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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Symptoms

Symptoms of end-stage renal disease include:

  • Weight loss

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • General malaise

  • Fatigue

  • Headache

  • Hiccups

  • Itching

  • Decreased urination

  • Easy bruising or bleeding

  • Lethargy

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Seizures

Symptoms may remain mild or absent until kidney function drops to less than 20% of normal.

Dialysis is urgent when one or more of the following occurs:

  • Inflammation of the covering of the heart

  • Fluid overload or congestive heart failure (CHF) that cannot be managed with medications. In CHF, fluid backs up into the lungs, legs and other parts of the body.

  • Dangerous elevations of potassium, sodium or acids in the blood. These substances can affect how other organs function.

  • Confusion, decreased alertness or seizures

  • Bleeding related to kidney failure that cannot be improved through other means

  • Severe, unrelenting nausea and vomiting

Dialysis may also be necessary if symptoms affect quality of life or nutritional status. This is especially true if they are accompanied by severely abnormal blood tests.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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