Newly Diagnosed? Here’s what you need to know
- Know your kidney numbers. This goes for blood and urine. EGFR, or estimated glomerular filtration rate, is a measure of kidney function and is performed through a blood test. Be sure to get your urine tested as well for a protein called albumin. Too much albumin in the urine is an early sign of kidney damage.
- Get your blood pressure checked. Blood pressure checks are important since high blood pressure can damage the kidneys. Know what numbers are considered acceptable for your condition and work with your health care professionals to take steps that will keep you in that range.
- Talk to your doctor about medication dosage and imaging tests. Many prescription and over-the-counter medications are filtered by the kidneys. This means that normal kidneys remove medications from the body. When your kidneys aren't working properly, medications can build up and cause you harm. To learn more click here.
If you just got a diagnosis of kidney disease, it’s important to work with your doctor to make any adjustments to your medication regimen, such as dosing changes or substitutions. This will help prevent any negative effects from the medication, including further kidney damage.
Exposure to intravenous contrast dyes used in imaging (MRI, CT or angiograms) can cause kidney damage, so be sure to speak with your doctor before scheduling one of these tests. For more information, click here.
- Talk to a dietitian. Eating a proper diet is essential for those with any stage of kidney disease. Across the board, cutting down on sodium is an important recommendation, but the kidney diet is very individualized. Be sure to make an appointment with a renal dietitian (one who specializes in kidney disease) immediately to receive your personalized diet plan. Medicare covers dietitian services for those with eGFR less than 50 as well as for those with diabetes. For kidney health recipes visit our Kidney Kitchen.
- Understand the kidney-heart connection. The kidney and heart are connected as kidney disease is a risk factor for heart disease and vice versa. Once you have a kidney disease diagnosis, ask the clinician that’s treating you what you can do to lower your risk of heart disease or treat it if you already have it. To learn more click here.
- Have your blood cholesterol levels checked regularly. For more information on cholesterol click here.
- Stop smoking. In addition to causing lung cancer and lung disease, smoking is also associated with kidney disease, kidney cancer and bladder cancer. Smoking slows the blood flow to vital organs like the kidneys, causing damage. Think of smoking as stepping on the accelerator for any disease that you may have. So if you have kidney disease, smoking can make it even worse. To learn more click here.
- Plan to see the kidney specialist. Most experts agree that you should see a kidney specialist, called a nephrologist, when your eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate—a measure of kidney function) is less than 30.
- Learn about treatment options for kidney failure. If you’re in the late stages of kidney disease (stage 4 or 5), ask your kidney doctor or advanced practitioner about the different types of treatment for kidney failure so you can choose the one that best suits your health and lifestyle. They should address options such as home dialysis (either hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis) and pre-emptive transplant, in addition to in-center hemodialysis.
- Create an access to your bloodstream. If you’re planning to start hemodialysis, you’ll need to prepare by having surgery to create an access to your veins. Be sure to avoid needlesticks in that arm at this time. Once you have your access placed there will be additional precautions you should take to keep your access working well. For more on access click here.
Do you have more questions?
Call NKF Cares, our patient information help line toll free at 1.855.NKF.CARES (1.855.653.2273). We can also send you a free copy of any of our patient brochures on these topics and more.