An estimated 37 million people in the United States have kidney disease, and 1 out of 2 people have impaired renal function and don't even realize that they do.
For this reason, renal function lab tests are crucial in managing your overall kidney health. And if you're at risk for developing kidney disease, you need as much knowledge as possible. A renal function panel is a perfect way to start.
Sometimes your kidneys can fail, and your renal function declines. It's essential to have the education and tools you need to manage your kidney health. Keep reading this guide to learn everything you need to know about kidney decline and renal function tests.
What is Renal Function Decline?
Your kidneys are amazing organs, and they work hard to keep the balance of your body in check. They maintain a balance in the body by regulating water and minerals like sodium and potassium. Your kidneys are also responsible for removing waste from your blood after digestion, medication, or chemical exposure.
Your kidneys are even responsible for making chemicals to help with red blood cell production, along with vitamin D.
Renal function decline is the gradual loss of your kidney function, either from disease or other factors. When you have kidney disease, it affects your body's ability to clean and filter your blood.
When your kidneys get damaged, waste products build up in your blood, causing symptoms of kidney failure.
The main types of kidney disease are acute and chronic kidney disease. Both acute and chronic diseases have different causes, from injury to illness.
Acute Kidney Disease
If your kidneys stop working suddenly, it's called an acute renal failure or acute kidney injury. The leading causes of acute kidney failure include:
- Decrease in blood flow to the kidneys
- Damage to the kidneys
- Urine that is backed up in the kidney
Most often, acute kidney failure is caused by blood loss from a traumatic injury, dehydration, severe infection, taking certain medications, or complications from pregnancy.
People with autoimmune disease, heart, or liver failure are more likely to develop acute kidney failure.
Chronic Kidney Disease
Doctors will classify this as chronic kidney disease if your kidneys don't function normally for three months or more. Often you don't have any symptoms in the early stages of the disease, but this is also when it's much easier to treat.
The most common conditions over time that harm your kidneys are diabetes and high blood pressure. Other conditions that can cause kidney failure and kidney disease include:
- Autoimmune diseases like lupus
- Viral illnesses like HIV, AIDS, and hepatitis B and C
- Kidney infection or a urinary tract infection that leads to kidney damage
- Inflammation in the glomeruli (tiny filters) in your kidneys
- Polycystic kidney disease is genetic and causes fluid-filled sacs on your kidneys
If you have kidney abnormalities at birth, they block your urinary tract and affect kidney function. Toxins, drugs, and long-term use of ibuprofen or any anti-inflammatory drug can cause kidney damage over time.
Another thing that causes kidney function decline is kidney cancer. The most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma. Children can also develop a type of kidney cancer called Wilms' tumor.
Kidney cancer is thought to have a genetic cause, but if you have long-term dialysis for kidney failure, you're at greater risk for developing kidney cancer overall.
Risk factors for Renal Function Decline
Your most significant risk factors for a decline in renal function include diabetes and high blood pressure, but there are other risk factors including:
- Genetics. Having immediate family members with kidney disease increases your risk.
- Being over 60 years old
- Being African American, Hispanic, Native American, or Asian American
Causes of Renal Function Decline
Diabetes and high blood pressure are not only your biggest risk factors. They are also the biggest causes of renal function decline. Other conditions that can cause kidney failure ad kidney disease include:
- Polycystic kidney disease
- An acute kidney injury that causes kidney damage
- Autoimmune diseases
- Kidney cancer
Signs and Symptoms of Renal Function Decline
Your kidneys can adapt and compensate for a long time before you get symptoms of kidney disease. Most of the time, kidney damage happens so slowly that you won't feel any symptoms until the advanced stages. Symptoms you'll notice include:
- High blood pressure
- Loss of appetite
- Weakness and fatigue
- Nausea and vomiting
- Metallic tase
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
- Muscle cramps
- Swelling in your feet, ankles, or legs
- Chest pain and shortness of breath
How Is a Decline In Renal Function Diagnosed?
Your first step towards a diagnosis is making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your symptoms and medical and family history.
Your doctor will perform a physical exam and check for problems with your heart or high blood pressure. Your doctor will also likely order blood tests and a urine test to assess your kidney function.
Depending on what your initial tests show, you may also have to have imaging tests to look at your kidneys or a kidney biopsy of a piece of your kidney tissue to determine what's causing your problems.
Lab Tests to Monitor Renal Function
The best test to evaluate and monitor your renal function is a renal function panel. This panel measures your BUN/Creatinine Ratio, which helps determine your kidney function and what conditions may be causing a decrease in blood flow to the kidneys. A renal function panel also checks your glucose, calcium, and electrolyte levels.
Another test helpful in screening and monitoring a known or suspected kidney disease is the cystatin C with eGFR test. Cystatin C is a small protein found throughout your body and filtered from the blood by your kidneys. This test measures the amount of cystatin in your body.
High protein concentrations in your urine are a sign of kidney disease. A protein total and random urine with creatinine test measure the amount of protein present.
A complete blood count (CBC) is also important as it measures your red blood cells and the overall health of your blood.
FAQS about Renal Function
Are you wondering how you know if you have kidney disease? Since there are often no signs or symptoms initially, it's essential to have both blood and urine tests to check.
How can you protect your kidneys in the best way? The best way to protect your kidneys is to evaluate your lifestyle habits and make the changes you need. Stop smoking, keep your blood sugar in range if you have diabetes, and focus on a healthy diet and exercise.
What type of doctor specializes in treating kidney problems? A nephrologist will treat you if you've been diagnosed with kidney disease.
Renal Function Lab Tests With Ulta Lab Tests
Ulta Lab Tests offers tests that are highly accurate and reliable so that you can make informed decisions about your health. Here are a few great things to love about Ulta Lab Tests:
- You'll get secure and confidential results
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- You don't need a physician's referral
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Order your renal function lab tests today, and your results will be provided to you securely and confidentially online in 24 to 48 hours for most tests.
Take charge of your health and order from Ulta Lab Tests today!