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How to Find Out if You Have Kidney Damage

Since you won't likely have symptoms of kidney damage early on, the only way to know if you have it is to get blood and urine tests in your doctor's office. Normal glucose testing won't tell you how well your kidneys are working. Routine urine tests may not either, says Rita Kalyani, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

If you are at risk for kidney damage, you should have these three tests, experts say.

  • Blood pressure monitoring. High blood pressure can be a sign of kidney problems and a cause of kidney damage. If you have diabetes, you need to have good control of your blood pressure. A reading below 130/80 is usually a good target, Stanton says. Talk with your doctor about the best target for you.
  • Urine tests for protein, creatinine, and albumin. Tiny amounts of protein begin to leak into your urine when kidney damage begins. Your doctor can do a test to check for protein in your urine. In the past, you might have had to collect your urine for 24 hours for this, Stanton says, but now it just takes one sample.
  • Estimating Glomerular filtration rate (eGFR or GFR). This test helps show how well your kidneys filter your blood. "I think every patient should know his GFR," Stanton says.

If you're not sure whether you've had these tests, ask your doctor.

Help for Diabetes and Kidney Damage

If you have signs of early kidney damage, you can take action to treat it.

  • Lifestyle changes. If you eat healthier and exercise more, it can have a big impact on your blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure level. All of these have an impact on kidney disease. Some people benefit from a diet that's low in protein. If you smoke, quit.
  • Home monitoring. Besides checking your blood glucose at home, you may need to keep close track of your blood pressure.
  • Drugs. Drugs called ACE-inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) can help slow or prevent kidney disease if you have diabetes.