Five Tests for Kidney Disease

An animation to represent the Five Tests for Kidney Disease

At Durham Nephrology, we spend a lot of time explaining how to prevent kidney disease from forming or worsening, but it’s also important to know about the available tests for kidney disease that can form an initial diagnosis. Your lifestyle, medical conditions, family history, and other factors influence when and how you get tested for CKD. Testing is incredibly important because most stages of kidney disease do not show symptoms until the kidneys have been significantly damaged. To help you know when to get tested and give some information about how CKD is tested and diagnosed, we’re delving into the most common tests for kidney disease. 

When Should I Get Checked for Kidney Disease?

Testing is the only accurate way to identify how well your kidneys are working. Certain risk factors can help determine when you should get tested. Medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease are all indications that you should also get your kidneys checked. You should also check your kidneys if you have a family history of kidney disease. If you have diabetes, it’s recommended that you check your kidneys annually. For heart disease and high blood pressure, or a family history of kidney disease, consult a nephrologist to determine how often you should get tested. 

Five Tests for Kidney Disease

There are various methods and tests available to check your kidneys and monitor the progression of kidney disease. Your provider may choose one or multiple of the following to examine the health of your kidneys:

Blood Test for GFR

This blood test checks how well your kidneys filter your blood by measuring your glomerular filtration rate (GMR). This test also considers how much creatine, a waste product removed by functioning kidneys, is left in the blood. When kidney disease worsens, a higher amount of creatine is found in the blood. The results of the blood test for GFR will help the healthcare provider form a diagnosis. GFR that is 60 or higher is normal, but a GFR that is less than 60 may indicate that you have kidney disease. When a GFR is 15 or less, this is considered kidney failure and will require immediate action such as dialysis or a kidney transplant. 

Urine Test for Albumin

Another one of the commonly administered tests for kidney disease is a urine test that checks for albumin. Albumin is a protein found in the blood, and when the kidneys are healthy, they prohibit this protein from being passed to the urine. If the test reveals albumin in the urine, some steps need to be taken to try and preserve kidney function. 

Blood Urea Nitrogen Test (BUN)

Urea nitrogen is another waste product that may be consistent with kidney disease when high amounts of it are present in the blood. A blood urea nitrogen test measures how much urea nitrogen is in the blood. This test can be used in conjunction with a GFR blood test.

Kidney Biopsy

In order to diagnose rare conditions that could be causing kidney damage, a kidney biopsy may be administered. This allows doctors to take a small piece of your kidneys and examine it closely under a microscope to monitor transplanted kidneys, diagnose cancers, and more.  

Kidney Ultrasound

Kidney ultrasounds are a painless, non-invasive way to look for abnormalities in the kidneys. This sounds wave technology produces images that can be examined to look for abnormal size or shape of the kidneys or check for kidney stones or kidney cysts.

Make an Appointment

At Durham Nephrology, our team is experienced in providing treatment and guidance to kidney patients, including looking out for other risk factors of CKD. If you have questions about testing or available tests for kidney disease, call us at 919-477-3005 to talk to a staff member and make an appointment


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