Blood Test for Kidney Function

Unlock optimal kidney health with our comprehensive Blood Test Guide—your go-to resource for understanding, monitoring, and maintaining kidney function.

By Joshua Napilay on Jun 20, 2024.

Fact Checked by Ericka Pingol.

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The function of kidneys

The kidneys are vital organs in the human body with several essential functions. Here are some critical parts of the well your kidneys do:

  • Filtration of blood: The kidneys' primary function is to filter and remove waste products and excess fluids from the bloodstream to form urine. This process helps maintain a proper balance of electrolytes and fluids.
  • Excretion of waste products: The kidneys filter out various waste products, such as urea, creatinine, and excess salts, which are byproducts of metabolism. These waste products are then excreted from the body through urine.
  • Regulation of electrolytes: The kidneys play a crucial role in regulating the body's balance of electrolytes (such as sodium, potassium, and calcium). Maintaining the proper concentration of these electrolytes is essential for various physiological processes.
  • Fluid balance: By adjusting the amount of water reabsorbed or excreted, the kidneys help regulate fluid balance. This is important for maintaining blood pressure and preventing dehydration or fluid overload.
  • Acid-base balance: The kidneys help regulate the body's pH by excreting hydrogen ions and reabsorbing bicarbonate ions. This process is vital for maintaining the body's acid-base balance and overall pH levels.
  • Blood pressure regulation: The kidneys produce and release the enzyme renin, which regulates blood pressure. Renin acts on the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system to control blood pressure by influencing fluid balance and blood vessel constriction.
  • Erythropoiesis regulation: The kidneys produce and release erythropoietin, a hormone that stimulates the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow. This is crucial for maintaining adequate oxygen-carrying capacity in the blood.
  • Detoxification: The kidneys contribute to the body's detoxification process by filtering out various toxins and drugs, preventing their accumulation in the bloodstream.
  • Metabolism of vitamin D: The kidneys convert inactive vitamin D into its active form, which is necessary to absorb calcium and phosphate in the intestines. This helps maintain bone health and overall mineral balance.

The kidneys play a central role in maintaining the body's internal environment by regulating fluid and electrolyte balance, eliminating waste products, and contributing to various metabolic processes. Dysfunction of the kidneys can lead to serious health problems and imbalances in the body.

Printable Blood Test for Kidney Function

Download this Blood Test for Kidney Function to access the blood test for kidney function, you can download it through your healthcare provider's online portal or request the results directly from the laboratory where the test was conducted.

Keeping kidneys healthy

Maintaining kidney health is crucial for overall well-being. Here are some tips to help keep your kidneys healthy:

  • Stay hydrated: Drinking adequate water is essential for kidney function. Water helps the kidneys flush out waste products and toxins from the body. Aim to drink at least eight glasses (about 2 liters) of water daily or more if you're physically active.
  • Follow a balanced diet: Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Limit your intake of processed foods, high-sodium foods, and excessive red meat.
  • Monitor blood pressure: High blood pressure can damage blood vessels in the kidneys, leading to kidney disease. Regularly monitor your blood pressure and take steps to keep it within a healthy range. This includes adopting a low-sodium diet, regular exercise, and potentially medication as prescribed by your healthcare provider.
  • Manage blood sugar: If you have diabetes, managing your blood sugar levels is crucial. Elevated blood sugar levels over time can damage the kidneys. Follow your healthcare provider's recommendations for monitoring and managing diabetes.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity is a risk factor for kidney disease. Adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and a balanced diet to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Limit alcohol intake: Excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to kidney damage. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines moderate drinking as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking can damage blood vessels, including those in the kidneys. Quitting smoking can have numerous health benefits, including protecting your kidneys.
  • Limit over-the-counter medications: Overuse of certain over-the-counter medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can harm the kidneys. Follow the recommended dosage and duration when using these medications, and consult with a healthcare professional if you have concerns.
  • Get regular exercise: Regular exercise promotes overall health. Exercise can help control blood pressure, manage weight, and improve cardiovascular health, contributing to kidney health.

Get regular check-ups: Schedule regular check-ups with your healthcare provider. Monitoring your blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and kidney function through routine tests can help detect and address potential issues early.

Assessing kidney function

Assessing kidney function involves a combination of clinical evaluations and laboratory tests. Here is a brief overview of each of the mentioned kidney tests above:

Serum creatinine test

Creatinine is a waste product produced by breaking creatine phosphate in muscles. It is filtered out of the blood by the kidneys and excreted in urine. The serum creatinine test measures the concentration of creatinine in the blood.

Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) test

Urea is a byproduct of protein metabolism in the liver and contains nitrogen. The BUN test measures the amount of nitrogen in the blood that comes from urea. Urea is produced in the liver and is typically excreted by the kidneys. This urine test helps assess how well the kidneys function in removing nitrogen-containing waste products from the body.

Urine test

A urine test, often referred to as a urinalysis, involves the analysis of a urine sample. This test assesses various aspects of health by examining urine's physical and chemical properties. Abnormalities in a urine test can provide valuable insights into kidney function and overall health.

Kidney ultrasound

A kidney ultrasound is a non-invasive imaging test that uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the kidneys and surrounding structures. It is commonly used to assess the kidneys' size, shape, and overall condition.

Urine albumin-creatinine ratio (ACR)

The ACR test measures the ratio of albumin, a protein, to creatinine in a urine sample. Albumin is usually present in the blood, but only small amounts are found in the urine when the two kidneys function correctly. Increased levels of albumin in the urine (albuminuria) can be an early indicator of kidney damage or dysfunction.

Estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR)

The eGFR is a calculated estimate of the rate at which the kidneys filter blood. It is determined based on serum creatinine levels, age, gender, and sometimes race. Creatinine is a waste product produced by muscles and excreted by the kidneys. The eGFR provides a more accurate assessment of kidney function than serum creatinine levels alone.

Kidney biopsy

A kidney biopsy is a medical procedure involving removing a small sample of kidney tissue for microscopic examination. This procedure is typically performed to obtain detailed information about the structure and function of the kidneys. It is often considered when other diagnostic tests, such as blood tests, imaging studies, or urine tests, do not provide sufficient information about a kidney condition.

Blood Test for Kidney Function example (sample)

In this hypothetical case, John Doe, a 48-year-old male, underwent a comprehensive blood test to assess his kidney function. The results, dated March 10, 2023, revealed a serum creatinine level of 1.2 mg/dL, within the normal range of 0.6 - 1.3 mg/dL, indicating normal kidney function.

Download the document for a comprehensive example of a Blood Test for Kidney Function report, including detailed patient information, blood test results, clinical interpretation, recommendations, and a follow-up plan.

Download this Blood Test for Kidney Function example:

Blood Test for Kidney Function example (sample)

Interpreting test results

Interpreting blood test results for kidney function involves analyzing various markers to assess the health and efficiency of the kidneys. Key indicators include serum creatinine, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), and urine albumin-creatinine ratio (uACR). Here's a general guide to interpreting these results:

  1. Serum creatinine
  • Normal range: 0.6 - 1.3 mg/dL
  • Interpretation: Elevated levels may suggest decreased kidney function. However, interpretation should consider age, gender, muscle mass, and other factors. Consistent elevation may indicate renal dysfunction or other underlying issues.
  1. Blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
  • Normal range: 8 - 20 mg/dL
  • Interpretation: Elevated BUN levels may indicate kidney dysfunction, but other factors like dehydration, high-protein diets, or certain medications can influence results. Correlation with other kidney function markers is crucial for a comprehensive assessment.
  1. Estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR):
  • Normal range: >60 mL/min/1.73m²
  • Interpretation: eGFR assesses the kidneys' filtering capacity. A lower eGFR suggests decreased kidney function. Staging of chronic kidney disease (CKD) is often based on eGFR values, with values below 60 mL/min/1.73m² indicating potential renal impairment.
  1. Urine albumin-creatinine ratio (uACR)
  • Normal range: <30 mg/g
  • Interpretation: Elevated uACR may indicate kidney damage, especially in its early stages. It's a sensitive marker for detecting diabetic nephropathy or hypertensive nephropathy.

Interpretation should always consider the patient's clinical history, overall health, and pre-existing conditions. For nuanced cases or if abnormalities persist, additional diagnostic tests, imaging studies, and consultations with specialists may be warranted to determine the underlying cause and guide appropriate management strategies.

Next steps

Following the interpretation of blood test results for various kidney function tests, the following steps depend on the specific findings and clinical context. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Normal results: No immediate intervention may be required if all kidney function markers fall within the normal range. However, regular monitoring is recommended, especially for individuals with risk factors.
  • Mild abnormalities: Lifestyle modifications may be advised for slight elevations in markers like uACR or serum creatinine. This can include dietary changes, increased hydration, and regular exercise. A follow-up appointment is usually scheduled to monitor progress.
  • Significant abnormalities: Further investigations may be warranted if there are substantial abnormalities or consistent elevations in kidney function markers. This could include additional blood tests, imaging studies (such as a kidney ultrasound), or a referral to a nephrologist for specialized evaluation.
  • Diagnostic procedures: In some cases, a kidney biopsy may be recommended if the cause of kidney dysfunction is unclear. This procedure provides detailed information about the structure and function of the kidneys, aiding in diagnosing conditions such as glomerulonephritis or chronic kidney disease.
  • Treatment and management: Specific treatments or strategies may be initiated depending on the underlying cause of kidney dysfunction. This could involve medications to control blood pressure, blood sugar, or inflammation. Lifestyle modifications, such as dietary changes, may also be emphasized.
  • Follow-up appointments: Regular follow-up appointments are essential regardless of the severity of abnormalities. These appointments allow for ongoing kidney function monitoring, treatment plan adjustments, and identifying emerging issues.
  • Patient education: Throughout the process, patient education is crucial. This includes informing the patient about their kidney health, explaining the significance of the test results, and providing guidance on lifestyle modifications and medications.
  • Collaboration with specialists: Collaborate with other healthcare professionals, nephrologists, endocrinologists, or dietitians for a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach to patient care.

Constantly tailor the following steps based on the patient's health history, risk factors, and specific test results. Consultation with a healthcare professional, such as a nephrologist, is essential for a thorough assessment and personalized care plan.

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What blood tests are commonly used to assess kidney function?
What blood tests are commonly used to assess kidney function?

Commonly asked questions

What blood tests are commonly used to assess kidney function?

Explore the standard blood tests routinely employed to evaluate kidney function, including serum creatinine, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), and estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR).

Is kidney function assessed in a complete blood count (CBC) test?

Understand the components of a CBC and whether it includes markers indicative of kidney function.

What levels of creatinine are considered alarming?

Learn about the normal range for serum creatinine and understand when elevated levels may indicate potential issues with kidney function.

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