Patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) frequently experience unpleasant symptoms. These can be gastrointestinal (constipation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea), psychological (anxiety and sadness), neurological (lightheadedness, headache and numbness), cardiopulmonary (shortness of breath and oedema), dermatological (pruritus and dry skin), painful (muscle cramps, chest pain and abdominal pain) or involve sexual dysfunction, sleep disorders and fatigue. These symptoms often occur in clusters, with one of them as the lead symptom and others as secondary symptoms. Uraemic toxins (also called uremic toxins) are often considered to be the main cause of CKD-associated symptom burden, but treatment of uraemia by dialysis often fails to resolve them and can engender additional symptoms. Indeed, symptoms can be exacerbated by comorbid conditions, pharmacotherapies, lifestyle and dietary regimens, kidney replacement therapy and ageing. Patients with kidney disease, including those who depend on dialysis or transplantation, should feel actively supported in their symptom management through the identification and targeting of unpleasant symptoms via a tailored palliative care approach. Such an approach may help minimize the burden and consequences of kidney disease, and lead to improved patient outcomes including health-related quality of life and better life participation.
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