Monitoring kidney function

Monitoring Kidney Function

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The Kidney is a very important organ that removes wast from the body and regulates our blood pressure. Patients with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), Diabetes, Hypertension or with a solitary Kidney should montor their Kidney function. In this article we explain why.

Why Monitor Kidney Function

Kidney disease is insidious because symptoms cannot be felt or detected in the early stages of function loss. The first symptoms are often detected at the late or even end-stage of the disease. This characteristic means often it is too late to cure the disease and perhaps dialysis and eventually transplantation may be needed.

CKD can be caused by other long term conditions such as Diabetes or Hypertension which may lead to alteration of the normal kidney function and damage the organ in the long term.

For this reason it is important that:

– People with long term conditions such diabetes or cardiovascular disease routinely monitor their kidney function to identify early any potential organ damage.

– For patients with CKD monitoring function is the only way to identify and avoid disease progression which will ultimately lead to dialysis, transplantation or even death.

– Individuals with one kidney should monitor their precious healthy organ to ensure it functions properly and detect any early signs of potential damage.

For the people above this act of monitoring is as important as drinking water. The key is to detect any signs of deterioration and act in ways to prevent any further damage, disease progression or ultimately loss of their kidney function.

The earlier kidney disease is detected, the better the chance of slowing or stopping its progression.

Kidney Problems – What are the indicators?

There are two main ways of measuring kidney function:

– Via a blood test that measures Glomerular Filtration rate (GFR)

– Via a urine test , also called urinalysis, to measure the concentration of protein in their urine

Glomerular Filtration rate (GFR)

Every healthcare practitioner will recommend their patients to use a simple blood test to measure the Glomerular Filtration rate (GFR). Patients go to a laboratory where a sample of their blood is taken. This blood is then analysed to measure a waste product called Creatinine. From the concentration of Creatinine in the blood sample calculations are made to estimate the Glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) based on the patients age, gender, ethnicity and body size.

Based on the eGFR a doctor will know which stage of kidney disease the patient has (see Table 1 below), and if identified, helps the doctor to define the treatment strategy.

It is important to understand that GFR is an overall estimate of kidney function and it cannot be measured directly in Humans. Thus “true” GFR cannot be known with certainty.

Kidney Function Estimation: Table of CKD stages, GFR number and & of kidney function (Source: National Kidney Foundation)
Kidney Function Estimation: Table of CKD stages, GFR number and & of kidney function (Source: National Kidney Foundation)

Urine Protein Test

While the GFR estimates Kidney Function, conducting a urine enables us to retrieve information about the Kidney’s role as a filter.

A urine protein test is carried out using a urine test dipstick and which measures the presence or absence, and the concentration of protein in urine. When Protein is found in Urine the condition is called Proteinuria and when Albumin, another type of Protein, is found in Urine the condition is called Albuminuria.

As albumin is a small protein but still a large and heavy molecule. In a healthy Kidney Albumin cannot pass through its filter. Presence of albumin in a urine sample may indicate that the filter has been damaged. Damage to the Kidney’s filter are fissures in the filtering matrix which, even with a small amount of damage, lead to the loss of kidney function. Therefore detecting any damage to the filter is a key diagnostic in preventing renal kidney failure.

Diagnosing Albuminuria detects small damages to the filter, provides important information on the severity of kidney disease and risk of kidney failure, cardiovascular disease and death [1].

Conclusions

GFR gives an overall assessment of your kidney function and how efficiently it is cleaning your body’s waste. A Protein Urine Test gives an indication if the organ’s filter has been damaged. A Urine albumin or protein test is a better indicator of early stage damage than a GFR thus allowing better treatment and treatment outcomes to prevent any further damage or a loss of function.

Conducting a Urine Dipstick Test at home is easy, convenient, and inexpensive. People at risk of developing CKD or loss of their kidney should regularly monitor regularly their urine and assess it through a urine dipstick stick.

Urine dipstick tests are available at your pharmacy.

The PURI Urinalysis app has been built to be compatible with multiple Urine Dipsticks, and you can save, track and share your Urine Test Results in PURI.

You can download PURI app on Google Play or the  i-tunes app store.

You can check which templates have been loaded into PURI Kidney.

Photo Credits: Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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