Kidney Function Tests:symptoms,types of kidney problems

Types of Kidney Function Tests and Symptoms of Kidney Problems

Kidneys are among the most important organs in the human body and play an extremely important role in maintaining good health. The main function of kidneys is filtration of waste products from the blood and removing them from the body via urine. Water and mineral levels in the body are also controlled and maintained by kidneys. When kidneys don’t function properly, various kinds of problems start emanating in the body. In such cases, the doctor will prescribe a kidney function test, which will help in diagnosing the actual problem. Urine tests, blood tests and radiological investigations are the common tests that are done for finding if one has kidney problems or not. There are levels in kidney function tests and if the readings are below or above normal levels, treatment needs to be done.

Symptoms of Kidney Problems – Understanding Them

For general people, problems in kidney mean they will have urine issues. But there is much more to kidney problems than that. Kidney diseases might have very pronounced symptoms; again in some people there are no symptoms at all. Mentioned below are some common symptoms of kidney problems which should not be ignored:

  • Swelling in feet and hands and even in face
  • Bad breath
  • Urinating frequently or excessively low urine
  • Bubbly, foamy, red or brown urine
  • Stomach upset, vomiting and sense of nausea
  • Feeling dizzy and weak
  • Feeling fatigued always
  • Shortness of breath with slight effort

Different Types of Kidney Function Tests

For understanding kidney functions, there are various kinds of tests that are carried out. The most common kinds of kidney function test include blood tests, imaging tests, urine tests and in serious cases biopsies.

Imaging tests:

Among the imaging tests which are done as part of kidney function test, CT scan and ultrasound are the most common ones. In ultrasound, the picture of the kidney is captured. In this test, position and size of the kidneys can be ascertained along with other abnormalities like tumors, stones or other kinds of obstructions. CT scan is detailed imaging of the kidneys for understanding structural abnormalities etc. intravenous contrast dyes might also be needed in many patients for understanding the situation well.

Blood Tests:

Blood tests are integral to kidney function test. Serum creatinine is checked. High levels of creatinine are not good as creatinine is waste which comes from normal depreciation of body muscles. Levels of creatinine in blood depend on race, age and body size. In women, levels higher than 1.2 and in men levels higher than 1.4 are alarming. These are indications that there are problems in kidney functioning. With kidney function deteriorating, levels of creatinine keep on increasing.

Blood urea nitrogen is another kidney function test done. When protein in food breaks down, urea nitrogen is formed. Normal range of blood urea nitrogen is between 7 and 20. With reduced kidney function, this level rises.

Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) is a test which ascertains how well the kidney is being able to remove excess fluid and wastes from the blood. Normal value of GFR is 90 or more than that. When the level is below 60, it is indication that the kidneys are not functioning well. When it drops below 15, there are chances of acute kidney failure and kidney transplant or dialysis might be recommended.

Urine Tests:

If your doctor prescribes kidney function tests, you might need to do some urine tests as well. The tests include urine protein test, urinalysis, creatinine clearance and microalbuminuria. In some of the tests, small amount of urine is required; while in others, the urine might need to be collected and stored for 24 hours before investigations are done on the same. These tests can provide detailed and comprehensive information on how the kidneys are functioning. It is recommended to get such tests done from reliable and reputed places so that there are no confusions with the test results.

Normal kidney function test levels are usually mentioned in the report by the side of the actual report. This can help in understanding the actual status of kidney functioning. If the levels are not proper, one must immediately get in touch with a nephrologist and get the thing treated at the earliest. Get a kidney function test done at regular intervals to monitor kidney functioning.

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Kaushal M. Bhavsar (MBBS, MD)Assistant Professor in Pulmonary Medicine, GMERS Medical College, Ahmedabad