How to Test for Kidney Disease
Kidney disease is a prevalent condition affecting millions in the United States and can sometimes exist without a person even knowing. Detecting this disease early on can make a huge difference in facilitating early treatment and helping preserve the kidneys’ health as much as possible. This article will share more about how to test for kidney disease.
Stages of Kidney Disease
Kidney disease happens in stages. These stages help doctors determine how advanced the condition is by looking at a lab value called the GFR or the glomerular filtration rate.
The different stages of kidney disease are as follows:
- Stage 1: A standard or high GFR of > 90 mL/min
- Stage 2: Mild kidney disease; GFR of 60-89 mL/min
- Stage 3A: Moderate kidney disease; GFR of 45-59 mL/min
- Stage 3B: Moderate kidney disease GFR of 30-44 mL/min
- Stage 4: Severe kidney disease GFR of 15-29 mL/min
- Stage 5: End-stage kidney disease GFR < 15 mL/min
Kidney disease is common in people who have diabetes because diabetes causes irregularities in blood sugar. Chronically high blood sugar can damage the blood vessels and affect kidney function.
Kidney Disease Symptoms
Many people who experience kidney disease1 may not be aware of the symptoms or have no visible signs. The symptoms of chronic kidney disease may vary depending on if you are in the earlier or later stages of this condition. The initial stages of kidney disease often will not present symptoms.
Later stages of kidney disease may cause the following symptoms:
- Poor appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Swelling in the hands and feet
- Difficulty breathing
- Blood in the urine
- Increased need to pee
- Itchy skin
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Types of Kidney Tests
If your doctor is concerned about the health of your kidneys, they may order several different diagnostic tests to evaluate the health of your kidneys, including blood tests, urine tests, and imaging tests.
Your doctor may conduct a kidney disease blood test, taking a small blood sample that is then sent to a lab where specific values are looked at and tested. Kidney-related blood tests include glomerular filtration rate (GFR), blood urea nitrogen (BUN), and creatinine.
- GFR measures how well the kidneys filter the blood. GFR can show how well the kidneys are working and how advanced kidney disease has progressed if it is present.
- BUN looks at the amount of urea nitrogen in the blood. Urea nitrogen is typically filtered out of the blood by the kidneys.
- Creatinine is another substance typically removed from the blood when the kidneys are healthy. Abnormal creatinine or nitrogen levels may be an indicator of improperly working kidneys.
Your doctor may want to look at your urine sample to determine how healthy your kidneys are. Standard urine tests for kidney disease may include urine albumin, protein, and creatinine clearance tests.
- A urine albumin test looks for the albumin in the urine. Albumin is typically filtered out of the urine by the kidneys, so if it is present in the urine, this could indicate a kidney issue.
- A urine protein test can look for and isolate any foreign proteins in the urine to evaluate for kidney disease.
- Creatinine clearance tests can help identify the amount of creatinine in the urine with the amount found in the blood.
Imagining tests can give your doctor an idea of the visual status of your kidneys. If your doctor thinks imaging tests are needed, they may order an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI. Imagining scans allow your doctor to look for kidney blockages and other abnormalities.
Kidney Disease Diet
If your doctor does find that you have kidney disease, they will likely order you to begin after making adjustments to your diet. A Kidney Disease Diet may help support and replenish your body in the most beneficial way possible.
Foods that patients with kidney disease should avoid include:
- Salty foods such as canned food, cured meat, and fast food
- Potassium-rich foods; bananas, avocados, potatoes, and chocolate
- Sugary foods – candy and soda
- Foods high in phosphorus – nuts, beans, and whole-wheat bread
- Foods high in calcium – dairy products and canned fish
- Foods high in saturated and trans fat
- Alcoholic beverages
Foods that are okay to eat on a kidney disease diet include:
- Fresh fruit – berries, grapes, cherries, and apples
- Vegetables – cauliflower, onions, eggplant, and turnips
- Lean meats – eggs, poultry, and unsalted seafood
- White bread, pasta, bagels
Your doctor can help guide you through a kidney disease diet if needed. If kidney disease advances to the later stages, nutritional needs change. If you start to need dialysis, your body will require more protein, and you may also need to limit your fluid intake.
Many different tests can help your doctor pinpoint the status of your kidneys. Kidney disease is diagnosed in stages, which gives an idea of how advanced the disease is and what treatment options are best. Early-stage kidney disease does not always show symptoms, so it is vital to get tested regularly.
A simple blood test for kidney disease can tell a lot about your kidney health. Consult with a medical professional regarding your testing options if you are concerned about the condition of your kidneys.
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Lab Testing - Frequently Asked Questions
Why is it important to do lab tests occasionally?
It is important to do lab tests occasionally because they can provide valuable information about an individual's health and help to identify potential health issues early on. Lab tests can measure a wide range of factors, including blood count, cholesterol levels, liver and kidney function, and hormone levels, and can provide insight into an individual's overall health and wellness. Additionally, lab tests can help to diagnose and monitor the progression of certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, and can help to identify any potential health risks or concerns. By doing lab tests occasionally, individuals can take proactive steps to maintain their health and wellbeing and reduce the risk of potential health problems in the future.
How accurate are lab tests?
Overall, lab tests are generally considered to be accurate and reliable, but there is always a chance of error and it is important to consult with a healthcare professional to interpret the results.
How is a blood sample collected for lab testing?
A blood sample for lab testing is typically collected through a process called venipuncture, which involves inserting a small needle into a vein to draw blood. This is usually done on the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand.
What does a routine blood test cover?
A routine blood test is used to check for a range of things, including your blood count and the levels of certain chemicals and substances in your blood. Blood tests can also be used to check how well certain organs, such as your liver and kidneys, are functioning.
What does routine lab work cover?
Routine lab work typically includes a blood test, which is used to check for a range of things, including your blood count and the levels of certain chemicals and substances in your blood. In addition to a blood test, routine lab work may also include other tests, such as urine and stool tests, which can help diagnose and monitor conditions related to the kidneys, liver, and digestive system.
Can a blood test identify cancer?
In some cases, cancer can be detected with a blood test. However, not all cancers can be detected with a blood test, and some blood tests can produce false-positive or false-negative results.
Can a blood test find other particular issues like problems with the heart, liver, or kidneys?
Yes, a blood test can sometimes be used to detect heart, liver, and kidney problems. Blood tests can also be used to measure the levels of certain substances in your blood, such as cholesterol and glucose, which can help diagnose and monitor conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. In addition, a blood test can check your blood count, which can provide information about the health of your red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. However, it is important to note that a blood test is not always able to detect heart, liver, and kidney problems, and other tests, such as imaging scans or biopsies, may be needed to confirm a diagnosis.
What distinguishes a diagnostic test from a screening test?
A screening test is a type of test that is used to identify people who may be at increased risk of a particular condition, such as cancer or heart disease. In contrast, a diagnostic test is a type of test that is used to confirm or rule out a suspected diagnosis. So, the main difference between a screening test and a diagnostic test is the purpose for which the test is being performed.
Why do lab tests occasionally need to be repeated?
One common reason is that the initial test results were inconclusive or unclear, and repeating the test can help provide more accurate results. Lab tests may also be repeated if the initial results were abnormal and more information is needed to diagnose or monitor a condition. In addition, some lab tests are designed to be repeated on a regular basis, such as to monitor the effectiveness of a treatment or to check for any changes in a person's health over time. Finally, lab tests may be repeated if the initial test was performed incorrectly, or if there was some other problem with the sample that was collected.
Does having normal lab test results indicate I shouldn't worry about anything?
Having normal lab test results does not necessarily mean that you have nothing to worry about. Additionally, lab tests are not always able to detect all health conditions, and some conditions may not produce abnormal test results until they have progressed to a more advanced stage.
What should I do after I have my lab test results?
After you have your lab test results, it is always best to discuss them with your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider will be able to interpret the results in the context of your overall health and medical history, and they will be able to recommend any necessary follow-up tests or treatments.
What is the cost of a lab test?
In general, the cost of a lab test can range from a few dollars to several hundred dollars. It is always best to consult with your doctor or healthcare provider to get an accurate estimate of the cost of a lab test.
How is a blood sample for a lab test collected?
A blood sample for a lab test is typically collected through a process called venipuncture. This involves using a needle and syringe to draw blood from a vein, typically in the arm. The skin is cleaned with an antiseptic solution and a tourniquet is placed around the upper arm to help make the veins more visible. The healthcare provider performing the venipuncture will then insert the needle into a vein and collect the required amount of blood. The blood sample is then sent to a laboratory for testing.
Should I do anything to prepare for lab tests?
It is generally a good idea to speak with your doctor or healthcare provider to determine what, if any, preparations are necessary for your lab tests. In general, it is a good idea to follow any instructions provided by your healthcare provider, such as fasting for a certain amount of time before the test or avoiding certain medications. It is also a good idea to bring a list of all medications you are currently taking to your lab appointment.
Why is it necessary to fast before some tests?
Fasting before certain lab tests is often necessary because certain substances in the blood, such as glucose and certain fats, can affect the results of the test. By fasting, you are allowing your body to metabolize these substances, which can provide more accurate test results. Additionally, some tests require that you fast in order to properly prepare your body for the test.
Will a cup of coffee before my lab test mess with the results?
Whether or not you can have a cup of coffee before your test will depend on the specific test that you are undergoing and any instructions provided by your healthcare provider. If you are unsure about whether or not you can have a cup of coffee before your test, it is always best to ask your healthcare provider for advice.
Can my lab test get affected by diet or medications?
Yes, your diet and medications can affect the results of your lab tests.
What do the lab test results mean?
The specific meaning of your lab test results will depend on the specific test that was performed and the reference range provided by the laboratory. The reference range is the range of values that is considered normal for a healthy person, and it is used to interpret the results of your lab test. If your test results fall within the reference range, it generally means that there is nothing unusual or concerning about your test results. However, if your test results are outside of the reference range, it may indicate a potential health concern that should be discussed with your healthcare provider.
Where are the reference (normal) ranges for lab tests?
The reference ranges for lab tests, also known as normal ranges, are determined by the laboratory that performs the test. These ranges are based on a large number of test results from healthy individuals, and they are used to interpret the results of your lab test. The reference range for each test is typically provided on the laboratory report along with your test results.
What if my lab test result is outside the reference range?
If your lab test result is outside of the reference range, it may indicate a potential health concern that should be discussed with your healthcare provider. Additionally, the reference range is just a general guide, and there may be other factors that can affect your test results.
How can I improve my lab test results?
There are several steps you can take to improve your lab test results. First, it is important to follow any instructions provided by your healthcare provider when preparing for a lab test, such as fasting for a certain amount of time before the test or avoiding certain medications. Additionally, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help improve your lab test results. This includes eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and not smoking. If you have a chronic health condition, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, it is important to manage it properly and follow your healthcare provider's recommendations for treatment.
Does having abnormal lab test results indicate that I have a health issue?
Having abnormal lab test results does not necessarily mean that you have a health issue. There are many factors that can affect the accuracy of lab test results, such as your diet, medications, and other medical conditions. Additionally, the reference range used to interpret your test results is just a general guide, and there may be other factors that can affect your test results.