swelling in the legs, ankles, face, feet and/or hands.
The kidneys produce a hormone called erythropoietin, which aids in the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. When your kidneys are malfunctioning, red blood cell production decreases, making it harder for other cells to obtain oxygen. This causes you to experience overall weakness and extreme fatigue.
Shortness of Breath
Being short of breath can be related to the kidneys in two ways. First, the shortage of oxygen-carrying red blood cells can leave your body without enough capacity to breathe. Second, when malfunctioning kidneys worsen, the extra fluid in the body can build up in the lungs, causing shortness of breath after very little exertion.
Metallic Taste in the Mouth (Ammonia Breath)
Sometimes the body can become so overloaded with toxins that you can literally taste them. Kidney failure increases the level of urea in the blood. This urea is broken down to ammonia in the saliva, causing urine-like bad breath, also called ammonia breath. This is typically associated with an unpleasant metallic taste in the mouth.
Albeit being one of the most common signs of kidney disease, back pain tends to be mistaken for other less harmful circumstances. However, kidney pain is more specifically felt in the area on either side of the spine between the bottom of your ribcage and your hips. It is usually sharp if you have a kidney stone, and a dull ache if you have an infection.
Always keep in mind that listening to your body and tending to its needs is one of the most effective ways to stay healthy.