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The Warning Signs of Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is a stealth illness. It may often be silent for many years—until it has reached an advanced stage.

When you get a checkup, it's important to make sure your health care provider includes tests of your kidney function, experts say. This is especially true if you have some of the conditions that can increase your risk for kidney disease, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

Two simple blood tests, blood-urea-nitrogen and serum creatinine level, and a regular urine analysis can help determine if your kidneys are functioning normally.

If you have diabetes but no known kidney disease, your health care provider can order an additional test called microalbumin screening. This test can pick up signs of early kidney problems before any of the other "kidney function tests" become abnormal. For patients with diabetes, the microalbumin test should be done once a year, according to the American Diabetes Association.

When high blood pressure or diabetes is detected and controlled with treatment, the risk of kidney disease and other complications is greatly reduced.

Many people don't realize how important their kidneys are to their good health. In addition to filtering wastes from your blood, the kidneys do several other key jobs to keep your body functioning smoothly:

  • They produce a hormone that helps your body make red blood cells. This prevents anemia or a low blood count.

  • They make hormones that help to regulate blood pressure.

  • They keep your bones strong by making an activated form of vitamin D.