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When your kidneys aren’t working as they should, waste can build up and harm your body. But you can help your kidneys help you.
Most people with kidney disease don’t have symptoms until the disease is advanced, when treatment is more difficult. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that of the 37 million Americans who have kidney disease, 90 percent of them don’t know they have it. That’s why it’s important to have a yearly wellness exam.
Getting screened for kidney disease can help catch it early. Early detection and treatment of kidney disease can help prevent or delay kidney failure. You may have both urine and blood tests when you’re screened for kidney disease.
Urine test: Having more than the normal amount of certain proteins in your urine may show that your kidneys are not filtering blood the right way.
Blood test: Your blood will be tested for creatinine. When kidneys are damaged, they have trouble cleaning it from your blood. So higher levels of creatinine in your blood can mean you have kidney damage.
Tell your doctor about your family’s medical history, especially if someone close to you has kidney disease.
While some long-term kidney health problems run in the family, they are often caused by common health issues like high blood pressure and diabetes. Be sure to:
You can take steps to lower your risk for kidney disease:
Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease. Diabetic kidney disease (DKD) is also called chronic kidney disease (CKD) or diabetic nephropathy.
Having diabetes for a longer time raises the chances that you will have kidney damage. If the damage continues, your kidneys could fail. People with kidney failure need either dialysis or a kidney transplant.
You are more likely to get kidney disease if your blood sugar or blood pressure is too high. You’re also more likely to develop kidney disease if you have diabetes and:
Be sure to take your medicines and keep your doctor visits. You can slow down kidney damage and keep it from getting worse.
Anyone can get kidney disease, but some things make it more likely. High blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes or a family history of kidney failure put you at higher risk for developing kidney disease. People age 60 and older and those who are African American, Asian, Hispanic, Pacific Islander or American Indian are also at higher risk.
If you have any of these risk factors for kidney disease, you should get a screening each year.
Not everyone who is at risk will get kidney disease. Talk to your doctor about how to lessen your chances.
The kidneys, along with the liver, are our body’s cleaning department. These two organs help remove toxins and waste from the body. But they also do a lot more.
Originally published 2/4/2021; Revised 2022, 2023
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