Getting Diagnosed

If you learn you have kidney disease early, you can slow it down or even stop it from causing more damage. Getting a doctor's diagnosis is the first step toward improving your health.


Steps for getting diagnosed

Getting diagnosed early means you can start treatment right away — before your kidney function worsens. If you think you’re at risk, follow these steps for getting diagnosed. 


1. Check to see if you’re at risk

There are several known risk factors for chronic kidney disease, including existing health conditions (e.g. diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease) and living a high-risk lifestyle (for example, smoking and high salt intake). Certain ethnic backgrounds  — namely African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans — are more at risk than others. 

Take our risk quiz to find out if you’re at risk of having or developing kidney disease. If you are at risk, move on to Step 2.


2. See your doctor

Book an appointment with your doctor as soon as you’re showing symptoms or if you meet any of the risk criteria. You can feel fine and still have chronic kidney disease, so it’s important to get a professional’s opinion. 

Your doctor will:

  • Measure your blood pressure. High blood pressure is a leading cause of kidney disease, so it’s important to get this checked right away.
  • Test your urine. If there is protein in your urine, it may be a sign that you have kidney disease.
  • Test your blood. The level of creatinine, a waste product normally removed by the kidneys, can give an indication of how well your kidneys are working.


3. Find a specialist 

If you are diagnosed with kidney disease, your general practitioner may refer you to a specialist in kidney care, a nephrologist. A nephrologist can tell you how far the disease has progressed and decide on the best treatment for you. 

You can also use our search tool to find a kidney doctor near you.

Learn the terms

  • Creatinine

A waste product normally removed by the kidneys

  • Dialysis

The most common treatment for kidney failure

  • GFR

Glomerular Filtration Rate — a measure of how well your kidneys are functioning. eGFR means estimated glomerular filtration rate.

  • Nephrologist

A doctor who specializes in kidney care

  • Proteinuria

When urine contains an abnormal amount of protein — a common sign of kidney disease