Instead of waiting for kidney disease symptoms to emerge, kids should be screened for kidney disease at the same time they are tested for other illnesses, says New York neurologist Robert Andrews, M.D., author of“Watch Dogs: Kidney Disease in Young People” ($25.95, March 2015).
“Traditionally, people think about kidney disease in childhood and adolescence as kind of two distinct, separate diseases,” says Dr. Andrews. “But there is enough overlap between the two — both the kidneys and the immune system — that for everyone, kidney disease is very likely to be present at some point in their life.” And he says this realization is helping doctors detect more kidney disease earlier — perhaps even before kidneys are affected.
Adults and their families should also start getting screened for kidney disease at earlier ages. “Once someone is screened for the first time for, say, diabetes at age 30, we can begin measuring C-reactive protein. And if it’s elevated, that has a protective effect on the kidneys.”
Some children may have kidney disease before any outward signs of the disease are apparent. “Determining whether the kid will have a relatively life-threatening disease or simply a relatively minor, mild disease may require a test to be done on the child that looks for evidence of inflammation and kidney diseases in the organs other than the kidney itself,” says Dr. Andrews.
While this is still considered a relatively new test for kids, it is growing in use. At the same time, adult screening for several kidney diseases is also becoming more common. For instance, the National Kidney Foundation recommends that adults with any kidney disease have a urine test at age 50. This can detect kidney stones, which increase the risk of kidney failure.