Ask the Doctor
Questions about kidney disease? Risk factors? Signs and symptoms? Are you concerned about yourself, a friend or family member? Ask Dr. Spry.
New York, NY
January 11, 2007
Most Americans know that heart disease and cancer can be silent killers and understand that monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol and having regular mammograms are critical to protecting their health. Too few adults—and not enough doctors—realize, however, that Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is another common, life-threatening illness that often goes undetected until very advanced when it could be diagnosed early through simple tests.
Twenty million Americans (1 in 9 adults) suffer from CKD and another 20 million are at risk. Worse, today’s epidemics of diabetes and obesity could contribute to even higher rates of CKD in the future. Undiagnosed and untreated, CKD can lead to serious health problems including kidney failure (end-stage renal disease). Caught early, it can often be managed, and kidney damage can be slowed or stopped. That’s why early testing for people at risk is so important.
In preparation for National Kidney Month (March 2007) and World Kidney Day (March 8), the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) offers this 6-step primer for protecting health
Most people with early CKD have no symptoms, which is why early testing is critical. By the time symptoms appear, CKD may be advanced, and symptoms can be misleading. Pay attention to these:
If you or a loved one belong to a high-risk group, ask your primary-care physician about these tests—and be especially insistent about the last one. Your doctor may want to perform other tests as well.
4 Simple, Life-Saving Tests:
What: Blood Pressure
Why: High blood pressure can damage small blood vessels (glomeruli) in the kidneys. It is the second-leading cause of kidney failure after diabetes.
Good Score: Below 140/90 is good for most people. Below 130/80 is better if you have chronic kidney disease. Below 120/80 is best.
What: Protein in Urine
Why: Traces of a type of protein, albumin in urine (albuminuria) is an early sign of CKD. Persistent amounts of albumin and other proteins in the urine (proteinuria) indicate kidney damage.
Good Score: Less than 30 mg of albumin per gram of urinary creatinine (a normal waste product)
What: Creatinine in Blood (Serum Creatinine)
Why: Healthy kidneys filter creatinine (a waste product from muscle activity) out of the blood. When kidney function is reduced, creatinine levels rise.
Good Score: 0.6 to 1.2 mg per deciliter of blood, depending on other variables
What: Glomular Filtration Rate (GFR)
Why: This is the most sensitive and accurate gauge of kidney function. Doctors measure blood creatinine levels and perform a calculation based on age, race, and gender.
Good Score: Over 90 is good. 60-89 should be monitored. Less than 60 for 3 months indicates CKD.