What Are BUN Levels & What Do They Measure?
If you have chronic kidney disease, you have likely heard the words BUN levels many times over, but you may not know exactly why they are important. BUN levels are a way to measure how well your kidneys are functioning. These tests do this by a blood urea nitrogen test, BUN for short.
Urea nitrogen is a waste product that comes from the liver’s process of breaking down proteins in the body. Your kidneys are a key component in removing toxins and waste from the body, and one of the things they remove is urea nitrogen.
So, if your BUN levels are increasing, it shows signs that your kidneys are not properly removing this waste and can indicate kidney damage. For those with chronic kidney disease, it can be used as a way to measure improvements or further damage that may be affecting your kidney function.
Why Would You Get the BUN Test?
There are many reasons that your physician may order a BUN test for you, but most of them have to do with the kidneys and the liver. According to Healthline, this test can be used to diagnose many different conditions that involve these organs and others, such as liver damage, malnutrition, dehydration, urinary tract issues, congestive heart failure, and even bleeding in the abdominal tracts.
What Is the Normal BUN Level Range?
The normal level of BUN ranges from 8 to 24 mg/dL for adult men, 6 to 21 mg/dL for adult women, and 7 to 20 mg/dL for children from ages 1 to 17.
What BUN Level Indicates Kidney Failure?
Increases in BUN levels can indicate kidney damage or kidney failure; ranges that may indicate an issue can start at above 20 to 24 mg/dL, as this is outside of the expected normal range. Any higher levels of BUN from your blood tests should be discussed with your physician, and they can fully assess what these results may mean for you and your kidney health and renal function.
How To Improve Your Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) & Creatinine Levels
Drink A Lot of Water
Drinking a lot of fluids may be hard to do if you are on dialysis, so it is important to discuss a safe amount of fluid intake per day with your physician and your dietician. This is especially important when considering ways to reduce your creatinine ratios and blood urea nitrogen levels because dehydration is a major cause of increased BUN levels.
When you are dehydrated, you are getting less water reabsorbed from your other fluid or food intakes. This results in an increase rate in urine which has high levels of urea nitrogen and other waste products. If you are well hydrated, you have excess water in your system, which gets removed during urination, but if you are dehydrated, your body holds onto and removes any water from the waste, and your urea levels and other waste levels increase due to the urine’s waste content increase.
This is why your urine appears darker when you are dehydrated. Hydration is important to decrease your BUN levels because it helps flush out any additional waste products and helps lower the urea concentration in the kidneys and the blood.
Reduce Protein Intake
Your protein intake is likely something your dietician or healthcare professional have spoken to you about, as it is an important facet of the renal diet. Protein intake and the cooking and eating of red meat have been shown to increase the levels of creatinine in your blood.
Protein, red meat, and dairy can increase your creatinine levels, which is why those who are on a renal diet usually pay close attention to their protein intake. If you are looking for ways to decrease these levels, you should eliminate red meat entirely and make healthy replacements for any protein or dairy-heavy parts of your meals.
Increase Fiber Intake
Eating fiber is good for many different things, such as healthy bowel movements, helps to regulate blood sugar, lowers cholesterol, and can help to lower creatinine levels. Increasing your fiber intake while sticking to your renal diet is a great way to help lower these levels and help regulate your digestion and other issues you may have, such as diabetes or other health complications.
What Causes High BUN & Creatinine Levels?
As we have covered above, high blood urea nitrogen and creatinine levels can be caused by liver damage and kidney damage. However, if you are already diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, then a further increase in these lab tests can be caused by a multitude of other reasons as well. Some of these reasons for a sudden increase could be that you have been eating a lot of protein or red meat, you have a fever or other infection present that you may not have been aware of, you could be dehydrated, stressed, or you could be suffering from poor circulation.
What Are The Symptoms of High Blood Urea Nitrogen?
Frequent Urination (or lack of)
One of the symptoms of high blood urea nitrogen has to deal with the amount of urination you are experiencing. Increased BUN and creatinine levels can result in an increase in urination or a decrease in urination. Any change from your normal routine should be noted and brought up at your next appointment with your physician.
If you have chronic kidney disease, these issues may be more prevalent. If you are urinating a lot, you could be making yourself dehydrated by the loss of water through these processes. If you are not urinating as much, you could be increasing the urea levels by not excreting as much of this waste as you should, which could also cause dehydration.
Exhaustion and fatigue can be a symptom of high BUN, and elevated creatinine levels as the increase of waste products can cause you to feel sluggish. If you are a patient with chronic kidney disease and you have been feeling unusually sluggish or exhausted, you should schedule an appointment with your physician to check your BUN and creatinine levels.
If you have an increased amount of these waste products that your kidneys have not been able to remove from your body, these tests will be higher, and you may require medication or a renal diet change.
Swelling of the extremities
Much like some of our other symptoms on this list, swelling of the extremities can indicate an issue of dehydration or further kidney damage. This is also a symptom of high BUN and creatinine levels, and should be addressed by your doctor immediately. If you are a patient on dialysis, you are probably familiar with the fact that the swelling of the arms and legs can indicate something known as retention.
Retention is indicative of end-stage renal failure, and dialysis patients must go to regular dialysis appointments to avoid this serious condition. Swelling and retention is a symptom of high BUN levels and creatinine because it indicates that the kidneys are not successfully removing excess wastes, toxins, and fluids from the body.
If you are struggling with high BUN levels, there are actions you can take to try to decrease your blood urea nitrogen and creatinine levels.
An increase in BUN levels or creatinine levels may cause you stress, but there are a few simple explanations and tips for why they may be raised and how you can decrease them. It is essential to discuss any dietary changes or new symptoms with your physician so that you can implement some of their tips and ours at home to improve these levels!