I’ve just heard of another friend of a friend diagnosed with stage 4 Chronic Kidney Disease, or CKD. CKD is extremely hard to detect, even if your paying attention, but there are two kidney tests that can help you determine their health.

The thing about kidney disease is the symptoms are so subtle. By the time you notice any symptoms, you might already be at stage 4, or 5 in my case. Fatigue was the symptom that brought me to the emergency room. I was inordinately tired. Fatigue can be attributed to almost anything, like maybe I just needed to take a vacation. I went to the emergency room feeling very tired and I left two weeks later with a catheter in my chest and on dialysis. Please don’t let this happen to you.

I had some odd symptoms, like the taste in my mouth that was like metallic sewage. I attributed this symptom to stomach acid, when in fact it was sewage, it was all the sewage my kidneys couldn’t clean from my blood. Also, no matter how many showers I took, I never felt clean. I think toxins were literally seeping through the pores of my skin.

Knowing what I know now, the symptom I would pay extra attention to is high blood pressure. When I went to the emergency room with fatigue, my blood pressure was 190! No wonder I was having chest pains. I’m truly lucky I didn’t have a stroke. After my kidney transplant, my blood pressure dropped to 120, which is gloriously normal. What these numbers told me is that my high blood pressure did not affect my kidneys; my damaged kidneys affected my blood pressure.

My new healthy kidney was easily able to stabilize my blood pressure. I find this amazing. I was being treated for high blood pressure when it was a symptom of my kidney failure. High blood pressure can affect the kidneys, but kidney function can absolutely affect blood pressure.

Another important factor that affects kidney health is diabetes. High blood sugar can damage the blood vessels in your kidneys. This causes the kidneys to be less efficient in cleaning waste from the blood and can lead to high blood pressure. High blood pressure further damages kidney function, so this is a double whammy. If you even have a family history of diabetes, please have your kidneys checked. Edema, or constant swelling of the feet and legs can be a symptom of both diabetes and kidney disease. Definitely see a doctor if you are having edema.

Two Simple Kidney Tests

There is a simple urine test that you can ask your doctor about. It’s called the Albumin/Creatinine Ratio (ACR). You can read more about this test at Kidney.org. It will detect how much protein is in your urine. If you notice foam in your urine, you definitely want to get this test. When the kidneys are damaged, protein leaks into your urine and you will see a foamy presence. This is one of the early signs of kidney disease.

When you’re having your routine blood work done, ask for the Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR). You can also read about this at kidney.org for an in-depth explanation.

This test will measure the level of creatinine in your blood. Creatinine is the name of the waste product in your blood that passes through the kidneys. The kidneys work to filter all this waste and eliminated it from your body through urination. When your kidneys are impaired, you will have a high level of creatinine in your blood. The GFR test tells your doctor how well your kidneys are functioning at removing your waste from your blood. Then your doctor can calculate how healthy your kidneys are and the level of function they are operating at.

At the time of my kidney transplant, and this is while being on dialysis, my creatinine level was 8.6. Normal creatinine levels for women are 0.5 to 1.1. Now that I have my healthy new kidney my creatinine level is 1.0. My awesome new kidney can easily do the clean up of two.

When I was in the emergency room the doctor said, “your kidneys have failed,” it seemed so harsh, like there was no hope. Then he said my kidneys were operating at 10% capacity. I was floored that I had had been walking around, probably for years, with absolutely no idea that my kidneys were literally sputtering out. My kidneys were so sick but just kept working, keeping my body functioning. I didn’t even know there was a problem until I felt tired enough to go to the doctor. That’s how hard your kidneys work.

If I were a doctor, I would give every patient a simple kidney test just to establish a baseline. The great news is that if you detect kidney disease in its early stages, the damage can be slowed and even stopped. Imagine that.

With some simple lifestyle changes you can help restore your kidney’s function. Your kidneys are so efficient and so well designed that you only need one working kidney for your entire body to function properly. My hope is that everyone will have their kidneys checked; it’s just so easy. These are simple lab tests. Show yourself some love and just get them done. Your kidneys are so important in living and maintaining the healthy lifestyle we all want. You can find more helpful information about all things kidney at kidney.org, right here:  https://www.kidney.org

All the best,