Article

Who should get tested for kidney disease?

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About 37 million Americans have kidney disease. Anyone can get kidney disease, but having certain health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, can raise your risk of getting it. Factors like smoking or being overweight can also raise your chance. Learn more about these risk factors and whether you should get tested for kidney disease.

What are the risk factors for getting kidney disease?

Risk factors are things that give you a higher chance of having or getting a health condition. If you have one or more of the risk factors below, this does not mean that you will get kidney disease. But it may mean you should get tested. Talk to your doctor about tests for kidney disease.

Diabetes

Diabetes is the biggest factor that puts you at risk for kidney disease. It is also the number one cause of kidney failure. When high blood sugar damages your kidneys, it is called diabetic kidney disease, or diabetic nephropathy. You will not be able to feel if diabetes has harmed your kidneys, so the only way to know is to get tested. 

If you have diabetes, take these steps to protect your kidneys:

  • Control your blood sugar.
  • Keep your blood pressure in a healthy range (120/80 mm HG is best).
  • Control your cholesterol.
  • Move your body for at least 30 minutes, five days per week.
  • Keep a healthy weight. Work with your doctor to find the right weight for you.
  • Do not smoke or use tobacco.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure is the second most common cause of kidney disease. When your blood pressure is too high, it means your heart is working too hard to pump your blood. This can harm your body, including your kidneys.

Keeping your blood pressure in a healthy range (less than 120/80 mm HG is best) can help prevent kidney disease or help keep it from getting worse. Eating healthy and staying active can help lower your blood pressure.

Heart disease

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Having heart disease can raise your chance of getting kidney disease. If your heart does not pump blood through your body as well as it should, it can affect the blood flow to your kidneys. In time, this can damage your kidneys and lead to kidney disease.

Family history of kidney disease

You are more likely to get kidney disease if you have a family history of it. If a close family member has kidney disease, such as a parent, grandparent or sibling, talk to your doctor about getting tested.

This includes chronic kidney disease (CKD), which is the most common type, and other types of kidney disease such as polycystic kidney disease and lupus

Age

Being older than age 60 raises your chance of getting kidney disease. As you get older, your kidneys naturally do not work as well as when you were younger. People aged 60 or older are also more likely to have diabetes and high blood pressure, the two leading causes of kidney failure.

Race or ethnicity

If you are Black, Hispanic, Native American or Asian American, you might have a higher chance of getting kidney disease. Doctors and researchers are not exactly sure why, but it may be because diabetes and high blood pressure are more common in these groups. Access to health care may also play a role. 

Learn more about how race and ethnicity affect your chance of getting kidney disease:

Risk factors

Smoking

Smoking harms your whole body, including your kidneys. If you smoke, you are more likely to have protein in your urine, which is one of the early symptoms of kidney damage. 

Obesity (being overweight)

Being overweight means your weight is higher than what is considered a "healthy weight." For most people, a Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 25 is considered overweight. Your doctor can help you find out what a healthy weight is for you. 

Being overweight also raises your chance of having high blood pressure and diabetes, which are the two most common causes of kidney disease

Should I get tested if I have any of these risk factors?

If you have any of these risk factors, talk to your doctor about getting tested for kidney disease. You and your doctor can talk about which tests are right for you, and how often you should have them.

Getting tested can help find kidney disease early, before your kidneys have been badly damaged. This means you can get treatment to slow down the damage to your kidneys and keep them working for as long as possible

What are the signs and symptoms of kidney disease?

Most people do not have any symptoms in the early stages of kidney disease. However, there are some signs of early kidney disease that you may notice, or that doctors may notice when testing for other health conditions. These include:

  • Swelling in your hands or feet
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Feeling sick to your stomach (nausea)
  • Throwing up
  • Feeling itchy
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling tired (fatigue) or short of breath
  • Urine that is dark in color or foamy, or changes in how often you urinate

If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, talk to your doctor about getting tested

Other kidney conditions may raise your chance of CKD

Certain kidney diseases and conditions raise your risk of developing CKD. If you have any of these, talk to your doctor about testing: 

  • Polycystic kidney disease: A genetic disease that causes cysts to grow in your kidneys
  • Glomerulonephritis: A disease that causes damage to the tiny blood vessels (glomeruli) in your kidneys
  • Acute kidney injury: Kidney failure that happens very quickly (within two days or less). This can be caused from problems with blood flow to the kidney or other things like a virus, poisons or even some medicines. 
  • Lupus: An autoimmune disease that affects many parts of your body
  • Autoimmune diseases (such as lupus and lgA Neuropathy)
  • IgA nephropathy (Berger's disease): A disease that causes damage to the tiny filters inside the kidneys

Kidney cancer: A cancer that grows inside your kidneys