Don't let kidney disease sneak up
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) refers to reduced kidney function that stretches over three months or longer. It usually doesn’t cause noticeable signs or symptoms in its early stages. In fact, most people diagnosed with CKD are already at stage 3 out of 5 stages, and already have moderately reduced kidney function.
Still, in the early to middle stages of the disease, an evaluation by a kidney doctor may reveal an underlying problem that, if corrected, may restore kidney function. Sometimes, lost kidney function can’t be restored, and steps can be taken to protect remaining kidney function and maintain a relatively normal life and lifespan. Only the final stage — stage 5 or end-stage kidney disease — forces treatment options such as dialysis or transplant.
Early detection is the key to avoid having serious problems sneak up on you. If you have a personal or family history of diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney disease, it’s important to have your kidney function checked regularly. Some doctors also recommend checking kidney function if you are or have been a smoker, are obese, have a family history of sickle cell disease, take medications that might affect your kidneys or are older than 60.
Testing for CKD is typically done by:
- Urine tests — Your doctor is looking for elements in the urine that signify damage. Elements such as blood cells, bacteria, protein or crystals may signify specific ongoing injury patterns. Additionally, an inexpensive simple test called urine microalbumin can detect ongoing damage to the kidneys’ glomeruli. An abnormal level of albumin in urine is a sign that your kidneys aren’t filtering properly.
- Blood tests — This is done to check levels of creatinine, one of the waste products your kidneys normally remove from your blood. Creatinine results are used in a formula along with other variables — such as age, sex and ethnicity — to estimate the glomerular filtration rate (GFR), or how efficiently your kidneys are filtering waste. Declining GFR is an indication of worsening kidney function.
If you have kidney disease, gain insight and join the discussion on the topic with people who share your concerns at the Kidney & Bladder group.