If you suspect that you may have a problem with your kidneys make an appointment to see your GP.
Appointment slots are usually quite short (around ten minutes) so take a bit of time to think about what you want to say to your GP and how they may help you.
In some practices you may see a nurse practitioner first and these comments also apply to the consultation with a nurse.
Do a quick kidney health check
Use our kidney disease self-assessment test to see if you're at higher risk of developing kidney disease and tell your GP what the test results recommend.
How are you feeling?
Jot down a few brief notes to help you explain to your GP why you think you may have kidney problems – and take your notes with you to your appointment.
Think about what has made you suspect that you have a problem – do you have any particular symptoms? For example:
- Problems passing urine
- Blood in your urine
- Pain around your kidneys (to the sides of your waist at the back)
Try to be as specific as possible but don’t worry – your GP doesn’t expect you to be a medical expert.
- If you suddenly start to feel really unwell don’t hesitate to call 999. You can also call the NHS 111 non-emergency medical helpline if you want to speak to someone before your GP appointment.
Possible risk factors
Are there any other possible factors to consider?
Kidney disease (a term used by doctors to include any abnormality of the kidneys) can affect anyone at any age but there are a few things that can increase your risk:
- High blood pressure*
- Cardiovascular (heart) disease
- Family history of kidney disease
- If you are from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background
*it is more common if your blood pressure or diabetes hasn’t been well controlled.
Request a test
Your GP will probably suggest this anyway, but you might find it helpful to ask for a blood and urine test to check for kidney problems – and get your blood pressure checked too.
These are the usual tests that are initially carried out to check for kidney disease:
- A blood test called eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate) which is used to indicate how well the kidneys are working to filter out waste from your blood.
- eGFR is reported in millilitres per minute and a normal eGFR is greater than 90 mL/min.
- eGFR is often shown as a percentage of normal because people find it useful to think of kidney function as a percentage, going from 100% (fully functioning) to 0% (no function).
- eGFR levels of 60 to 90 are common in older people and do not necessarily suggest that you have kidney disease
- A simple urine test or ACR (albumin to creatinine ratio) which is used to look for signs that protein is leaking into the urine. This is an important sign of kidney damage. It is also important to check the urine for blood and infection. It would help if you took a urine sample with you to the consultation in a sterile sample pot.
Take someone with you
You might find it helpful to ask someone to come into the GP’s consulting room with you – possibly a trusted friend or family member. They can take notes for you and ask any questions that you may forget.
If you would prefer to go on your own take a pen and some paper so you can jot down notes and any important information.
Don't be afraid to ask questions
Ask your GP or nurse practitioner to explain anything that you don’t understand.
The issues you are experiencing don’t necessarily mean that your kidneys aren’t functioning properly. However, if a problem is detected, early diagnosis and treatment can often help to slow down or prevent any further kidney damage.
If you have already been diagnosed with a kidney condition you can find lots of helpful information and advice about exercise, diet, mental wellbeing, peer support and understanding test results in our How can I help myself section.