Your kidneys are incredible. One of the most hardworking organs in the body, they help to remove toxins, release critical hormones, and control the production of red blood cells.
As they perform so many vital functions in the body, it’s essential to keep the kidneys healthy. But, as it’s possible to lose 90% of your kidney function before experiencing any symptoms, it can be difficult to know just how well your kidneys actually are.
For World Kidney Day (march 10th) we’re taking a look at the huge role of these tiny organs.
What are your kidneys and what do they do?
The kidneys perform a range of important functions in the body, including:
- balancing the body's fluids
- controlling the production of red blood cells
- producing an active form of vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones
- release hormones that regulate blood pressure
- removing waste products and drugs from the body
A major function of the kidneys is to remove waste products and excess fluid from the body, through the urine. The kidneys also help to regulate the body’s salt, potassium and acid content and produce hormones that affect how other organs function.
What can cause damage or disease to your kidneys?
While the kidneys can be temporarily affected by diet, medication or lifestyle changes, ‘chronic kidney disease’ is defined as an abnormality, such as protein in the urine and decreased kidney function, that lasts for three months or longer.
The causes of chronic kidney disease are varied. Diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure can have a detrimental impact on the health of the kidneys. You can also be more prone to kidney disease because it runs in your family, or because you were born with a predisposition.
Drugs and toxins
Using large numbers of over-the-counter pain relievers for a long time may be harmful to the kidneys.
Certain other medications, toxins, pesticides, and drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine can also cause kidney damage
Some of the most common causes of kidney damage include:
- Diabetes. A leading cause of kidney disease, diabetes is a disease in which your body does not make enough insulin or cannot use normal amounts of insulin properly, resulting in a high blood sugar level.
- Drugs and toxins. Using large numbers of over-the-counter pain relievers for a long time may be harmful to the kidneys. Certain other medications, toxins, pesticides, and drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine can also cause kidney damage
- Glomerulonephritis. A disease that causes inflammation of the kidney's filtering units, glomerulonephritis can happen suddenly, or it might develop slowly over several years and cause progressive loss of kidney function.
- High blood pressure. Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is another common cause of kidney disease and other complications such as heart attacks and strokes.
- Kidney stones. There are many possible causes of kidney stones, including an inherited disorder that causes too much calcium to be absorbed from foods and urinary tract infections or obstructions.
- Polycystic kidney disease. The most common inherited kidney disease, polycystic kidney disease is characterised by the formation of cysts that enlarge over time and may cause serious damage and even kidney failure.
- Urinary tract infections. When germs enter the urinary tract, they can lead to symptoms such a frequent need to urinate and pain or burning when you do. Although these infections most often affect the bladder, they sometimes spread to the kidneys.
How can you detect kidney disease?
When it comes to preventing kidney disease developing into kidney failure, early detection is vital. Often, damage isn’t spotted because it can take a long time for symptoms to present themselves. But there are quick and convenient tests which can spot the key indicators that there might be a problem.
Testing options for kidney function and disease can include:
A test for protein in the urine
Albumin to Creatinine Ratio (ACR estimates the amount of albumin in your urine. An excess amount of this protein may mean your kidney's filtering units are damaged.
A test for blood creatinine
Your glomerular filtration rate (GFR) tells how much kidney function you have.
It is particularly important that people with increased risk of chronic kidney disease get tested. You may have an increased risk for kidney disease if you:
- are older
- have diabetes
- have high blood pressure
- have a family member who has chronic kidney disease
- are an African American, Hispanic American, Asians and Pacific Islander or American Indian.
Booking your private walk-in kidney blood test in London
If you are concerned about the health of your kidneys, or other conditions that might be worrying you, private blood testing is a good option to help you get answers fast.
We make sure the experience of getting a private blood test in London is as easy, convenient, and painless as possible. Here’s how it works:
After you have selected the right test for you, simply order online through our secure payment system or chat to a member of our team. Once your order is placed, you can visit our central London walk-in centre on the same day to have your blood sample collected by one of our trained phlebotomists.
Unlike home testing healthcare kits, where you take the sample yourself, our trained professionals reduce the likelihood of errors such as collecting an insufficient amount of blood or accidental contamination, which could delay your test results.
At your appointment, the friendly team will talk to you about your test, collect your blood sample and send it off for testing at an accredited partner laboratory. All you need to do is arrive for your appointment.
Clear, accurate results
The time it takes to receive your results will depend on the type of test you have chosen. When they are ready, your results will be sent directly to you, via email, within the time specified. If you would prefer to receive a paper copy of your results through the post, that can easily be arranged for you.
You can also choose the option of reported or unreported results. Reported results include information and comment from our GP which you may find helpful to discuss with your own consultant, or for your records.