How to identify the signs, symptoms of kidney disease

Here's what to look out for

HOUSTON – When Elizabeth Dravis suddenly felt tired, she thought nothing of it. It was around the holidays, plus she’s a busy mom. So she thought, who in her shoes wouldn’t be tired?

However, in her case, it was a sign she had kidney disease.

Here’s what she wants others to know:

Minimal Change Disease

Dravis’s diagnosis was Minimal Change Disease, a type of kidney disease that mostly affects children.

“It results in the filter becoming overly leaky to protein and can result, ultimately, in a protein causing damage to the kidney,” said Dr. Donald Molony with UT Health Houston and Memorial Hermann.


Dravis is considered lucky because her illness was able to be treated with medication. Many people don’t get to walk away so easily.

“Sometimes they’re not reversible and lead to kidney failure, requiring treatment with dialysis or kidney transplant,” said Dr. Molony.

Elizabeth is in remission and may never have another episode. However, she wishes there was more importance put on some blood work she had gotten earlier this year that showed abnormal levels. The bloodwork, in conjunction with her fatigue, might have been enough to identify the problem prior to being hospitalized.

“Nephrology is saying, ‘You really should’ve been sent to us sooner because you had some evidence like something was going on here,’” Dravis explained.

Preventing kidney disease

Although Dravis’s case could not be prevented, others can maintain healthy kidneys by keeping diabetes and high blood pressure under control.

“If someone has never had high blood pressure and develops high blood pressure, they need to consider that it may be of a kidney origin,” Dr. Moloney said. “In addition, the routine urinalysis, which can be done in a primary care physician’s office, often will be able to identify the underlying causes of kidney disease and early signs of kidney disease.”

Annual checkups might be able to pick up on small changes, like those found in urine and bloodwork, indicating organs like your kidneys are in distress.

SGLT-2 inhibitors

There are new drugs recently available that might benefit patients who are at risk for kidney disease, according to Dr. Moloney, and can reduce kidney failure by up to 80%.

Listen here for who should consider using them: