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Understanding Kidney Disease -- Treatment

How Do I Know If I Have Kidney Disease?

Blood and urine tests can help uncover signs of early kidney disease and monitor the condition.

  • Blood pressure. Your health care provider will devise a plan, which may include diet changes and medications, to keep your blood pressure as close to normal as possible. Target blood pressure is defined as less than 130/80.
  • Urine protein or albumin in the urine. Albumin is the main protein in the blood. When the kidneys become damaged, the holes in the filtering system of your kidneys become enlarged, allowing protein to leak into the urine. In the early stages of kidney damage, only small amounts of albumin (microalbuminuria) are found. This test is very important for people with diabetes because at this early stage of kidney damage, further deterioration can often be prevented by diet, exercise, and medications.
  • GFR (glomerular filtration rate). This is a measure of how well your kidneys are filtering your blood. An estimate of your "filtering rate" is determined by a blood test called a blood creatinine test, which measures the amount of creatinine -- a waste product -- in your blood. This test, along with your age, body size, and gender, provides an estimate of your GFR. Your GFR, or "filtering rate," helps confirm normal or low kidney function. A score of 90 or above is normal; a score below 15 indicates kidney damage that will require dialysis or a kidney transplant. Another commonly used test to estimate GFR is a creatinine clearance. This test measures the creatinine in the blood and urine to determine kidney function.

Your health care provider may also refer you to a kidney specialist, called a nephrologist, for more specialized testing. A kidney biopsy may also be performed. During a kidney biopsy a small amount of kidney tissue is removed for microscopic exam to pinpoint the cause of kidney damage and plan treatment.

Recommended Related to

Kidney Dialysis

Your kidneys help filter waste, excess fluid, and toxins from your blood. They are also important for blood cell production and bone health. If kidneys don't work properly, harmful substances build up in the body, blood pressure can rise, and too much fluid can collect in the body's tissues, which leads to swelling, called edema. If your kidneys fail, you will need a life-saving treatment called dialysis to take over their job.

Read the Kidney Dialysis article > >

What Are the Treatments for Kidney Disease?

Medications, especially drugs that control diabetes and high blood pressure, can sometimes help slow the progress of chronic kidney disease. A sudden loss of kidney function may improve if the underlying cause -- such as a pregnancy complication -- is resolved.

But with long-term kidney disease, if the kidneys deteriorate and can no longer function at all, there are only two treatment options: dialysis, which uses an artificial device to clean the blood of waste products, or a kidney transplant. 

Medications for Kidney Disease

High blood pressure may be both a cause and a result of kidney disease. Your health care provider may prescribe a blood pressure drug for your kidney disease, such as an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor, such as captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril), fosinopril (Monopril) or ramipril (Altace), or an angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB), such as losartan (Cozaar), valsartan (Diovan) , irbesartan (Avapro), azilsartan (Edarbi) or eprosartan (Teveten), olmesartan (Benicar). Along with controlling blood pressure, these drugs may reduce the amount of protein in your urine, which may also help your kidneys over time.

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