Diabetic Nephropathy - Exams and Tests

Diabetic nephropathy is diagnosed using tests that check for a protein (albumin) in the urine, which points to kidney damage. Your urine will be checked for protein (urinalysis) when you are diagnosed with diabetes.

An albumin urine test can detect very small amounts of protein in the urine that cannot be detected by a routine urine test, allowing early detection of nephropathy. Early detection is important, to prevent further damage to the kidneys. The results of two tests, done within a 3- to 6-month period, are needed to diagnose nephropathy.

When to begin checking for protein in the urine depends on the type of diabetes you have. After testing begins, it should be done every year.1

Albumin testing
Type of diabetes When to begin yearly testing

Type 1 diabetes

After you have had diabetes for 5 years

Type 2 diabetes

When you are diagnosed with diabetes

Diabetes present during childhood

After age 10 and after the child has had diabetes for 5 years

An albuminuria dipstick test is a simple test that can detect small amounts of protein in the urine. The strip changes color if protein is present, providing an estimate of the amount of protein. A spot urine test for albuminuria is a more precise lab test that can measure the exact amount of protein in a urine sample. Either of these tests may be used to test your urine for protein.

You will also have a creatinine test done every year. The creatinine test is a blood test that shows how well your kidneys are working.

If your doctor suspects that the protein in your urine may be caused by a disease other than diabetes, other blood and urine tests may be done. You may have a small sample of kidney tissue removed and examined (kidney biopsy).

Other tests

It is important to check your blood pressure regularly, both at home and in your doctor's office, because blood pressure rises as kidney damage progresses. Keeping your blood pressure at or below your target can prevent or slow kidney damage.

Your doctor might suggest a cholesterol and triglyceride test based on your age or your risk for heart disease. Talk to your doctor about when a cholesterol test is right for you.

For more information, see When to Have a Cholesterol Test.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
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