Early detection and prevention
Kidney disease usually progresses silently, often destroying most of the kidney function before causing any symptoms. There are two key tests which are used to detect kidney damage and to assess how well your kidneys are functioning at removing toxins and waste products from your blood.
A blood test is used to measure your serum creatinine level which helps to indicate how well the kidneys are filtering the blood. Creatinine is a waste product made from muscle use and the breakdown of the protein you eat. As the blood creatinine rises, kidney function decreases. Decreased kidney function means that your kidneys are not able to remove the toxins and waste products from your blood as well as someone with normal kidney function.
The estimate (or percentage) of kidney function is called the glomerular !ltration rate (GFR). Sometimes the GFR is also referred to as the estimated glomerular !ltration rate (eGFR). Glomeruli are tiny blood vessels in the kidney that help to filter waste. The GFR is a way of measuring how well the kidneys are working by determining the rate at which the glomeruli are filtering waste products from your blood. The eGFR is the most common way to measure kidney function at kidney clinics.
Simple laboratory tests such as urinalysis (a urine dipstick), which looks for blood and a protein called albumin in the urine, are also useful in detecting kidney damage at an early stage and determining your risk of losing more kidney function. The filters of the kidney do not normally allow protein in the urine so if protein (albumin) is detected, it is a sign that the filters of the kidney are being damaged. The more albumin that you have in your urine, the greater the risk of losing kidney function over time. Other blood tests, X-rays, kidney ultrasound or a kidney biopsy may also be needed to diagnose the specific type of kidney disease and to determine the appropriate treatment.
Additional Steps to Help Prevent Kidney Disease
- Have your blood pressure checked regularly. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can speed up the natural course of any underlying kidney disease.
- If you suffer from diabetes, make sure that your disease is under control. A growing number of kidney patients are people with diabetes.
- Be very careful about taking non-prescription medications, particularly painkillers. It is wise to discuss all over-the-counter medications with a doctor or pharmacist before they are taken. Certain other medications, toxins, pesticides and illegal drugs (such as heroin and cocaine) can also cause kidney damage. Your doctor can explain the problems associated with long-term use or abuse of these substances.