In order to maintain healthy functioning, our bodies must expel a variety of substances everyday, including: excess water, bacteria, waste products, and things that simply have no metabolic use. The kidneys are responsible for filtering toxins out of the blood and producing urine to get rid of them. The kidneys do this with approximately a million specialized structures, called nephrons. Each nephron has a microscopic blood filter, called a glomerulus. Estimating a glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) is done by ordering a creatinine (a muscular metabolism waste product) test and measuring how well the glomeruli are filtering it from the blood. The results of the test are used to screen for and detect early kidney damage and to monitor kidney functioning. Creatinine tests are often ordered as part of a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP), a basic metabolic panel (BMP), or along with a blood urea nitrogen (BUN) test. A healthcare professional may order these tests when warning signs of kidney disease are present, including:
- Swelling around the eyes, face, wrist, abdomen, thighs, or ankles
- Urine that is foamy bloody or coffee-colored
- Changes in frequency or amount of urine
- Mid-back pain
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Tiredness, loss of concentration
- Loss of appetite, nausea, and/or vomiting
- Darkened skin
An eGFR may be done periodically to monitor chronic kidney disease or a condition like diabetes or hypertension that is associated with kidney disease.
A GFR below 60 for three months indicates chronic kidney disease. While you cannot raise your GFR, you can stop it from getting lower. Some tips include:
- Keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol in the optimal range
- If you have diabetes, controlling your blood glucose level
- Limiting intake of salt, alcohol, and tobacco
- Eating heart-healthy foods (fruit, vegetables, whole grains)
- Being more physically active
- If you are overweight, losing weight
A high GFR (60-120) is good and means your kidneys are filtering blood at an optimal level.
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