Chronic kidney disease, commonly referred to as CKD, is a condition characterised by the kidneys getting damaged due to numerous potential causes. Over time, this leads to the gradual and permanent loss of kidney function. The main culprits behind CKD include diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), and obesity. Furthermore, other conditions such as glomerulonephritis and genetic disorders like polycystic kidney disease can also contribute to CKD.

The Importance of Early Detection

It's essential to identify and diagnose CKD at an early stage. Many individuals remain unaware of this ailment because the symptoms often don't manifest until the kidney damage has reached an advanced stage. Early detection and diagnosis can help in delaying further damage and potentially prevent the onset of kidney failure. In later stages, treatment options become limited, usually narrowing down to dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Risk Factors of CKD

Understanding the risk factors can aid in early identification and prevention. They include:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • A family history of CKD
  • Ageing
  • Obesity
  • Smoking

Screening for CKD: What You Need to Know

Screening for CKD is a relatively straightforward process. The initial tests include:

  • Measuring blood pressure
  • A urine test for protein (proteinuria)
  • A blood test for creatinine

Recognising the Symptoms of CKD

The symptoms of CKD can be elusive and can vary based on the individual. Common symptoms to be wary of include:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Diminished mental ability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Skin irritation and itchiness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Swelling in the legs and feet
  • Puffiness around the eyes
  • Increased frequency of urination

Further Tests for High-Risk Individuals

If you're at a heightened risk for CKD, your healthcare professional might recommend the following tests:

  • GFR calculation for a more accurate measure of kidney function
  • Ultrasound or CT scans to visualise the kidney structure
  • Kidney biopsy in certain situations

Stages of Chronic Kidney Disease:

  • Stage 1: Slight kidney damage with a normal GFR rate of 90 or higher.
  • Stage 2: Slight reduction in GFR (60-89)
  • Stage 3: Moderate GFR reduction (30-59)
  • Stage 4: Severe GFR reduction (15-29)
  • Stage 5: Kidney failure, with a GFR less than 15.

In conclusion, the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) provides valuable insight into kidney function. By the time most symptoms become noticeable, CKD is usually advanced, and the GFR has significantly decreased.