The stages of kidney disease is one of the simplest ways to figure out how far the disease has gone. It is also a way wherein doctors can assess their patients and set up some guidelines, including dietary, lifestyle and medicine based to stop the progression.
There are two very important things you want to understand about kidney disease and its stages. One, kidney disease is often silent and you don't experience any symptoms until it has progressed a bit. For this reason it is important to have your annual checkups done specially if you have a family history of kidney issues.
The second important thing you need to be aware of is kidney disease is irreversible. It doesn't go away once it's there. But the one thing you want to do is keep it from progressing any further.
The great thing about the kidney is that it's a very resilient organ. That's why even when there is already damage, you still don't feel any symptoms. It is strong enough to compensate for any damaged portions of the organ to work more than sufficiently.
Checking for Kidney Disease
The stages of kidney disease is based on its GFR or glomerular filtration rate. This represents the rate at which the filtration system of the kidney is able to get rid of toxins from the body which is its main function.
The GFR can be measured in a variety of ways. But often they take more time to do so you aren't asked by the doctors to do them unless you have some signs of kidney disease or have a family history of it.
As a faster and easier alternative, you doctor will monitor your blood pressure, blood sugar, creatinine and BUN levels. When something is amiss from these that hints to possible kidney disease, your physician will ask you to have either your creatinine clearance or GFR done.
Stages of Kidney Disease
The following is a breakdown of the kidney disease stages. They range from stages 1 through 5 with stage 1 being the earlier stage.
Stage 1: GFR is at 90 ml/min or higherAt this stage you still have normal or high GFR, so you won't feel any effects. Most issues will be seen in your lab tests like elevated creatinine or BUN, and protein in the urine.
Stage 2: GFR is between 60 and 89 ml/minAt this stage, kidney disease is still at it mild form.
Stage 3: Divide into stages 3A and 3B where GFR is still at 45 to 59 ml/min, and 30 to 44 ml/min, respectively.During these stages, you already have a moderate form of the disease.
Stage 4: GFR between 15 and 29 ml/minAt this time, the chronic kidney disease is severe and you will definitely feel a number of symptoms at this stage. As much as possible you want to prevent your GFR from going below 30 mL/min as this gets you very close to needing dialysis or getting a kidney transplant. Ideally, you want your GFR to be as high as possible and keep it that way by following a good diet, exercise, keeping blood pressure and blood sugar are good levels and taking the medicine prescribed by your doctors.
Stage 5: GFR at 15 ml/min or lowerThis stage is what doctors refer to as end stage kidney disease. Most doctors will draw a line at this level where you must have dialysis or your transplant. Many centers will get you listed on the transplant list when you get to 15 ml/min, while others will start asking you to look for donors when you get to 20 ml/min.
For the most part (during stage 1 to 2, and even to stage 3), you may not feel much of the symptoms, though lab tests like creatinine and BUN will already be elevated giving you hints of possible kidney disease.
Having your GFR done will allow you to know which stage you are in. As much as possible you want to control the disease to keep the GFR from dropping to dangerous levels.