Kidney disease often has no symptoms until your kidneys are badly damaged. The only way to know how well your kidneys are working is to get tested. This is very important for people who have diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of kidney disease.
Kidney damage usually cannot be fixed. But if you catch and treat kidney disease early, you may be able to prevent it from getting worse. Ask your doctor about these tests to check your kidneys.
Blood test: eGFR
What is eGFR?
eGFR is short for estimated glomerular filtration rate. Your eGFR is a number based on your blood test for creatinine, a waste product in your blood. It tells how well your kidneys are working.
The eGFR is a good test, but it’s not right for everyone. For example, this test may not be accurate if you are younger than 18, pregnant, very overweight or very muscular. Talk to your doctor to find out if this test is right for you.
How do I know my eGFR?
You will have a blood test to see how much creatinine is in your blood. Creatinine is a waste that comes from your muscles. Healthy kidneys take creatinine out of your blood.
Your doctor will figure out your eGFR using the result from your creatinine test, your age, your gender and your race.
What does my eGFR mean?
A normal eGFR is 60 or more. If your eGFR is less than 60 for three months or more, your kidneys may not be working well. If you eGFR is below 15, you may need to start dialysis or have a kidney transplant. Use this scale to see what your eGFR may mean.
No matter what your eGFR is, ask your doctor when you should be tested again and what other tests you should have. Your doctor may want to look for other signs of kidney problems by doing more testing. These tests might include:
- Urine (for protein or blood)
- Blood (for other wastes)
- Blood pressure
- Blood sugar
What should I do next?
If your eGFR was less than 60, talk to your doctor soon!
If this was your first eGFR test, you may need to be tested again in a few months. Your doctor will want to see if your eGFR is less than 60 for three months or more. Ask your doctor when you should be tested again.
Whether your eGFR is above or below 60, you can take steps to keep your kidneys as healthy as possible:
- Keep a healthy blood pressure (less than 120/80 for most people)
- Control your blood sugar if you have diabetes
- Follow a low-salt, low-fat diet
- Exercise at least 30 minutes most days of the week
- Keep a healthy weight
- Do not smoke or use tobacco
- Talk to your doctor about medicines that might help protect your kidneys.
When your kidneys are damaged, they may let protein leak into your urine. This can be one of the earliest signs of kidney disease. To check for protein in your urine (called proteinuria), your doctor may suggest a urine test. There are two types of urine tests your doctor may use.
Dipstick urine test
A dipstick urine test tells your doctor if there is protein in your urine. Your doctor may test your urine in the office or ask you to bring a sample from home. If your first dipstick urine test shows protein in your urine, ask your doctor when you should be tested again. Also ask if a urine albumin-to-creatinine (UACR) test is right for you.
Urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio (UACR)
A UACR test tells your doctor how much albumin is in your urine. Your doctor will test your urine to see how much albumin (a type of protein) and creatinine (a kind of waste) are in it. Your doctor will compare these results to figure out your UACR. A normal UACR is less than 30mg/g. If your UACR is more than 30 mg/g, ask your doctor when you should be tested again. Also ask your doctor if you should have an eGFR test.
Get a free Kidney Health Tracker
Know your numbers!
Kidney disease often has no symptoms until it is very far along, so it's important to get tested as part of your regular check-ups. This is very important for people who have diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of kidney disease.
You can keep track of all your important kidney health numbers with the free Kidney Health Tracker from the American Kidney Fund. This handy card gives basic information about the risks and tests for kidney disease. It also lets you write down and compare your test results to the normal results for several common blood tests.
Bring it to your next doctor's appointment. Ask your doctor about tests to check your kidneys, and know your numbers!