Kidney function tests determine whether the kidneys are working normally or whether a person needs regular tests or additional treatment. Many online companies are developing these types of tests for home use, which can be beneficial for people who cannot go to the doctor’s office.

What is a kidney function test?

Kidney function tests help diagnose and monitor kidney disease. The kidneys filter and excrete waste materials from the blood when a person urinates. They are also responsible for producing vitamin D and hormones that regulate blood pressure. 

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) states that doctors can suggest tests for people who have symptoms of chronic kidney disease. These symptoms include:

  • lack of appetite
  • unintentional weight loss
  • shortness of breath
  • tiredness
  • frequent urination
  • blood in the urine or really dark urine throughout the day

According to the trusted source at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), people at high risk of developing kidney disease should have regular kidney function tests, including people with:

  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • a family history of kidney failure

Kidney function tests also help diagnose early-stage kidney disease.

Symptoms of kidney problems

Symptoms that may indicate a problem with your kidneys include:

  • high blood pressure
  • blood in the urine
  • frequent urges to urinate
  • difficulty beginning urination
  • painful urination
  • swelling of the hands and feet due to a buildup of fluids in the body

A single symptom cannot mean anything serious; However, if they happen at the same time, these symptoms indicate that your kidneys are not working properly. Kidney function tests can help find out why.

Treatment of early kidney disease

Your doctor will focus on treating the underlying disease if tests show early kidney disease. Your doctor will prescribe medication to control your blood pressure if tests show high blood pressure. They will also suggest lifestyle and diet changes. 

If you have diabetes your doctor may ask you to see an endocrinologist. This type of doctor specializes in metabolic disorders and can help you control your blood sugar in the best possible way.
If there are other causes of your abnormal kidney function tests, such as kidney stones and excessive use of pain medication, your doctor will take appropriate measures to control these disorders.
Abnormal test results mean you will likely need regular kidney function tests to help your doctor monitor your condition in the coming months.

Types Of Kidney Function Tests:

There are two types of kidney function tests:

  • Blood
  • Urine tests

Blood tests

Doctors may call this a glomerular filtration rate (GFR) test, as it checks how well the kidneys are filtering waste materials from the blood. If a test shows a GFR of 15 or less, a person may need a kidney transplant or dialysis.

Healthcare professionals can also measure the amount of creatine in the blood to estimate a person’s GFR. People have higher creatine levels when they have kidney disease.

Urine tests

Urine tests look for albumin, a protein that can end up in the urine after kidney damage.

According to the trusted NIDDK source, the two types of urinalysis include a urinalysis with a dipstick that checks for albumin in the urine. The second is the Urine Albumin Creatinine Ratio (UACR), which measures the levels of albumin and creatine in the urine. A typical UACR result is less than 30 milligrams per gram; a value greater than this value may indicate that a person needs to undergo another test.

How to choose

People looking for an at-home kidney function test may wish to consider the following factors before making a purchase:

  • Certified Laboratories: Some companies work with laboratories with a Trusted Source Certification for Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA). This indicates that these facilities have received state certifications to meet quality standards for laboratory testing. 
  • Consultations: Some companies offer consultations with a doctor for people who want to discuss their results. 
  • Collection Kit: People who order their home kit from an online supplier should have all of the tools they need to collect the blood sample. You must also be given instructions. 
  • Data protection: Companies that comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act ensure that adequate security measures are in place to protect the person’s private and confidential information. Additionally, many companies that offer home testing use discreet packaging.

What is the first sign of kidney failure?

According to the American Kidney Fund, some of the early symptoms of kidney failure include the following symptoms:

  • muscle cramps
  • difficulty sleeping
  • nausea and vomiting
  • itching
  • swelling in the feet and ankles

When the kidneys suddenly stop working, a person can experience acute kidney failure, which can lead to:

  • abdominal pain
  • back pain
  • fever
  • diarrhea
  • rash
  • nosebleeds

People need to contact a doctor as soon as possible if they experience any symptoms of kidney failure.

Are at-home kidney function tests accurate?

There is currently no research on the accuracy of home kidney function tests. 

The Trusted Source of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends following the manufacturer’s instructions for testing kidney function at home. People should also buy test kits that are processed in CLIA certified laboratories to ensure they meet quality standards. 

If a person is unsure about the accuracy of a home test, they can speak to a doctor about the test they are considering.

When to contact a doctor?

People with symptoms of kidney disease or people at high risk of developing kidney problems should see a doctor. 

A doctor can recommend further tests and treatments, or refer you to a specialist, e.g. a nephrologist who has experience with kidney disease.

To Sum Up

Home kidney function tests are tests people can buy to check the status of their kidneys, and they can be helpful for people who have the first symptoms of kidney disease or are at high risk of developing the disease.

However, people should interpret their results with the help of a doctor. Therefore, if the test results suggest kidney disease, they should see a doctor for further advice and treatment. This is because healthcare professionals need to consider symptoms and other factors before making a diagnosis based on a test alone.

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