What are the diagnosis tests for Kidney Failure?
By: Jasmine Marfatia
Published On: November 16, 2018
The article provides an easy explanation for the diagnostic procedure that kidney patients may have to undergo.
According to a report published by the Lancet in 2017, chronic kidney disease (CKD) is now being considered a major global medical crisis, with a death rate of 19.2 per 1 lakh population. With regards to the burden of chronic kidney disease in India, it ranks 8th among other leading causes of death through diseases. Further statistics have suggested that at least 1 in 10 Indians suffer from some degree of kidney disease.
The same article also states that “majority of patients do not receive the treatment of kidney failure either because of financial constraints or lack of facilities near their area.” These statistics simply go to show that CKD is a fast growing problem for the Indian population, and financial limitations are the biggest hurdle in overcoming the disease.
One of the main reasons why kidney diseases are so costly to treat is because diagnosis of the disease usually takes place at advanced stages when the damage may already have taken place.
This is because the symptoms of kidney diseases are rather difficult to recognize as they may be experienced in the same way that minor ailments are experienced, and it may not occur to an individual that the symptoms he/ she is feeling is due to a much bigger health concern.
Kidney damage is not reversible - through medical intervention, one can only slow down the progression of the disease and aim to manage the pain and symptoms associated with it. Leading a healthier lifestyle and adopting dietary modifications has been known to slow down the progression of the disease.
For more information on nutritious foods for kidney health, you may have a look at this article. At its later stages, kidney diseases are only treatable through dialysis, or kidney transplants, both of which are unaffordable by most people. This is why the stage of detection and diagnosis of kidney disease is crucial for sufferers to pay attention to.
Below are the diagnostic tests that one must go through, to detect kidney damage. These tests are to be done upon prescription by your medical practitioner, after they get a detailed understanding of your symptoms, medical history, and after conducting a physical examination.
Creatinine is a chemical waste product that is produced from muscle metabolism. Creatinine comes from creatine, a molecule that is necessary for producing energy in muscles. Roughly 2% of the body's creatine is converted to creatinine daily.
Creatinine is carried to the kidneys for elimination through the bloodstream. Meaning that the kidneys are responsible for maintaining normal levels of blood creatinine, and flushing out the rest.
When kidney damage is present, the blood creatinine levels will be high because the kidneys are unable to filter it out and dispose it efficiently. Serum creatinine tests are an indication of the level of kidney damage. The normal ranges of serum creatinine are:
Men: 0.7 - 1.3 mg/dl
Women: 0.6 - 1.1 mg/dl
The ranges vary for men and women because men usually have more muscle mass than women.
Glomerular filtration rate (GFR)
The kidneys contain nephrons that act as filters to remove toxins from the body. Kidney disease may take place due to the damage of nephrons, or fewer functioning nephrons. A test that measures the number of nephrons that are functioning properly is called GFR test.
Through this test the doctor will know how much blood is able to pass through the glomeruli for purification per minute. The results of this test are determined by combining serum creatinine levels along with other factors like age, gender, height, and weight. It is through this test that the stage of kidney damage may be determined.
Stage of CKD
Kidney damage with normal kidney function
90 or higher
Mild loss of kidney function
Mild to moderate loss of kidney function
Severe loss of kidney function
Kidney failure (need for dialysis or transplant)
14 or less
Blood urea nitrogen
Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) is produced from the breakdown of dietary proteins, which the kidney is meant to filter out. When the BUN level is high, it indicates kidney damage.
Serum proteins like albumin and globulin are tested. Low levels of plasma proteins may indicate kidney damage.
A urinalysis is a test that is conducted by examining a urine sample of the patient. A chemically treated dipstick is used to measure abnormalities in the urine. The dipstick changes colour in the presence of substances like blood, pus, bacteria, sugar, etc. This test may indicate infection of the kidney, ureter, bladder, or the possibility of nephrolithiasis (kidney stones formation).
This test is an examination of a urine sample with a chemically treated dipstick that will indicate loss of a protein called albumin. Excess loss of urinary protein indicates a condition known as proteinuria.
Microalbuminuria is also a dipstick test done to measure albumin in the urine. However, this is more specific than the urine test because it can detect even the smallest quantity of urine albumin. This test may be done for those whose urine protein test may have shown negative results, but are still at risk of kidney damage.
The creatinine clearance test measures that amount of creatinine waste in the span of 24 hours, and is then compared to the results of the serum creatinine test. This indicates the amount of creatinine the kidneys are able to filter out per minute.
Ultrasound tests use sound waves to produce images of the kidneys. These images may be used by the doctor to check any abnormalities such as presence of kidney stones, inflammation, or tumors.
CT scans make use of x-rays to get visuals of the kidneys, and contrast dyes are injected intravenously to look for obstructions, or structural abnormalities.
A kidney biopsy is done by using a needle or other surgical equipment to remove a part of the kidney tissue to test for certain specific diseases, or to determine the presence of a cancerous tumor, or even to evaluate the amount to kidney damage in the tissue.
Your medical practitioner may recommend one or a combination of these tests to thoroughly detect any damage in the kidneys.
Having covered the medical aspect of a kidney diagnostic procedure, it is important to discuss the financial implications of it. As mentioned earlier, majority of Indians do not end up getting treated for kidney diseases because of how expensive the treatments can be (even with medical insurance, which may fail to cover the expenditure).
The diagnostic procedures too, can lead to piling up of hospital bills and doctors fees that may discourage sufferers from pursuing further treatment. For such patients, medical fundraising for kidney disease treatment may come as a blessing. It is a donations based method of fundraising wherein you can reach out to friends, family, and well wishers, who may be able to provide financial help through a small or large contribution.
If you, or anyone you know is in need of financial assistance to treat a kidney disease, start a crowdfunding campaign on Impact Guru to help them raise funds for medical help.
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