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What is Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)?

August 19, 2022

Leon Robinson

Chronic Kidney Disease: What are the health risks of CKD and how do you test for it?

Chronic Kidney Disease or CKD is a significant health problem in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control, 37 million people or 15% of US adults are estimated to have CKD. In the early stages, there may only be a few signs or symptoms but damage to the kidneys at advanced stages is irreversible.  

What do the Kidneys do?

Our kidneys play many important roles in keeping our bodies in balance.  Kidneys remove waste, toxins, and excess water from the bloodstream.  These waste products are carried out of the body in our urine. The kidneys also help make hormones that aid in the production of red blood cells, and they turn vitamin D into its active usable form.  

What is Chronic Kidney Disease or CKD?

With cases of chronic kidney disease, kidney dysfunction worsens over time. As kidney function decreases, dangerous levels of fluid, electrolytes, and waste build up in our bodies. In some cases, the level of kidney function drops to a certain point and does not get any worse.  In other cases, they can continue to worsen until a person is in kidney failure and will require dialysis or a transplant.

What causes Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

The most common causes of CKD are diabetes and high blood pressure. Diabetes means that your blood sugar is too high, which can damage your kidneys. High blood pressure means that the force of blood in your blood vessels is too strong, which can damage your blood vessels and lead to CKD. Heart disease and obesity also contribute to the damage that causes kidneys to fail.

What are the symptoms of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

Symptoms of kidney disease can include fatigue, difficulty sleeping, dry itchy skin, urinating more frequently than normal, blood in the urine, swollen feet or ankles, and puffiness around the eyes.  Even before any symptoms appear, routine blood work can help your doctor determine if you might be in the early stages of kidney disease. The earlier it is detected, the easier it is to treat.

Stages of CKD

Chronic kidney disease is broken down into five stages. The stages are based on the estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR). EGFR is a measure of how well your kidneys are working based on a blood test and your age, sex, body type, and race.

  • Stage 1 means the eGFR is 90 ml/min or higher and the kidneys work as normal. 
  • Stage 2 means mild kidney damage with an eGFR of 60–89 ml/min.
  • Stage 3A refers to mild to moderate kidney damage with an eGFR of 45–59 ml/min.
  • Stage 3B refers to moderate to severe kidney damage with an eGFR of 30-44 ml/min. 
  • Stage 4 is advanced kidney disease with an eGFR of 15–29 ml/min.
  • Stage 5 is advanced kidney disease with an eGFR of 15 ml/min or less.  After this stage, you would need to start dialysis.

Am I at risk for CKD?

Some risk for CKD is determined by family history and genetics.  African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Asian Americans tend to have the highest risk of developing chronic kidney disease. Smoking, obesity, and comorbidities like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease also increase the risk of CKD. People who are at high risk should have regular kidney function checks.

How can I test for CKD?

The best way to catch kidney disease before it becomes CKD is with routine blood and urine tests.  These common lab tests can detect warning signs even if you are not experiencing any symptoms.  Request A Test offers various types of affordable online kidney disease tests, many of which see results in as little as one business day.  Ordering your own lab testing is a great way to monitor your health.  If you have risk factors for CKD, don’t wait.  Take charge of your health and get tested today.

Urine Tests that screen for protein in the urine

Renal Function Panel (Kidney Function Test) - This is one of the most common blood tests to assess kidney function.  It includes eGFR, urea nitrogen (BUN), Glucose (blood sugar), electrolytes, creatinine, albumin, and more.

Complete Urinalysis – This test looks for a variety of abnormalities in the urine including bacteria, blood, protein, and sugar.

24-Hour Urine Protein – Excess levels of protein in the urine can be an indicator that the kidneys are not filtering waste products as they should be.

Creatinine clearance—this test measures creatinine levels in both a sample of blood and a sample of urine from a 24-hour urine collection. The results are used to calculate the amount of creatinine that has been cleared from the blood and passed into the urine. This calculation allows for a general evaluation of the amount of blood that is being filtered by the kidneys in a 24-hour time period.

Albumin/Creatinine Ratio, Urine – This test measures a specific type of protein called albumin or microalbumin in the urine.  Measuring albumin against creatinine levels can give a clearer picture of whether your kidneys are filtering at a healthy level.

There is a wide selection of kidney tests available depending on what information you are trying to find.  See our Kidney Lab Testing Category for a full selection.

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