Kidney Function Tests
You have two kidneys on either side of your spine that are each approximately the size of a human fist. They’re located posterior to your abdomen and below your rib cage.
Your kidneys play several vital roles in maintaining your health. One of their most important jobs is to filter waste materials from the blood and expel them from the body as urine. The kidneys also help control the levels of water and various essential minerals in the body. In addition, they’re critical to the production of:
red blood cells
hormones that regulate blood pressure
If your doctor thinks your kidneys may not be working properly, you may need kidney function tests. These are simple blood and urine tests that can identify problems with your kidneys.
You may also need kidney function testing done if you have other conditions that can harm the kidneys, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. They can help doctors monitor these conditions.
Symptoms of kidney problems
Symptoms that may indicate a problem with your kidneys include:
high blood pressure
blood in the urine
frequent urges to urinate
difficulty beginning urination
swelling of the hands and feet due to a buildup of fluids in the body
A single symptom may not mean something serious. However, when occurring simultaneously, these symptoms suggest that your kidneys aren’t working properly. Kidney function tests can help determine the reason.
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 health care 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 results of the test mean the following:
a GFR of 60 or more is in the normal range. Ask your health care provider when your GFR should be checked again.
a GFR of less than 60 may mean you have kidney disease. Talk with your health care provider about how to keep your kidney health 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 with your health care provider about your treatment options.
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 your blood. A healthy kidney doesn’t let albumin pass into the urine. A damaged kidney lets some albumin pass into the urine. The less albumin in your urine, the better. Having albumin in the urine is called albuminuria.
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