Kidneys can sustain progressive damage without any symptoms. A person can lose upto 90% of kidney function and still be without any symptoms. Many a times , patients who have taken master health check ups like pre-placement checks , insurance check up have been detected to have kidney disease.
These individuals upon enquiring gives having non specific symptoms like nausea, unexplained weakness, decreased appetite, inability to concentrate in their work, swelling of legs and face . These patients tend to ascribe their symptoms to some unrelated incidents and fail to seek medical advice.
Hence its important that individuals with the above symptoms especially if they have risk factors like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, family history of kidney disease, history of intake of painkillers , repeated urine infections, kidney stones get screened for kidney diseases at least once a year.
Kidney diseases may be detected by simple blood and urine tests
1. Blood tests : Estimation of Creatinine, urea in the blood
When the kidneys done function at an optimal rate , the toxic materials that are formed in the body as a result of daily activities are not excreted in the urine and start accumulating in the body thereby leading to elevation of levels of these substances in the blood. Urea and creatinine are such waste products. The concentration of these substances increase in the blood according to the level of kidney function.
2. Urine tests : Estimation of protein in urine , Detection of red blood cells , white blood cells and other cells in the urine
When the kidneys are damaged, filtering function is affected. In some kidney diseases, the ability of filtering units to retain the proteins inside the body while performing the function of filtering is lost. It leads to leakage of protein in the urine. This helps in detection of kidney disorders.
Presence of red blood cells in the urine may lead to diagnosis of some kidney disorders where there is inflammation of the kidney tissue .
3. Imaging of kidneys
Imaging methods like ultrasound , CT scan help in determining the size, shape, texture of kidneys , presence of swelling , stones , mass lesions of kidneys.
CKD ( chronic kidney failure) is characterised by shrunken kidneys on ultrasound. Any obstruction in the ureters ( the tubes that connect the urine bladder) can cause swelling up of the kidneys.
4. Kidney biopsy – removing a tiny bit of kidney tissue and examining it under microscope so as to know what exactly is happening in the kidney. Certain diseases of kidney need this for accurate diagnosis , definitive treatment and foretelling the prognosis.