Kidney Disease Center

Kidney Failure Diagnosis

The sooner the cause of any type of kidney failure is resolved, the more likely kidney function may be re-established and recovered. If you suspect that you are experiencing kidney problems, see your family doctor first. To prepare for an appointment, know as much as you can about your family's medical history in advance. And write down any questions you have and bring them with you to the doctor's office.

If you experience a chronic medical condition that puts you at increased risk of chronic kidney failure or are older than 60, doctors should monitor blood pressure and kidney function periodically. This type of health management can help prevent kidney problems and screening consists of urine and blood tests during regularly scheduled office visits. Others who only suspect kidney problems may also receive similar care.

Medical exams
During an appointment , the doctor first evaluates symptoms and medical history. Blood and urine tests will be ordered. If these tests are not definite or conclusive, the doctor may order an imaging test like an ultrasound of the kidneys or schedule a kidney biopsy.

For people 60+ years of age, the doctor will look for other signs of early kidney disease. Based upon a person's age, the doctor may additionally consider:

  • blood pressure measurements
  • blood (for wastes and toxins)
  • family health history
  • health history
  • urine (for protein or blood)

The following tests are used to help doctors diagnose kidney problems:

Imaging tests - If a structural problem or blockage is suspected, an image of the kidneys can be helpful. Imaging techniques such as an ultrasound, CT scan (computed tomography), isotope scan, or intravenous pyelogram (IVP) may be ordered to assist in making the definitive diagnosis.

Kidney biopsy - A biopsy can determine the cause of protein or blood in the urine. A biopsy can also be used to monitor the effectiveness of treatment. Analyzing a small section of kidney tissue can reveal the nature and extent of structural damage to a kidney.

Laboratory tests - Tests performed on samples of your blood and urine are the first line of defense in detecting and identifying kidney problems and minimizing damage.

Blood tests - Abnormal levels of waste products in the blood increases as kidney filtration declines. Abnormal out-or-normal established-value range results are usually the first sign that kidney disease is present. A blood sample can detect these changes and can be analyzed for:

  • creatinine
  • estimated glomerular filtration rate (EGFR))
  • blood urea nitrogen (BUN)

Urine tests - A urine sample is requested and analyzed as part of routine screening. The analysis includes determining whether red blood cells, white blood cells (WBCs or leukocytes), and protein are present in the urine. The amount of urea and creatinine are also measured to see whether the kidneys work properly or they fail to clean the toxins.

The medical history, test results, the description of symptoms, and the doctor's physical exam will all be used in order to determine to confirm or exclude a diagnosis of kidney failure. Once diagnosed with kidney failure, proper and specific treatment can begin. The goals of treatment are many. Read our treatment section now for end stage renal disease to learn more about treatment options and goals.

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