Chronic Kidney Disease appears in five stages, ranging from an early stage with little obvious effect to a final stage where the patient is on life-saving dialysis or awaiting a transplant. Each stage has certain characteristics and means of detection. The more that people know the various signs and effects of being in each stage, the sooner they may get a proper diagnosis from their doctor. Early detection is the best key to effective treatment.
Stage One leaves the patient with 90% kidney function. The person can survive at this level, but it’s still necessary to detect the problem so causes and treatments can be addressed. If they don’t take steps at this point, the disease is very likely to progress to the next level. Stage Two leaves only 60-89% kidney function, as the damage to these organs has increased.
The difficulty is that there are no obvious symptoms of kidney dysfunction at either stage. This may lead to a lack of detection at a crucial time when the disease could have been nipped in the bud, or curtailed before it got much worse. So it’s essential that the person have their regular yearly physical checkups, including urine tests and extensive blood work. Even with no other physical symptoms, these tests can detect:
- elevated creatinine levels (which indicate how well the kidneys are filtering out wastes)
- elevated protein levels (another indication of inefficiency in filtering wastes)
- elevated blood urea nitrogen levels (kidneys take urea from the blood and expel it in the urine, but if the blood levels are high, this is another hint of failing kidneys)
In addition to the potential for early detection with blood and urine tests, high blood pressure is a well known hint of problems with kidney function. The most often mentioned symptom is high blood pressure, which can either cause kidney disease, or be caused by it. So if a person’s blood pressure rises, this can be a spur to doing the urine and blood tests, either to detect kidney disease or rule it out. And all steps (medication, exercise, alterations in diet) must be taken to bring the blood pressure down.
If blood and urine tests indicate a possible problem, doctors can go further and take a kidney biopsy, do a CT scan, or perform an MRI. So even at these early stages, while it’s more difficult, it’s still possible to detect incipient kidney disease. What it takes is vigilance, and thorough, regular checkups.