Diagnosing kidney disease should be done as early as possible to slow the progression of kidney damage and increase your life expectancy. Early detection can also help reduce the risk of related medical conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, or stroke.
How to Diagnose Kidney Disease
It is important that you know the warning signs of kidney disease if you want an early diagnosis. Usually, the diagnosis begins with a patient coming into the doctor’s office with one or more of the following common kidney disease symptoms:
- Blood in your urine – When your kidneys have been damaged, they can’t filter just the wastes from the bloodstream as effectively. Blood in the urine is also a common sign for other ailments such as kidney stones, infection, or tumors.
- Urge to urinate more frequently – You may feel that you have to go to the restroom more often if your kidneys are failing. This is even more prominent at night when kidney disease is present.
- Foamy urine – An excessive amount of bubbles in the urine can indicate that protein is present. If you have to flush the toilet more than once to get these bubbles to disappear, you may want to have your kidneys checked.
- Swelling in your ankles and feet – When your kidneys aren’t functioning properly, it’s possible for your body to start retaining fluid. This excess usually goes down to your lower extremities to cause swelling.
Other signs that may be present if you have kidney disease include:
- Muscle cramps
- Poor appetite
- Dry, itchy skin
- Trouble sleeping
- Unusual fatigue or lack of energy
Your doctor will perform a medical exam and likely ask questions about your symptoms to find out more about them. They may also administer imaging scans or blood tests to diagnose kidney disease for a more accurate picture of the situation.
With 1 in 3 adults in the USA at risk for kidney disease, it is vital that you take these warning signs seriously. Consult with your doctor about your kidney health and ask that tests be done to determine how well your kidneys are performing.
Tests to Diagnose Kidney Disease
There are two simple tests that your doctor can order which will reflect how well your kidneys are working. With these numbers, your doctor can determine whether or not you have kidney disease, as well as what stage you are in if you are to be diagnosed with the disease.
ACR Urine Test
When diagnosing kidney disease, your doctor will require a urine sample for the ACR test. ACR, which stands for albumin-to-creatinine ratio, will show if protein is present in your urine.
If you get a positive result, the ACR test will need to be repeated to confirm the presence of protein in the urine. Three positive tests within a 3-month timespan is one of the biggest signs of kidney disease.
Blood Test to Diagnose Kidney Disease
Similar to the ACR test, a sample of your blood will be drawn to check creatinine levels. The more creatinine present in the blood, the more likely you are to be suffering from kidney disease (since your kidneys aren’t effectively removing the creatinine from the blood).
The results of this blood test are used to determine your GFR, which is the glomerular filtration rate. Other factors are considered when calculating the GFR as well, including age, race, and gender. The end result can tell your doctor how well your kidneys are performing, and whether or not you are suffering from kidney disease.
Diagnosing the Stage of Kidney Disease
There is a GFR chart widely used in the medical profession that determines what stage of kidney disease you are in once you are diagnosed.
The numbers that go with each stage are:
Stage 1: 90+ GFR, 90-100% Kidney Function
Stage 2: 89-60 GFR, 89-60% Kidney Function
Stage 3: 59-30 GFR, 59-30% Kidney Function
Stage 4: 29-15 GFT, 20-15% Kidney Function
Stage 5: 15 or under GFR, Less than 15% Kidney Function
When your doctor has calculated your GFR, this chart is used to determine just how bad the kidney disease is. Your numbers will continue to drop as your kidney health declines over time.
Once you have landed into one of the above 5 stages, you are said to have chronic kidney disease. The damage done to the kidneys is typically not reversible, but you and your doctor can create a plan to help reduce the symptoms and slow down the progression of kidney failure.
As you can see, it’s important to diagnose kidney disease as early as possible for the best prognosis. The sooner you are diagnosed, the faster your CKD and its symptoms can be managed. Familiarize yourself with the warning signs of kidney disease and discuss any problems you are having related to the list with your doctor.
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