Icon - Defining chronic kidney disease

Defining chronic kidney disease

When discussing kidney disease, doctors often need to use complex terms and formulae.

The information here may help you become more familiar with some of the words and their meanings. You can also find them in our Glossary.

If kidney disease is suspected, you will have some kidney function tests to measure how well your kidneys are working.

A urine test will look for albumin (a type of protein) and blood in your urine. Albumin in your urine (called albuminuria) is a sign of kidney damage. Blood in your urine (called haematuria) is a common sign of urinary tract infections but can also be a sign of problems with your kidneys or bladder.

A blood test will calculate your glomerular filtration rate (GFR). The GFR is the best measure of kidney function. It shows how well your kidneys are cleaning the blood. GFR is usually estimated (eGFR) from the results of a creatinine blood test. eGFR is reported in millimetres per minute per 1.73m2 (e.g. 65 mL/min/1.73m2).

Creatinine is a waste product made by the muscles. It is usually removed from the blood by the kidneys before passing out in the urine. When your kidneys aren’t working well, more creatinine stays in the blood. If your doctor orders a blood test to learn more about your kidney function, creatinine will be measured and an eGFR result will be provided. This formula uses your age, gender and the level of creatinine in your blood to estimate your GFR.

To be diagnosed with chronic kidney disease you must have either an eGFR less than 60 millilitres per minute (per 1.73m2) for more than three months or evidence of kidney damage for more than three months, regardless of your eGFR.

Kidney damage can mean any of the following:

  • albuminuria
  • haematuria
  • pathological abnormalities (such as an abnormal kidney biopsy result)
  • structural abnormalities (such as an abnormal kidney ultrasound result).
Kidney diseaseStages of chronic kidney disease
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