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Getting to Know Your Kidney's Working Efficiency!

By Dr. Alka Bhasin in Nephrology

Jul 24 , 2017 | 2 min read

Dr Alka Bhasin says I am very often posed with this question from my patients who are suffering from chronic kidney disease – “Doctor, isn’t there some pill you can give me to increase my kidney’s working efficiency?” My reply to that usually follows -- “If there was, we wouldn’t have treatments such as dialysis or kidney transplantation! The discoverer of that wonder pill would certainly deserve a Nobel Prize when that happens”. 

What then can most of us do to ward off this ‘silent killer’ early on? On this front, I would like to exclusively discuss the importance of the blood creatinine level.

Blood creatinine level is an important indicator of kidney health as it indirectly reflects on our kidney’s filtering efficiency (estimated glomerular filtration rate). Creatinine in the blood comes from the breakdown of muscles and this is happening at a relatively constant rate in the body. As this is a waste product, it reaches the delicate kidney filters and is excreted by them at a relatively constant rate, thereby keeping the blood level rather low and constant. The usual levels vary depending on the muscle mass of an individual. For example, reference ranges for a well-developed adult male would be 0.7 to 1.2 mg/dl, 0.5 to 1.0 mg/dl for an adult female and much less (0.3 to 0.7 mg/dl) for the elderly with low muscle mass. 

For instance, a level 1.5 mg/dl means that 50% of kidney function is already lost! This is very significant indeed. Therefore, it is imperative to detect kidney disease at the earliest stage because it allows for a detailed review by the Nephrologist and a treatment plan for slowing down disease progression is laid out. 

When the creatinine level in a 60-year-old male, weighing approximately 70 kg, has touched 5.0 mg/dl, it reflects a loss of 85% of kidney function! This represents late stage kidney disease where the opportunity to get the best treatment outcomes are lost and expensive modalities such as dialysis/kidney transplantation become the only treatment options.

Who needs to check their creatinine levels?

Dr AIka Bhasin says, I would urge all individuals reading this article who exceed the age of 40 years, have high blood pressure/diabetes/obesity, have any form of heart disease, have been taking regular pain pills, have a family member with a kidney ailment, have kidney stones, have a single kidney, anyone with swelling/fatigue/anemia/poor appetite/urinary symptoms and anyone who loves their kidneys, to check their creatinine level by a simple non-fasting blood test. 

Regular monitoring helps to assess disease progression and response to treatments. And yes – there is no pill to bring down the creatinine level per se, neither in allopathy nor in alternative streams of medicine, so prevention remains the best cure. 

So go ahead, and stay tuned with your kidneys. Check your creatinine level today!