How can I know if I have kidney disease?
Early kidney disease usually does not have any symptoms. Tests are the only way to know how well your kidneys are working. Get checked for kidney disease if you have
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- family history of kidney failure
If you have diabetes, get checked every year. If you have high blood pressure, heart disease, or a family history of kidney failure, talk to your health care provider about how often you should be tested. The sooner you know you have kidney disease, the sooner you can get treatment to help protect your kidneys.
What tests do doctors use to diagnose and monitor kidney disease?
To check for kidney disease, health care providers use:
- a blood test that checks how well your kidneys are filtering your blood, called GFR. GFR stands for glomerular filtration rate.
- a urine test to check for albumin. Albumin is a protein that can pass into the urine when the kidneys are damaged.
If you have kidney disease, your healthcare provider will use the same two tests to help monitor your kidney disease and make sure your treatment plan is working.
Blood test for GFR
Your health care provider will use a blood test to check your kidney function. The test results mean the following:
- a GFR of 60 or more is in the normal range. Ask your health care provider when your GFR should be rechecked.
- a GFR of less than 60 may mean you have kidney disease. Talk to your health care provider about how to keep your kidneys healthy at this level.
- a GFR of 15 or less is called kidney failure. Most people below this level need dialysis or a kidney transplant. Talk to your health care provider about your treatment options.
Creatinine. Creatinine is a waste product from the normal breakdown of muscles in your body. Your kidneys remove creatinine from your blood. Providers use the amount of creatinine in your blood to estimate your GFR. As kidney disease worsens, the creatinine level rises.
Urine test for albumin
If you are at risk for kidney disease, your provider may check your urine for albumin. Albumin is a protein found in the blood. A healthy kidney does not allow albumin to pass into the urine. A damaged kidney leaks some albumin into the urine. The less albumin in the urine, the better. Having albumin in the urine is called albuminuria.
A health care provider can check for albumin in the urine in two ways:
Albumin dipstick test. A provider uses a urine sample to look for albumin in your urine. The urine sample is collected in a container at a health care provider’s office or laboratory. For the test, a provider places a strip of chemically treated paper, called a dipstick, into the urine. The test strip changes colour if albumin is present in the urine.
Urine albumin-creatinine ratio (UACR). This test measures and compares the amount of albumin to the amount of creatinine in your urine sample. Providers use your UACR to estimate how much albumin you would pass into your urine over 24 hours. A urine albumin result of:
- 30 mg/g or less is normal
- more than 30 mg/g may be a sign of kidney disease
If you have albumin in your urine, your provider may want you to repeat the urine test one or two more times to confirm the results. Talk to your carrier about what your specific numbers mean to you.
If you have kidney disease, measuring albumin in your urine helps your provider know which treatment is best for you. A urine albumin level that stays the same or decreases may mean that treatments are working.
How do I know if my kidney disease is getting worse?
You can track your test results (PDF, 262KB) over time. You can tell your treatments are working if your
- GFR stays the same
- albumin in the urine stays the same or decreases
Your health care provider will work with you to manage your kidney disease.