You have the right to be treated with respect at all times, free from discrimination.
It is your right to have quality health care. Actively participating in your care, advocating for yourself and knowing your rights can help ensure you get the quality care you deserve.
5 reasons to get tested for kidney disease
People of all races and backgrounds get kidney disease, but Black and Hispanic people are more likely than White people to need dialysis or a kidney transplant due to kidney failure.
Black and Hispanic people are more likely to have diabetes and high blood pressure, the top two causes of kidney disease.
Because kidney disease does not have symptoms until the later stages, 9 out of 10 people with early kidney disease don't know they have it.
Compared to White people, Black and Hispanic people are less likely to be referred to a kidney doctor (nephrologist) in earlier stages of kidney disease, when medications are most effective at delaying the need for dialysis or a transplant.
The only way to know if you have kidney disease is to get your blood and urine tested by your doctor.
Finding kidney disease early is critical
When kidney disease is caught in the early stages, you have less chance of developing kidney failure and needing dialysis or a transplant. Although there is no cure for kidney disease, medications and changes to what you eat can keep it from getting worse and prevent your kidneys from failing.
Take charge of your health
You are an important member of your health care team
Ask your doctor to check your kidneys with urine and blood tests. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes or have family members with kidney disease, it is important to get your kidneys tested at least once every year (or more often if your doctor recommends).
If other people in your family have kidney disease, this could be due to genetic factors. For example, everyone has two APOL1 genes. People who have West and Central African ancestry may have variations in these genes that can lead to severe kidney disease.
When you get your lab results, look at your eGFR result and make sure there is not a calculation for African American. A separate calculation for African Americans was included in kidney testing until 2021. Though most labs and doctors no longer use a separate calculation for African Americans, make sure to check. If the separate African American calculation is listed, talk to your doctor about getting a new number without it. If your eGFR is not on your lab report, ask your doctor to calculate it.
Get a referral to a kidney doctor
If your eGFR result is lower than 60, talk to your doctor about if and when a referral to a kidney doctor (nephrologist) makes sense. Most people should see a nephrologist when their eGFR is less than 30. But when you should be referred can depend on many things, including: how much protein is in your urine, if your doctor suspects a rare or genetic disease, or if you have a higher risk of your kidney disease worsening quickly (such as with APOL-1). Keep track of your blood pressure, blood sugar (glucose) and take all medicines exactly as prescribed by your doctor.
Be proactive with your doctor
Come to your appointment with a written list of your symptoms, questions and concerns. If you feel that your doctor isn't taking your concerns seriously, there are things you can do to make sure you get the care you deserve. Know your rights as a patient.
You have the right to have your personal health information kept private.
You have the right to choose the treatments that feel best for you.
You have the right to culturally and linguistically appropriate testing, treatment, counseling and other care to prevent and manage kidney disease.
You have the right to an accurate and early kidney disease diagnosis, with timely referral to a nephrologist.
If you do not understand something, you have the right to ask your doctor and keep asking until they are clear. Use the teach-back method to make sure you understand — repeat what your doctor said back to them in your own words.
You have the right to get a second opinion or take time to think about any treatment your doctor is recommending and talk to your family about it .
You have the right to participate in clinical trials and access the latest kidney disease medical innovations.
Addressing health care biases
A member of the American Kidney Fund Health Equity Coalition discusses how unconscious bias impacts health care, and the reasons why people may not feel that the U.S. health care system is "for them."
Ready, set, take action
In spite of the challenges, it only takes one person at a time — armed with the right tools and knowledge — to take lifesaving action. The American Kidney Fund provides the help