Kidney disease can be so silent in the early stages that the patient may be perfectly well without any symptoms. However, apart from a physical check up, patients usually need urine and blood tests to detect renal disease.
The urine is usually tested for:
The blood is tested also for abnormally high levels of substances that accumulate in the body in the presence of kidney failure. They include:
Usually the initial screening tests can be done at a clinic with a sample of freshly collected urine. The urine is tested using a labstix. The labstix is a stick to which is adhered several chemicals strips which change their colour when there is abnormal amounts of blood, protein or sugar in the urine. In the presence of abnormal labstix testing, patients may need to collect their urine for 24 hours to allow the attending doctor to better assess the urine to confirm or exclude any urinary abnormality. Some patients may eventually need a kidney biopsy to distinguish the kind of kidney disease that they have, as well as to assess the eventual renal prognosis. A kidney biopsy is a minor surgical procedure in which a needle is inserted into the kidney (with anaesthesia) and a piece of the kidney is taken for microscopic examination.
It is important to realise that the presence of a single abnormal lab result does not necessarily equate to the presence of renal disease. An abnormal laboratory result implies that the patient needs to see a doctor. The doctor may consider either a repeat test or more extensive testing for the patient.
While any patient can benefit from having these tests done, there remain certain groups of persons who are at higher risk of renal disease who should in particular have regular renal function tests.
These groups include patients with:
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