Because kidney disease does not usually produce symptoms in its early stages, many patients who have deteriorating kidney function are unaware of it. Regular kidney-function evaluations can detect kidney problems in their earliest stages, and help slow damage.
There are several tests that are performed to detect problems with kidney function; they are especially effective in patients who are asymptomatic. In many cases, kidney disease is first discovered during a routine blood or urine test.
Candidates for Kidney-Function Evaluation
People who have high blood pressure, diabetes and/or a family history of kidney conditions are at greater risk for problems with their kidneys, so are more likely to regularly undergo tests that evaluate kidney function.
Kidney-Function Evaluation Tests
To evaluate kidney function, a doctor performs a physical examination, and orders comprehensive tests that include the following:
- Blood tests to monitor the amount of urea nitrogen
- Urine tests to check protein or albumin levels
- Blood pressure tests
In most cases, blood tests are also used to measure creatinine levels; high levels are indicative of kidney problems. Another test that may be performed is a renal nuclear medicine scan. This is an effective test because, in addition to showing the anatomy of the kidneys, it shows their function. During the scan, a radioisotope tracer is injected into a vein, and followed through the kidneys with special detectors; the process is viewed on a computer screen.