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Chronic Kidney Disease

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Your doctor will do blood and urine tests to help find out how well your kidneys are working. These tests can show signs of kidney disease and anemia. (You can get anemia from having damaged kidneys.) You may have other tests to help rule out other problems that could cause your symptoms.

Your doctor will do tests that measure the amount of urea (BUN) and creatinine in your blood. These tests can help measure how well your kidneys are filtering your blood. As your kidney function gets worse, the amount of nitrogen and creatinine in your blood increases. The level of creatinine in your blood is used to find out the glomerular filtration rate (GFR). The GFR is used to show how much kidney function you still have. The GFR is also used to find out the stage of your kidney disease and to guide decisions about treatment.

Your doctor will ask questions about any past kidney problems. He or she will also ask whether you have a family history of kidney disease and what medicines you take, both prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

You may have a test that lets your doctor look at a picture of your kidneys, such as an ultrasound or CT scan. These tests can help your doctor measure the size of your kidneys, estimate blood flow to the kidneys, and see if urine flow is blocked. In some cases, your doctor may take a tiny sample of kidney tissue (biopsy) to help find out what caused your kidney disease.

Chronic kidney disease is usually caused by another condition. So the first step is to treat the disease that is causing kidney damage.

Diabetes and high blood pressure cause most cases of chronic kidney disease. If you keep your blood pressure and blood sugar in a target range, you may be able to slow or stop the damage to your kidneys. Losing weight and getting more exercise can help. You may also need to take medicines.

Kidney disease is a complex problem. You will probably need to take a number of medicines and have many tests. To stay as healthy as possible, work closely with your doctor. Go to all your appointments. And take your medicines just the way your doctor says to.

Lifestyle changes are an important part of your treatment. Taking these steps can help slow down kidney disease and reduce your symptoms. These steps may also help with high blood pressure, diabetes, and other problems that make kidney disease worse.

  • Follow a diet that is easy on your kidneys. A dietitian can help you make an eating plan with the right amounts of salt (sodium) and protein. You may also need to watch how much fluid you drink each day.
  • Make exercise a routine part of your life. Work with your doctor to design an exercise program that is right for you.
  • Do not smoke or use tobacco.
  • Do not drink alcohol.

Always talk to your doctor before you take any new medicine, including over-the-counter remedies, prescription drugs, vitamins, or herbs. Some of these can hurt your kidneys.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 15, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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