Kidney School™—a program of Medical Education Institute, Inc.

Module 1—Kidneys: How They Work, How They Fail, What You Can Do


When a person reaches ESRD, both kidneys have stopped or almost stopped doing their jobs. The body fills up with extra fluid and wastes that should be filtered out. This is called uremia. If you learn the signs of uremia, you'll be better able to watch for them and alert your doctor. Those signs include:

  1. Head – headaches, fatigue, and fuzzy thinking can be caused by uremia.
  2. Mouth – food may taste bad or like metal, causing a loss of appetite.
  3. Lungs – shortness of breath can be caused by a build-up of fluid in the lungs or by anemia.
  4. Stomach – loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting can occur if uremia is very severe.
  5. Bladder – less (or no) urine may be produced. Some people still make urine, but it is mostly fluid—the wastes are not removed.
  6. Hands – swelling can be caused by fluid build-up.
  7. Feet – swelling can be caused by fluid build-up.
  8. Skin – build-up of uremic wastes can cause severe itching.
  9. Blood vessels – high blood pressure can occur, because the failing kidneys no longer keep blood pressure at normal levels.

Page 7 of 21 | Further reading