Symptoms and Diagnosis
Kidney disease is often called a "silent" disease, because most people have no symptoms with early kidney disease. In fact, you might feel just fine until your kidneys have almost stopped working. Do NOT wait for symptoms!
How Kidney Disease Is Diagnosed
Blood and urine tests are the only way to check for kidney damage or measure kidney function. It is important for you to get checked for kidney disease if you have the key risk factors:
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- a family history of kidney failure.
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If you are at risk, ask about your kidneys at your next medical appointment. The sooner you know you have kidney disease, the sooner you can get treatment to help delay or prevent kidney failure.
If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or a family history of kidney failure, you should get a blood and urine test to check your kidneys. Talk to your provider about how often you should be tested.
The blood test checks your GFR. GFR stands for glomerular (glow-MAIR-you-lure) filtration rate. GFR is a measure of how much blood your kidneys filter each minute. This shows how well your kidneys are working.
GFR is reported as a number.
- A GFR of 60 or higher is in the normal range.
- A GFR below 60 may mean you have kidney disease. However, because GFR decreases as people age, other information may be needed to determine if you actually have kidney disease.
- A GFR of 15 or lower may mean kidney failure.
You can't raise your GFR, but you can try to keep it from going lower. Ask your healthcare provider what you can do to keep your kidneys healthy.
The urine test looks for albumin (al-BYOO-min), a type of protein, in your urine. A healthy kidney does not let albumin pass into the urine. A damaged kidney lets some albumin pass into the urine.
This test has several different names. You could be told that you are being screened for "proteinuria" or "albuminuria" or "microalbuminuria." Or you could be told that your "urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio" (UACR) is being measured.
If you have albumin or protein in your urine, it could mean you have kidney disease.
- A urine albumin result below 30 is normal.
- A urine albumin result above 30 is abnormal and may mean kidney disease.
Your healthcare provider might do additional tests to be sure.