Common Methods for Diagnosing Chronic Kidney Disease

You might wonder if you have a problem with your kidneys, but you’ve been holding off on seeing a doctor for some time.  This is a more common practice than you think, and it’s better to find out sooner than later if you have chronic kidney disease.

People often avoid going to the doctor because they’re afraid of intensive testing, or they don’t want the diagnosis to make their health condition feel more real. However, proper testing and diagnosis is the first step to treating any disease, and ignoring the problem only leads to worse health issues later on.

Doctors can use a variety of methods to test the health and functionality of your kidneys. Here are some of the most common ones.

The Importance of Tests in Chronic Kidney Disease Treatment

It’s imperative to understand that putting off a trip to the doctor to check on the health of your kidneys is a mistake.  If you avoid getting tested for chronic kidney disease at the right time, it can have a serious impact on your long-term health.

Early diagnosis has been shown to significantly decrease morbidity and mortality rates of people suffering from chronic kidney disease. The sooner the diagnosis is determined, the less damage the disease can do to your body without your knowledge.

Chronic kidney disease treatment is impossible without a clear diagnosis. It’s important to understand that the steps you take to protect the health of your kidneys will be helpful and effective.   If you don’t appreciate that your own effort to protect your kidney health is worthwhile, you probably won’t stick to the lifestyle changes necessary, and you might stop taking medicine to treat the illness.

A diagnosis isn’t the beginning of the end; it’s an opportunity to reassess the situation and make future healthy choices, and it can save your life.

Tests for Chronic Kidney Disease

There’s really nothing to fear from these tests. Most are noninvasive, and the more invasive tests like biopsies are mild procedures.


Urinalysis is one of the first steps in diagnosing kidney problems.

All you need to do is provide a urine sample, which can be collected at the doctor’s office. Remember to make sure you don’t go to the bathroom and waste the sample before your visit.  You’ll have to wait until you can go again, which is an inconvenience for you.  The urine sample will then be tested for irregularities, such as high concentrations of a protein called albumin.

Albumin is created by your liver. It’s typically filtered back into your bloodstream rather than being excreted, but when your kidneys aren’t fully functioning, it can make its way into your urine. The presence of albumin suggests it’s worth taking a closer look at your kidneys as there is likely some damage.

Blood Analysis

Your kidneys are responsible for filtering your blood, so testing the concentration of compounds such as creatine in your blood is another common diagnosis method. This is done by measuring your glomerular filtration rate (GFR).

The filters in your kidneys are called glomeruli. If they’re working properly, your GFR should be very high as the kidneys are successfully filtering your blood at a high and efficient rate.

Your GFR should ideally be over 90, which means your kidneys are still functioning at 90% efficiency, but anything over 60 is considered healthy. If your GFR is under 60, this suggests there might be kidney damage.

Ultrasound Imaging

Your doctor might refer you to a specialist for a kidney ultrasound. This allows the specialist to look at the size and shape of your kidneys so they can spot any irregularities that could be consistent with poor kidney function.

The ultrasound may reveal abnormalities about your kidneys or other sources of kidney disease such as cysts.


In some cases where kidney damage seems severe, you may need to get a biopsy.

In a biopsy, a small sample of your kidney is removed through the use of a thin needle. It is then sent to a lab for testing, where specialists can analyze it in detail. This is the most effective method for diagnosing kidney disease, but it’s not necessary for most people.

Diagnosing End-Stage Renal Disease

Blood analysis has the added benefit of helping clinicians understand how far along your chronic kidney disease has progressed. If you are just under the threshold, you can probably make a few changes to your diet and exercise routine and have no trouble at all. If your GFR dips below 15, this is considered a strong indicator of end-stage renal disease.

At this point, your kidneys are no longer capable of filtering your blood on their own. Once kidney failure occurs, you will likely need to start dialysis in order to filter your blood properly like a normal kidney does. This is why seeking medical attention early is so important.

Final Thoughts

Understanding that early diagnosis of kidney disease leads to the best outcome is truly important.  And making that diagnosis is easier than you think. 

Your doctor will work with you to ensure you’re comfortable and fully informed about what’s happening in any testing so you can learn about your kidney health with confidence.

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