Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctors: Could I have serious kidney damage?

Q. I am 72 years old, and have had diabetes and high blood pressure for about 15 years. I thought these problems were pretty well controlled, but I recently learned that my kidney function is declining. My creatinine level is now 2.2 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). How serious is this?

A. Kidney damage is one of the most common and serious consequences of both diabetes and hypertension. Ask your doctor what your glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is. This test measures how much blood your kidneys filter every minute. If your GFR is 60 or higher, your kidney function is still normal; a lower GFR level means your kidney function bears close watching.

You might also ask if there is protein in your urine, which would mean your kidneys are somewhat damaged. This is another important warning sign.

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