How Do I Know If I Have Kidney Disease?

What Is kidney disease?

The bean-shaped organs in our bodies are called kidneys and they are responsible for some critical functions. They are responsible for filtering the extra water and waste from your blood, making urine, and helping in maintaining your blood pressure. Kidney dysfunction happens when both or one of these is damaged and stops working. This is known as kidney disease.

The symptoms of kidney disease can be easily mistaken as common health problems. Severe signs become visible only when the kidneys have started to fail but by then major damage to the kidneys may have happened. Only 10% of people with chronic kidney disease are aware of this problem. Detecting kidney disease symptoms early can help you get diagnosed and treated early. This could help you keep more serious health problems at bay.

Several factors increase your chances of getting kidney disease. These include:

Symptoms of kidney disease

As a person’s kidney disease gets worse over time, it leads to waste and fluid build-up in the body. There are some warning signs to watch out for that could help in an early diagnosis.

  • Changes in urine

You may urinate more or less than normal if your kidneys are not functioning properly. There may be a change in colour or the urine may appear foamy, which is a sign of protein seeping out of the kidneys. Blood in the urine is another warning sign that should not be ignored.

  • Dry and itchy skin

When your kidneys are not able to balance the minerals and nutrients in your blood, it can lead to dry and itchy skin.

  • Swelling

One of the important functions of our kidneys is to balance out the amount of sodium (salt) in our bodies. When the kidneys are not working well, the body tends to retain the extra salt which can cause puffy skin around your ankles and feet. This may also be there around your eyes or in your hands.

  • Upset stomach

Nausea, loss of appetite and an upset stomach are a sign of built-up waste in your blood

  • Fatigue

Kidneys produce a hormone that signals your body to make red blood cells. The RBCs carry oxygen throughout your body and if they’re not working properly, you can have anaemia. This may make you feel tired, even after taking adequate rest and may also cause disturbed sleep.

  • Getting a diagnosis

Your doctor may ask you to get a KFT test (kidney function test) in case you’re at risk for kidney diseases. Blood and urine samples will be tested to check your kidney function.

There are different types of kidney function tests. Blood tests for kidney function include:

  • Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) for measuring nitrogen (made from protein breakdown) in the blood
  • Estimated GFR (eGFR) for calculating filtration rates based on protein levels, age, gender, size and race.
  • In a Serum Creatinine Test, the blood sample will be tested for a waste product called creatinine. Damaged kidneys are not able to clean this from your blood. The test results will determine the amount of creatinine in your blood. 
  • In a urine test, your urine will be tested for traces of blood and for a type of protein called albumin. If the result comes back positive, you may be asked to get a re-test done to confirm.

 The KFT Test will look for two measurements:

  • GFR of less than 60 could be an indication of a kidney disease
  • Urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio (UACR) of more than 30 milligrams per gram could also be a sign of kidney disease.

Getting a KFT Test and Creatinine Test

You can get these tests done from the convenience of your home by booking an appointment at a lab near you. The lab technician would come to your home, office or a place convenient to you for collecting the sample.


Your physician will chart out your treatment plan based on your test results. If left untreated, your kidney disease may get worse over time. An early diagnosis helps in an early treatment plan which may prevent your kidneys from failing. However, the treatment plan and the medication for kidney disease differ from patient to patient. It depends on several factors such as the reason for kidney failure.

Your doctor will start your treatment by taking care of your symptoms first. This would include daily medication to lower your cholesterol or blood pressure, treating any skin disorder etc. Other symptoms of your kidney disease, like swelling or anaemia, will also be treated subsequently. You may also be advised of certain lifestyle changes such as:

  • Regular workouts to get down to your ideal weight
  • Reducing your salt and protein intake to bring down the workload of your kidneys
  • Regulating the amount of alcohol
  • Quitting smoking
  • Avoid over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as these are hard on your kidneys.

People with severe kidney failure need dialysis (a treatment to clean waste from the blood) or a kidney transplant.

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