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The Importance Of Having A Kidney Function Test As A Senior!

Do you know the importance of having a kidney function test as an elderly senior? Keep reading as we will go into more details of why this is an important screening exam.

The kidneys are responsible for so much more than just eliminating urine from the body. In combination with other organs, the kidneys sustain the body in all of its essential processes.

If the kidneys were subject to damage or disease, the entire body would suffer and ultimately result in irreversible damage and death.

We will be taking a closer look and reviewing the main role of the kidneys, symptoms and causes of chronic kidney disease, risk factors and prevention measures for kidney disease, the procedure for kidney function testing, and the overall benefits of early kidney function screening.

What Does the Kidney Do For the Body?

The kidneys are a pair of vital organs that sit on either side of the spine, deep in the abdomen. In rare cases, individuals can function on one kidney.

The primary role of the kidneys is to remove toxins from the body and to transform waste into urine.

However, kidney function can be broken down into three main jobs for keeping the body healthy:

  • Filtering Blood:

    The kidneys filter waste out of the blood that makes its way into the circulatory system after ingesting and metabolizing food.

  • Chemical Balance:

    Kidneys are responsible for balancing sodium and potassium levels, or the bodies’ electrolytes, which directly impacts the bodies’ fluid levels.

  • Hormone Secretion:

    The kidneys secrete a hormone called renin that regulates the body’s overall blood pressure.

What is Chronic Kidney Disease?

Chronic kidney disease occurs when one or both kidneys gradually lose function over time.

If the kidneys can no longer operate at full function, waste products build up in your body and certain medical complications start to arise including:

  • Fluid retention in the limbs (lymphedema)
  • High blood pressure
  • Nerve damage
  • Heart problems
  • Anemia
  • Weakened bones

Overtime, symptoms gradually worsen to the point where patients require intense waste removal interventions, including kidney dialysis.

Once the kidneys go into complete failure, this results in death.

What Are the Symptoms of Chronic Kidney Disease?

Most symptoms of kidney disease aren’t noticeable until the stages, and may include any of the following:

  • Swollen limbs
  • Itchy, puffy skin
  • Need to urinate more often
  • Poor appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Inattention
  • Fatigue
  • Increased muscle cramping at night
  • Blood or protein in the urine
  • High blood pressure
  • Nausea or vomiting

Some of these symptoms, at a glance, may not immediately indicate organ failure and could be mistaken for other medical issues. 

Who Is At Risk For Chronic Kidney Disease?

In many cases, there are two main causes to chronic kidney disease:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure

However, there are other risk factors to consider, including:

  • Certain autoimmune disease
  • Trauma to the kidneys
  • Congenital defects
  • Polycystic kidney disease (inherited kidney disease)
  • Glomeronephritis (inflammation of kidney tissue)

Are There Ways to Prevent Chronic Kidney Disease?

Diabetes and high blood pressure, leading into kidney disease, can be managed first to prevent further medical complications.

Although not all cases of kidney disease can be prevented, there are some measures that men and women can take to minimize their risk including:

  • Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption
  • Avoid illicit drug use
  • Exercise regularly
  • Stay well hydrated
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Eat nutritious foods, many fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid sugary foods and drinks
  • Attend routine medical check-ups
  • Attend screenings for any suspicious symptoms

What is a Kidney Function Test?

A kidney function test is a blood sample test in which a simple finger prick is required to collect a small amount of blood for lab testing.

The lab measures the presence of creatinine, which is a waste product that gets filtered through the blood and through functioning kidneys.

Elevated creatinine levels generally indicate that the kidneys are not working properly.

A second portion of the test measures how fast blood is filtering through the kidneys. Oftentimes, filtration slows down with age and can indicate an underlying issue.

Once your lab results are in, they will be sent over to your primary physician for further assessment.

What Are the Benefits of a Kidney Function Test?

A kidney function test can provide detailed information that may otherwise go unnoticed for many years, details that can form into medical complications that can’t be treated or reversed.

The benefits of early kidney function testing include:

  • Early and accurate detection of kidney disease
  • Quick and simple testing
  • Proper treatment planning
  • Ease of mind

What Happens if My Results Come Back Positive for Chronic Kidney Disease?

Once your doctor reviews your kidney function test results, you may be asked to attend a follow-up appointment to review your assessment together.

Chronic kidney disease presents in stages of severity:

  • Stage I normal
  • Stage II mild
  • Stage III moderate
  • Stage IV severe
  • Stage 5 end-stage

If your physician concludes that you have chronic kidney disease, your treatment options will be based on his findings and your disease stage.

Treatment options may include:

  • Managing comorbidies or underlying diseases (i.e. diabetes, high blood pressure)
  • Lifestyle modifications
  • Weight loss program
  • Prescriptive medications
  • Dietary or nutrition programs
  • Pain management
  • Kidney dialysis
  • Fluid reduction therapies
  • Comfort care measures

Conclusion To Having A Kidney Function Test As a Senior

The kidneys are vital, life-sustaining organs that work in conjunction with the rest of the body to keep everything functioning all at once.

If the kidneys were to fail, the body would be unable to eliminate waste products, resulting in complications such as high blood pressure, fluid retention, nerve damage, heart complications, and eventually death.

Many early symptoms of kidney disease are difficult to detect and can be mistaken for other medical conditions.

Kidney function testing is a simple, finger-pricking test that collects a small sample of blood for lab testing.

The test can help reveal if the kidneys are filtering waste properly and the rate of blood flow.

Kidney function testing can potentially reveal early signs of kidney disease so that patients can get on proper treatment plans immediately.

If you or a loved one is interested in participating in a kidney function test, or even has concerns about their relevant family history, talk to your doctor and get signed up today.

About Samuel

Samuel is a physical therapist with over 20 years medical experience. He has extensive knowledge in functional rehabilitation in the acute care hospital and in-home care settings. He has spent most of his career helping seniors transition from hospital or rehab care to living independently at home. In his free time he likes to travel and read autobiographies.

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