People who have kidney conditions, or who suspect of having , usually submit themselves to a series of tests, such as urine routine test, blood urine test, renal function examination, and other pertinent assessments to determine the exact status of their organ. The results of such tests are referred to as clinical values. But how many patients really know what each value mean?
To give the common man or patient an overview of the terms used by medical professionals to refer to a certain kidney test result, here is an attempt to explain each value, as much as possible, in layman’s term.
Creatinine. It is a chemical waste product in the blood that forms with each normal muscle contraction. The more creatinine there is in the blood, the lesser the kidneys’ ability to function properly. Healthy kidneys can readily eliminate creatinine from the blood.
People who suspect to have certain kidney condition, and even healthy individuals who just want to have a medical check on their kidneys, are usually required to submit to a series of tests called basic or comprehensive metabolic panel (BMP or CMP) to assess their major organs. Particularly, they would be obliged to submit to a blood test and blood urea nitrogen (BUN) test to examine their kidney function. If and when these tests produce a result that can be considered clinically abnormal, or when they reveal certain signs of disease, such as diabetes that greatly affects the kidneys, the tests may be used further to observe how the kidney malfunction fares against its corresponding treatment.
Adult men with healthy have about 0.6 to 1.2 milligrams/deciliters (mg/dL) if creatinine, while women have around 0.5 to 1.1 mg/dL of creatinine. As shown in the data, women have lower creatinine levels than men do. It is because women have less muscle tissue compared to men.
Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR). This is a test performed by physicians or other medical practitioners to determine how the patient’s kidneys get along. It specifically makes an assessment on the amount of liquid and waste that passes through the filters in the kidneys, called glomeruli, and out into the urine. The measurement is calculated per minute. A normal healthy person has a constant GFR, which value stays almost always the same.
The test is performed by drawing a blood sample from the vein, usually from the inside of the elbow or at the back of the patient’s hand. The sample is then sent to a laboratory to have the creatinine level tested. Normal values should have a result of between 90ml/minute and 110ml/minute. Otherwise, the patient is likely to have problems with his kidneys. If the value is below 60ml/minute, it indicates that the patient has chronic renal disease; and if the value drops to 15ml/minute, it means that the patient’s condition is worse, as his kidneys have already stopped functioning.
Hematuria. This refers to the presence of red blood cells in the urine. It may occur only once or may be recurrent. Whether the blood is readily seen with the naked eye or visible only under a microscope, hematuria is indicative of a serious problem that has caused bleeding in the patient. The bleeding may originate internally, like from the kidneys, the ureters, the prostate gland among men, the bladder, or from the urethra.
Microalbuminuria. This refers to the persistent and abnormal excretion of small quantities of albumin in the urine. If measured, this discharge usually ranges between 30 and 300 milligrams per day. This abnormality has varied meanings to different patients. For those who have no risk factors for cardiovascular condition, this abnormality may only mean mild renal issue without any clinical significance. But for those individuals who have hypertension, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia, such abnormal excretion requires appropriate medical attention as this may be associated with cardiovascular problem.
Proteinuria. This is one of the many complications associated with diabetes that signifies serious problem in the kidneys. Specifically, it refers to the presence of excessive amount of serum proteins in the urine, which is a strong indication of kidney damage.
Potassium. It is a very essential mineral needed for the normal function of all cells, nerves, muscles, and the heart. A very high level of potassium in the blood stream may result in the weakening of the person, leaving him with an irregular heartbeat. It can even be life-threatening. While low potassium level may result in the weakening of the muscles and muscle coordination, cramping, fatigue, confusion, and heart failure. Healthy kidneys can readily remove excess potassium in the blood stream. But if they are damaged, they can no longer function the way they are made to, so the level of potassium can build up in the body.
Urea. Also known as carbamide, urea is an organic chemical compound and waste product made by the body after metabolizing protein. Dam-aged kidneys cannot remove urea from the blood stream.
There may be other terms or clinical values resulting from varied kidney tests but the above are the most common, so far.