Do-it-Yourself Questionnaire Can Help Derail Major Illnesses

Sometimes what you can’t see can kill you. Excessive protein in the urine, or albuminuria, almost always goes undetected. Yet, this condition affects 10 million Americans and is a signal of kidney disease and a risk factor for kidney failure, heart disease and mortality. Now researchers have developed a simple tool that can help those with albuminuria self-assess their risk at home, get screened by a doctor and begin treatment with medication that can reduce their risks. The study is published in the August issue of the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, the official journal of the National Kidney Foundation.

Study authors, led by Dr. Paul Muntner of University of Alabama at Birmingham, analyzed two major data sets — Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) and National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).  The REGARDS Study, a population-based investigation funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health, was used to develop the self-assessment tool.  REGARDS results were collected using interview and self-administered questionnaires during an in-home study visit. The NHANES Survey was used to validate the tool. Participants completed the study questionnaires and attended an examination.

chart“Population-wide screening for albuminuria is not cost-effective,” said Dr. Muntner, “therefore we developed the self assessment tool that is designed to increase awareness and screening among those that are most likely to have it.”

The tool uses age, self-rated health and six yes/no questions—race, sex, current smoking and self-reported history of diabetes, hypertension and stroke. Points are assigned for each item with a maximum of 25.

"Anyone who scores 10 or above on the self-assessment test has a high probability for albuminuria and should talk to their doctor about getting screened using dipstick or spot urine testing. Those tests are painless and effective treatment is available for those who test positive," says Dr. Muntner.

"Albuminuria is an important but relatively unknown risk factor for major illnesses and death. This self-assessment tool can help increase detection, promote early treatment and ultimately reduce risk and prevent kidney failure and cardiac events,” said Dr. Kerry Willis, Senior Vice President for Scientific Activities at the National Kidney Foundation. 

The National Kidney Foundation offers free kidney health screenings across the U.S. through its Kidney Early Evaluation Program (KEEP).