The prevalence, severity, and clinical significance of physical and emotional symptoms in patients who are on maintenance hemodialysis remain incompletely characterized. This study sought to assess symptoms and their relationship to quality of life and depression. The recently developed Dialysis Symptom Index was used to assess the presence and the severity of 30 symptoms. The Illness Effects Questionnaire and Beck Depression Inventory were used to evaluate quality of life and depression, respectively. Correlations among symptom burden, symptom severity, quality of life, and depression were assessed using Spearman correlation coefficient. A total of 162 patients from three dialysis units were enrolled. Mean age was 62 y, 48% were black, 62% were men, and 48% had diabetes. The median number of symptoms was 9.0 (interquartile range 6 to 13). Dry skin, fatigue, itching, and bone/joint pain each were reported by > or =50% of patients. Seven additional symptoms were reported by >33% of patients. Sixteen individual symptoms were described as being more than "somewhat bothersome." Overall symptom burden and severity each were correlated directly with impaired quality of life and depression. In multivariable analyses adjusting for demographic and clinical variables including depression, associations between symptoms and quality of life remained robust. Physical and emotional symptoms are prevalent, can be severe, and are correlated directly with impaired quality of life and depression in maintenance hemodialysis patients. Incorporating a standard assessment of symptoms into the care provided to maintenance hemodialysis patients may provide a means to improve quality of life in this patient population.