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One of the main things the kidney needs to filter out is creatinine, so if your creatinine levels are too high this could indicate kidney disease. Equally, low creatinine levels aren’t great either and could suggest you are malnourished. Express.co.uk chatted to Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy to find out the 10 symptoms that suggest your creatinine levels are too high or too low.
Get to know your creatinine levels, because the number is indicative of your kidney health.
Dr Lee said: “One of the main metabolites filtered out by the kidney is creatinine, a waste product produced from the breakdown of creatine.
“The kidney has a vital role in the body. Blood enters the kidney full of the waste products of metabolism, and the kidney tubules filter out these toxic metabolites, so they pass out in the urine.
“However, important substances such as other amino acids, glucose, hormones, and some types of medication, are reabsorbed back into the bloodstream.
“Creatine is an amino acid found in muscle, the brain, pancreas, liver and kidneys, and most of it is ingested in your diet, from red meat and seafood.”
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Creatinine is excreted from the body in urine via the kidney at a steady rate, and therefore your creatinine levels are used as a measure of your kidney function.
Your two kidneys filter 200 litres of fluid every 24 hours, so the way they function is vital for your health.
De Lee explained: “If your kidneys fail, you will need dialysis, where a machine does the filtration process for you, or, if you are lucky, you may receive a kidney transplant.”
Creatinine normal range
A normal blood level of creatinine is different for men and women.
Men should have 60 to 110 micromoles/L, which is 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams/dL.
Women should have 45 to 90 mic/L, which is 0.5 to 1.0 mg/dL.
Dr Lee explained: “The rate at which the kidney filters by-products from the urine is called the Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR).
“However, to measure the GFR means a 24-hour urine collection. Hence, a blood creatinine level is used as an approximate measure of the GFR.”
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When to worry about creatinine levels
If your creatinine levels are elevated (too high), this indicates you may have kidney disease.
Dr Lee explained: “The kidney is having trouble excreting creatinine in the urine.”
The doctor said this might be because:
- The kidney is blocked, for example by a kidney stone, or by a large prostate gland. The kidney may enlarge as a result – this is known as hydronephrosis.
- You are dehydrated. This means your blood volume is lower than it should be, and the kidney is being under-perfused with blood.
- You have been eating too much protein in your diet.
- You have been over-exercising, as excessive exercise causes muscle damage.
- You are on medication, such as trimethoprim, or an H2 blocker such as cimetidine.
If your creatinine levels are low, the following could be true:
- A low muscle mass is associated with old age and malnutrition.
- Muscle diseases such as myasthenia gravis and muscular dystrophy can cause low creatinine levels.
- Pregnancy increases your blood volume and slows filtration leading to lower creatinine levels.
- Extreme weight loss can cause muscle wasting and lead to low creatinine levels.
How would you know if your creatinine levels are high or low?
Most people have very few symptoms in the early stages of kidney disease, and only 10 percent of people with chronic kidney disease know they have it.
Dr Lee said: “The most common causes of kidney disease are high blood pressure, diabetes, and having a family history of kidney disease, or being older than 60. “
Symptoms suggestive of kidney disease include:
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Sleep difficulty
- Dry itchy skin
- Peeing all the time – including getting up at night
- Blood in the urine
- Bubbles or foam in the urine
- Puffy eyes
- Swollen feet and ankles
- Poor appetite
- Muscle cramps
Your GP will test your urine with a dipstick at your free NHS health check, or if you visit the surgery with any possible illness/related complaint.
Dr Lee said: Anyone aged 40-74 is eligible for a free NHS health check. The dipstick shows up any abnormalities such as glucose, blood, or protein with a colour change on the stick.
“If kidney disease is suspected, for example, if there is blood or protein in your urine, your GP will arrange more blood and urine tests, and if indicated, an ultrasound scan of your kidneys.
“In due course, an MRI or CT scan may be needed, and sometimes a kidney biopsy.”
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