Look After Your Kidneys: Begin by Ordering an eGFR
Did you know that many people with kidney disease may not be aware of their condition until it reaches advanced stages? Well, it is actually a possibility, and it happens more frequently than you may think. Odds are that one in ten people have kidney disease, even more in Asian countries.
How Does eGFR Measure Kidney Function?
Your kidneys are made up of functional units called nephrons, whereby clusters of arterial loops (glomeruli) carry blood to be filtered into the small ducts. Many nutrients, and electrolytes are reabsorbed back into the blood, yet any unwanted waste products (urea, creatinine and other metabolites) and excess fluid are excreted in the form of urine.
Diseases that damage the kidneys typically affect the glomeruli, reducing their capacity to filter the blood and decreasing the kidney’s ability to perform its usual function. That’s why an equation was created to calculate the estimated rate at which the glomeruli filter the blood, called “estimated glomerular filtration rate” or eGFR. This equation involves the person’s gender, ethnicity, age, and plasma creatinine.
What is Creatinine?
A compound called creatine is normally broken down by your muscles into a waste product called creatinine, which is then removed from your body by the kidneys and excreted through urine.
Why Would You Need to Know Your Glomerular Filtration Rate?
The importance of determining the eGFR is based on the fact that kidney disease is becoming a worldwide economical and health burden, and due to the asymptomatic nature of the disease, chronic kidney disease (CKD) is not frequently detected until its later stages, resulting in lost opportunities for prevention of disease progression.
By measuring your eGFR, a health-care practitioner can assess your kidney’s health, modify the dosage of any drug that you may be taking, and detect chronic kidney disease while it is still in its early stages; this way preventing the onset of end-stage kidney disease, and therefore the need for dialysis or kidney transplant.
What Does Your eGFR Result Mean?
eGFR equal or higher than 90 mL/min/1.73 m2 is considered normal.
eGFR ranging from 60 to 89 mL/min/1.73 m2 is considered mildly decreased.
A decrease in eGFR less than 60 mL/min/1.73 m2 for 3 or more months is a diagnostic criterion for chronic kidney disease and is associated with a greater risk of fatal and nonfatal outcomes.
What Are the Causes of Kidney Disease?
There are many conditions that can damage your kidneys; however, glomerulonephritis, uncontrolled hypertension and type 2 diabetes are the three leading causes of kidney damage and potential chronic kidney disease (CKD) in Asia.
The progression of CKD to complete renal failure is denominated end-stage kidney disease (ESKD), which is a condition that requires dialysis or even kidney transplantation in many cases.
What Can You Do to Prevent the Onset or Delay the Progress of Kidney Disease?
Prevention is a powerful tool to minimise the risk of having chronic kidney disease, especially if you are diabetic or hypertensive. However, every person is at risk of developing this disease as we age.
If you were already diagnosed with kidney damage, having a multidisciplinary team of health-care providers is of utmost importance to delay the progress of the disease.
In either case, whether you were already diagnosed with kidney disease, or just want to have a heads-up in preventing kidney damage, there are some things that you can do:
– Maintain adequate levels of blood sugar: high blood sugar levels can produce direct damage to the kidneys.
– Maintain normal blood pressure levels: high blood pressure can damage the kidney glomeruli.
– Maintain a healthy weight: obese and overweight people have a higher risk of having diseases such as hypertension and type 2 diabetes, which are the main causes of kidney disease.
– Stop smoking: the nicotine contained in cigarettes can reduce the blood flow to the kidneys.
– Avoid eating too much salt and potassium in your foods: this includes keeping track of store-bought product labels because most of these foods have very high salt levels.
– Increase the intake of kidney-friendly and healthy foods: egg whites, olive oil, fish, red bell peppers, cauliflower, onions, cabbage, garlic, apples, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, red grapes, and cherries, among others.
– Avoid the intake of drugs that may harm to your kidneys: certain antibiotics and drugs known as anti-inflammatories (naproxen, aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.) can produce kidney damage. If your kidneys don’t work well, it is necessary that you ask your doctor before taking any drugs, including over-the-counter medications.
If you’re interested in learning more about eGFR and how it detects kidney damage, read on more about it in our biomarker post here!