CRF Signs and Symptoms

Chronic renal failure (CRF), or kidney failure, usually produces symptoms when kidney function—measured as the glomerular filtration rate (GFR)—falls below 30 milliliters per minute (< 30 mL/min). This is approximately 30 percent of the normal value.

When the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) slows to below 30 mL/min, signs of uremia (high blood level of protein by-products, such as urea) may become noticeable. When the GFR falls below 15 mL/min most people become increasingly symptomatic.

Uremic symptoms can affect every organ system, most noticeably the following:

  • Neurological system–cognitive impairment, personality change, asterixis (motor disturbance that affects groups of muscles), seizures (rare)
  • Gastrointestinal system–nausea, vomiting, food distaste (often described as bland, metallic, "like cardboard")
  • Blood-forming system–anemia due to erythropoetin deficiency, easy bruising and bleeding due to abnormal platelets
  • Pulmonary system–fluid in the lungs, with breathing difficulties
  • Cardiovascular system –chest pain due to inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart (pericarditis) and pericardial effusion (fluid accumulation around the heart)
  • Skin –generalized itching

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 30 Apr 2001

Last Modified: 04 Sep 2015