Health Wellness

Kidney function tests: Purpose, types, and normal ranges

Your body is like a super machine, that performs amazing functions very similar to manufacturing, processing, sorting, etc. And similar to machinery, certain waste products are generated during the various biochemical reactions of the body. So how is this waste expelled? Your kidneys, two bean-shaped organs, located on either side of your spine, filter the body’s waste materials from the blood and remove them as urine.

Apart from filtering waste to maintain your health, your kidneys play several other vital roles as well. They help control the levels of water and several essential minerals in the body. Moreover, they play a critical role in the production of vitamin D, red blood cells, and hormones that regulate blood pressure (called renin). 

By now, it must be crystal clear that taking care of your kidneys is of utmost importance. Getting a kidney function test (KFT) can be the first step towards better kidney health.

What exactly is a kidney function test?

These are simple blood and urine tests that can identify problems with your kidneys.

Who should get a kidney function test done?

Everyone. It helps to screen for kidney-related conditions and aid in early diagnosis. KFT is especially important for people with

  • Identified kidney disease
  • Symptoms related to kidney conditions
  • Conditions that can harm the kidneys, such as diabetes or high blood pressure
  • High risk of getting kidney disease including those above 60 years of age, who smoke, or have a family history of kidney conditions, etc.

 Think your kidneys may not be working properly? Book a kidney function test and get tested at your doorstep.

What symptoms can be caused by kidney problems?

Symptoms that may indicate a problem with your kidneys include:

  • Frequent urges to urinate
  • Difficulty beginning urination
  • Pain during urination
  • High blood pressure
  • Blood in the urine
  • Swelling of the hands and feet

Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms, correlates it with the test findings, and arrive at a diagnosis. Also, a single symptom may not always mean something serious.

What are the different types of kidney function tests?

The KFT includes the following set of blood tests that evaluates how efficiently your kidneys are working.

Glomerular filtration rate (GFR)

GFR is a measure of how much blood passes through the tiny filters of the kidneys (glomeruli) each minute. If the kidneys are damaged, they shall pass less blood to get filtered.

In general,

  • A GFR of 60 or higher is in the normal range.
  • A GFR below 60 may indicate kidney disease.
  • A GFR of 15 or lower may indicate kidney failure.

Albumin

Albumin is a protein found in the blood. While a healthy kidney does not let albumin pass into the urine, some albumin might pass through damaged kidneys. Remember, the less albumin in your urine, the healthier your kidneys are.

  • A urine albumin result below 30 is normal.
  • A urine albumin result above 30 may mean kidney disease.

Creatinine

Your muscles have a high-energy molecule, called creatine phosphate. Creatinine is the by-product of creatine phosphate, which is produced at a constant rate and cleared from the blood by the kidneys. If the creatinine clearance is decreased, it results in increased blood (or serum) creatinine.

A rise in serum creatinine is an indicator of kidney impairment. However, creatinine is considered a late marker of acute kidney injury because kidney function is decreased by almost 50% before a rise in serum creatinine is observed.*

  • The normal range of creatinine for adult men, 0.74 to 1.35 mg/dL
  • The normal range of creatinine for adult women, 0.59 to 1.04 mg/dL

Urea or blood urea nitrogen

Urea or blood urea nitrogen (BUN) is a substance formed in the liver as the end product of protein metabolism and the urea cycle. Around 85% of urea is excreted via kidneys and the remaining is eliminated via the gastric tract.* In case of kidney impairment, blood urea levels get increased. However, urea may also increase in other conditions unrelated to kidney diseases like dehydration, and high protein diets.

Please note urea is increased earlier in kidney disease, however, serum creatinine provides a more accurate assessment of kidney function than urea.


Broadly seen, The normal range of BUN: 10-10 mg/dL.

Electrolytes

Electrolytes are minerals present in the blood and body fluids that facilitate several body functions. They can be positively or negatively charged. An electrolyte test helps monitor the body’s electrolyte levels and is a strong indicator of how well your kidneys are functioning. Sodium, potassium, and chloride are some of the main electrolytes. The normal range for each electrolyte can vary to some extent in men and women, and different age groups. 

Can your kidney function get better?

Kidney disease can be treated if diagnosed well within time. Advanced treatment options are also available to help delay or prevent kidney failure in severe kidney damage.

No matter what your results are:

  • Maintain your blood pressure, blood glucose, and blood cholesterol in your target range.
  • Cut back on salt and choose a balanced diet.
  • Keep yourself physically active.
  • Take medicines the way your provider tells you to.
  • Get tested from time to time to keep an eye on kidney health.
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