Should you be screened for chronic kidney disease? 

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Should you be screened for chronic kidney disease? 

Being told you have developed chronic kidney disease may come as a big surprise.  Do you have a certain disease(s) putting your kidney’s ability to filter out toxins in jeopardy?  What causes healthy kidneys to start working abnormally?  Were you even aware you were at risk for this condition? 

What is kidney disease and how common is it?

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a condition characterized by a gradual loss of kidney function over time.  The disease can damage your kidneys reducing their ability to keep you healthy.  If the disease worsens if can lead to wastes building up in the blood resulting in complications such as hypertension, anemia, weak bones, poor nutritional health and nerve damage. 

More than 30 million Americans over the age of 18 have it or almost one in ten people and for many it won’t be discovered until it becomes more advanced.  Kidneys damaged from CKD simply mean they cannot do their job of filtering blood like they should.  Over time, CKD is often progressive which could possibly lead to kidney failure with the only treatment options being dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Causes of chronic kidney disease and who should be screened for it

There are certain medical conditions that can be risk factors for increasing your chance of developing CKD.  These include the following:

·      Diabetes

·      Hypertension

·      Cardiovascular disease – anyone with ischemic heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, peripheral vascular disease, aneurysms, etc.

·      Obesity

·      A family history of kidney failure

·      Polycystic kidneys

·      Miscellaneous causes such as long-standing NSAID (painkiller) use, long-term lead exposure, etc.

·      Age 65 or older

·      Kidney stones

·      Lupus and other autoimmune disease

·      Tumors or enlarged prostate gland in men

·      Ethnic populations with high rates of high blood pressure and diabetes – African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Asians, and Pacific Islanders

Anyone who has at least one of the above risk factors should consider scheduling a kidney screening with their primary care physician at their next checkup. In some areas, there may be screenings offered at no cost.  Contact The Kidney TRUST organization to find out more information on this.

What is involved in a kidney screening?

Kidney disease often has few if any symptoms which makes it important to be screened especially when at a high risk for it.  The best way to detect if there are any problems is to have blood drawn and sent off to a laboratory.  Blood will be tested for creatinine, a waste product in the blood that passes through the kidneys to be filtered and eliminated in urine.  Creatinine is a by-product of normal muscle function.  The more muscle a person has, the more creatinine they produce.

If kidney function is abnormal, creatinine levels will increase in the blood due to decreased excretion of creatinine in the urine.  Another factor evaluated is glomerular filtration rate (GFR), which indicates the person’s stage of CKD.  The GFR factors in a person’s age, gender, creatinine level and ethnicity.  Together, the results provide an evaluation of kidney function.

If the screening shows that kidney function is normal, that’s good.  However, if results indicate CKD, there are fortunately many resources to help manage it.  The good news is for many individuals with CKD, kidney failure can be prevented or delayed through early detection and proper treatment of underlying diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.  Other ways to delay the progression of CKD can be done as follows:

·      Stick to an eating plan with the right amount of sodium, fluid, and protein

·      Have a consistent, regular exercise regimen

·      Stay well-hydrated by primarily consuming water

The best advice is to know your risk factors for CKD, be screened for the condition, and if you are found to have it, work with your doctor on identifying treatment options slowing down the progression and that fit your lifestyle. 

In conclusion

Creating awareness and education in the general public on CKD is a start to helping people to know what to look for and to be alert to changes they may notice.  Everyone should have a yearly physical where blood and urine samples are taken in order to assess if CKD is developing. 

To find out additional information on CKD, visit the National Kidney Disease Education Program or the National Kidney Foundation to learn more about CKD and how to prevent or treat it.