They’re Not Twins

Kidney ArizonaMarch is National Kidney Month here in the United States.  That makes it an even better time to have yourself screened for Chronic Kidney Disease. 28 million people have it and quite a few of them don’t know it.  Don’t be one of them.  All it takes is a simple blood test and a simple urine test.

Talking about blood and urine tests, I mentioned in passing on one or two of my blogs that your values and the reference range values on your lab tests may differ according to the lab you use, and loads of physical factors such as: being adequately hydrated, having voided your bladder, having gotten enough sleep, even how the specimens were handled.

I was in the unique position of taking these two tests once and then again two weeks later. Had the due date of the tests for each doctor been closer, I might have combined them and had the results of the one set of tests sent to each doctor. But my nephrologist needed his tests two weeks before my appointment, and my primary care physician {pcp} needed hers no less and no more than every three months since she was monitoring my bmpliver for the effect of a medication.

She was checking primarily for my cholesterol levels {which are better than ever and finally all within range, thank you very much!} and included the other tests because she is one thorough doctor. He, my nephrologist, was much more concerned with my kidney function.

The reference range values from the two different labs I used were not twins. For example, Sonora Quest, the lab my nephrologist uses, has the acceptable range for creatinine as 0.60 – 1.40.  But my pcp uses LabCorp. which states that it is 0.57 – 1.00 mg/dL. If you look to the right, you’ll see an older test result using mg/dL.

I wasn’t really sure what mg/dL meant, so I looked it up. According to the Free Dictionary at http://acronyms.thefreedictionary.com/mg%2fdL, this means

Milligrams per Deciliter

That was my reaction, too, so I used the same dictionary for both words used in the definition.  Milligrams means

A unit of mass equal to one thousandth (10-3) of a gram

while deciliter means

100 cubic centimeters

We are talking small here!Book Cover

The results for this test were a little different, too.  On February 10th, it was 1.11, which was not out of range for Sonora Quest.  But two weeks later, it was 1.1 – ever so slightly lower – which was out of range for LabCorp. This is a bit confusing.

Let’s go back to What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease to see if we can shed some light on this. On page 21 {Use the word search if you’re using the digital version of the book.}, I wrote

A higher creatinine result could mean the kidneys were not adequately filtering this element from the blood.

By the way,

Creatinine is a chemical waste product that’s produced by your muscle metabolism and to a smaller extent by eating meat.

Thank you to The Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/creatinine/basics/definition/prc-20014534 for this clarification.

All I can say is that seemed like earth shattering information when I was first diagnosed with CKD.  Now that it’s seven years late, it just means I have CKD.  It’s sort of like reiterating I have this slow decline in the deterioration of my kidney function no matter which acceptable range we use.

Another difference in value ranges was BUN.  This is your urea nitrogen. Medline Plus at blood drawhttp://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003474.htm explains

BUN stands for blood urea nitrogen. Urea nitrogen is what forms when protein breaks down.

This could be a ‘Who cares?’  statement except that the BUN is used to measure your kidney health. Sonora Quest’s acceptable range is 8-25 mg/dL, while my LabCorp’s is 8-27. At the first lab, my value was 22 and at the other, two weeks later, it was 17. Both were in range, but let’s say – just for argument’s sake – my value had been 26.  Would that mean I was out of range?  It would at one lab, but not the other.  I think I just answered my own question as to why I need to have my doctor interpret my lab results even though I can read them myself.

Well, what makes these levels go up or down? Thank you WebMD for this simple to understand answer.

If your kidneys are not able to remove urea from the blood normally, your BUN level rises. Heart failure, dehydration, or a diet high in protein can also make your BUN level higher. Liver disease or damage can lower your BUN level. A low BUN level can occur normally in the second or third trimester of pregnancy.

Aha!  We know that as CKD patients we are restricted to five ounces of protein a day. Why combine an inability to “remove urea from the blood normally” with an overabundance of protein?

Hopefully, some of the questions you didn’t even know you had were answered today.

Part 2I’m sorry if you missed out on your free copy of The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1  by being the third buyer during the last part of February. While I’ve used up my freebies for that book, I’m now working on a free day for The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 on World Kidney Day, March 12.  Keep watching for more news about this as Amazon and I keep working on it.

Again, if you’d like to join us for the Kidney Walk on April 19 at Chase Stadium in Phoenix, why not go to the Walk’s website at http://kidneywalk.kintera.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=1125145 and join our team, Team SlowItDown. We’ll be looking forward to seeing you there.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Urine or You’re Out

How odd that urine is so important to us.  Make no mistake; if you have Chronic Kidney Disease, you’re always keeping an eye on it.  I’m pretty sure you all know about the color chart to see if you’re hydrating enough.  If you don’t hydrate enough, your kidneys can’t do their jobs as well… and they’re already struggling to do them. This is the least complicated urine hydration chart I’ve seen.urine hydration

Of course, I’ll go back to remind you of just what the jobs of your kidneys are.  My source?  My first book about our disease, What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, page 7.

They filter as many as 200 quarts of blood per day to rid us of roughly two quarts of waste and extra water.

These two organs, the master chemists of our bodies, have several functions: regulating the fluid balance in the body, providing vital hormones, producing erythropoietin, and producing the renin that regulates blood pressure. This is why CKD patients need to be careful about sodium, Book Coverpotassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, and phosphates. Your nutritionist may not even mention magnesium to you since this constitutes only 1% of extra cellular fluid. Additional important jobs of the kidneys are removing liquid waste from your body and balancing the minerals in the body. The two liquid waste products are urea which has been broken down from protein by the digestive system and creatinine which is a byproduct of muscle activity.

Wait a minute; I think we need to go even further back.  A picture of the urinary tract would probably be helpful here, too.urinary

Okay, now I can start writing about your urine. I’m pretty sure I mentioned in an earlier blog how disturbed I was to be one point over the normal range for microalbumin. Here’s a definition of just what that is.

Micro, or very small amounts, of albumin in the urine. Ur stands for urine. {As in the test for proteinuria.} Albumin is a form of protein that is water soluble. Urine is a liquid, a form of water, so the albumin should have been dissolved. Protein in the urine may be an indication of kidney disease.

Read that last sentence again. There seems to be a Catch 22 here. As a Chronic Kidney Disease patient for the last seven years, this has never shown up in a urine test for me before. I am including both the 24 hour variety and the random {Dipstick} variety in that never.

So now we know about microalbumin.  What about proteinuria?  Notice the ur in the word.  We just learned that means urine.  This is another indication of kidney disease.  I have never been out of acceptable range for this.  According to WebMd at http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/proteinuria-protein-in-urine

Healthy kidneys do not allow a significant amount of protein to pass through their filters. But filters damaged by kidney disease may let proteins such as albumin leak from the blood into the urine.

Glomerulus-Nephron 300 dpi jpgFilters?  This diagram of the glomerulus may help.

If albumin is a protein, are proteinuria and microalbumin the same? Well, no.  Health Communities at http://www.healthcommunities.com/proteinuria-and-microalbuminuria/overview-of-proteinuria.shtml tells us

Albumin is particularly useful in absorbing bodily fluid into the blood. Because the albumin molecule is relatively small, it is often among the first proteins to enter the urine after glomeruli are damaged. Therefore, even minor kidney dysfunction is detectable with proper diagnosis of microalbuminuria.

All right, got it?  Albumin is a protein.  It will show up as microalbumin in your urine test.  It may also show up as proteinuria since albumin is a protein. Once upon a time, you always needed to conduct a 24 hour urine test for this information, but…

In recent years, researchers have found that a single urine sample can provide the needed information. In the newer technique, the amount of albumin in the urine sample is compared with the amount of creatinine, a waste product of normal muscle breakdown. The measurement is called a urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio (UACR). A urine sample containing more than 30 milligrams of albumin for each gram of creatinine (30 mg/g) is a warning that there may be a problem. If the laboratory test exceeds 30 mg/g, another UACR test should be done 1 to 2 weeks later. If the second test also shows high levels of protein, the person has persistent proteinuria, a sign of declining kidney function, and should have additional tests to evaluate kidney function.

Thank you to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse {A service of the NIH} at http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/proteinuria/#tests for that information.banner-nihlogo

And that is where creatinine comes in and why you need to be aware of your creatinine levels in your urinalysis. By the way, blood tests will also report the amount of albumin and creatinine in your blood. This could promote another discussion, one about Blood Urea Nitrogen tests, but it would be out of place here since that’s not part of the urine.

As you can see this is a complex topic.  You need to be aware of what the color of your urine can tell you about your hydration – whether or not you have Chronic Kidney Disease – and monitor both your microalbumin and proteinuria, as well as your creatinine.

41DsvandphL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-stThe Book of BlogsAnother complex topic is editing the new print books.  The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 and The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 aren’t quite ready.  I’m working with a new publisher and we’re just getting to know each other’s styles.  The good part about that is you get two books for the price of one on Amazon.com digital until the print books are ready.  Look for The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease.  Once the print copies are ready, I promise a day of the digital copy for free… if that perk is still available to me at that time.

I don’t know about you, but I get just as tired from overdoing it for good things as well as bad.  This weekend was a test of how well I could adhere to my renal diet with date day, a memorial dinner, and a celebratory champagne brunch.  Being human, I blew it on ice cream.  My pounding heart and lightheadedness have convinced me: no more sugar treats!  Although, some of my non-CKD friends report the same symptoms upon a sugar overdose…

Until next week,

Keep living your life!