Our kidneys may go unseen, working tirelessly behind the scenes to keep us healthy. But these bean-shaped organs play an integral part in keeping us alive: acting as our body’s natural filter by filtering out waste products, excess fluids, and toxins from our blood. Imagine tiny filters within your kidneys known as glomeruli that perform an essential task: the GFR. But, What is glomerular filtration rate? 

Let’s understand this critical parameter of health with Dr Bismah Irfan and find out why GFR matters for overall wellness!

Understanding GFR: How Your Kidneys Filter Blood

Simply put, GFR measures how efficiently your kidneys filter blood each minute – this gauge shows whether they’re effectively clearing away waste products and creating an ideal internal environment for healthy living.

Consider your blood as a complex mixture, carrying essential nutrients, oxygen, and waste products around your body. Your glomeruli act like filters allowing essential components to remain in circulation while filtering out waste products and excess fluids which are excreted as urine.

GFR plays an essential part in maintaining a healthy balance within your body: 

  • Waste Removal: GFR ensures the efficient removal of harmful toxins and metabolic byproducts that could build up over time and become detrimental.
  • Electrolyte and Fluid Balance: GFR is used to balance electrolytes such as sodium and potassium levels in your body as well as fluid levels – key elements for proper nerve and muscle functioning. 
  • Hormone Production: Your kidneys also produce hormones like erythropoietin that increase red blood cell production. 

Measuring GFR as a Window into Kidney Health

There are two primary methods of measuring GFR; however, the one most often utilized clinically is estimated GFR (eGFR).

  • Direct Measuring (Clinically Impractical): This approach requires collecting timed urine samples at set intervals to measure how much creatinine waste product the kidneys are clearing away, although its accuracy makes this an unpopular choice due to its complexity.
  • Estimated GFR (eGFR): Estimated GFR is an easy and widely utilized solution, consisting of a blood test to measure creatinine levels. Based on your age, gender, race, and creatinine level measurements, doctors can use a formula that factors in factors like age, gender, race, and creatinine levels in estimating your GFR.

Note that an eGFR estimate may not always match up with your actual GFR level; nevertheless, it provides valuable information about kidney health and can help monitor any changes over time.

Measured GFR (mGFR) vs. Estimated GFR (eGFR)

Feature Measured GFR (mGFR) Estimated GFR (eGFR)
Definition Directly measures the rate of blood filtration by the kidneys Estimates GFR based on a formula considering factors like age, gender, race, and creatinine levels
Process Requires collecting timed urine samples to measure a specific marker molecule Simple blood test to measure creatinine levels
Accuracy Considered the gold standard for GFR assessment Provides an estimate, that may not be as precise as mGFR in certain situations
Advantages Most accurate method Convenient, cost-effective, widely available
Disadvantages A complex process requires precise timing Less accurate than mGFR, may be affected by factors like muscle mass or pregnancy
Best suited for Situations requiring the most precise GFR assessment Routine monitoring of kidney function, initial screening
Examples of situations where mGFR might be preferred Inconsistent or unclear eGFR results Medical conditions affecting creatinine levels

Understanding Normal and Abnormal GFR Values

What is a normal GFR filtration rate? – Normal GFR levels typically fall within 90-120 mL/min/1.73 m2, although their levels tend to decrease with age as muscle mass and body size play a part.

Low eGFR readings may indicate reduced kidney function. While one low reading may not warrant immediate concern, if other symptoms such as fatigue, frequent urination, or blood in your urine occur it’s wise to consult a healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Here are a few key facts about eGFR levels to keep in mind: 

  • Just because your eGFR levels drop doesn’t necessarily indicate kidney disease – other factors could also have an effect.
  • Chronic Kidney Disease can be diagnosed by measuring the sustained decline in eGFR. Accordingly, different stages of CKD can be classified depending on how quickly GFR drops.
  • Early identification and management of chronic kidney disease are essential. 
  • Untreated, it can lead to serious health complications including cardiovascular disease, stroke, and even kidney failure.

GFR Testing Can Measure Kidney Function and Beyond

A GFR test is an invaluable way of gauging kidney health, measuring how effectively your kidneys filter waste out of your blood and providing essential insight into their overall function. But why use this tool? Here we explain all its uses for your wellbeing.

1. Screening for Kidney Disease

GFR is an indicator of early-stage kidney disease. A normal GFR indicates healthy kidney function while a consistently low GFR may signal possible issues in your system. Early detection is key for managing and preventing complications associated with kidney disease.

2. Monitoring Kidney Function

Once diagnosed with kidney disease, regular GFR tests become even more crucial to monitoring its progression and developing appropriate treatment plans to combat symptoms effectively and manage further decline of kidney function. 

3. Assessing Treatment Effectiveness

GFR tests can be an invaluable asset when treating kidney disease; by monitoring changes in your GFR levels, doctors can ascertain if their current approach is working and make necessary modifications for improved health outcomes.

4. Evaluating Risk for Other Health Conditions 

Reduced GFR can be a predictor for heart disease and stroke; by monitoring GFR levels regularly, doctors can identify individuals at higher risk and take preventative steps to lessen them.

5. Medical Procedure Decision-Making

Certain medications and medical procedures may have the potential to alter kidney function, so GFR testing helps doctors assess your kidney health to ascertain if any potential interventions pose any potential threats to it. 

GFR Spectrum: A Guide to Ranges

GFR (glomerular filtration rate) is measured as milliliters per minute per 1.73 square meters of body surface area (mL/min/1.73 m2). Below is a breakdown of various GFR ranges with their general interpretations: 

  • Normal GFR (≥ 90 mL/min/1.73 m²): It indicates healthy kidney function.
  • Moderately Decreased GFR (60-89 mL/min/1.73 m²): While moderately decreased GFR may seem normal for some individuals, such as older adults, it should be monitored over time by consulting with a doctor and monitoring GFR over time.
  • Mildly to Moderately Decreased GFR (30-59 mL/min/1.73 m²): This range indicates a moderate decline in kidney function and may indicate chronic kidney disease, so further evaluation with a doctor is advised.
  • Severely Decreased GFR (15-29 mL/min/1.73 m²): This range indicates severe kidney function decline and advanced chronic kidney disease, prompting medical intervention as well as specialist care to address it.
  • Kidney Failure (GFR < 15 mL/min/1.73 m²): This condition signifies severely compromised kidney function and often necessitates dialysis or transplantation for treatment.

Important Considerations for Measuring GFR

  • Age: GFR naturally decreases with age. 
  • Muscle Mass: Greater muscle mass can lead to slightly increased creatinine levels that could potentially alter eGFR estimates (the most widely-used way of measuring GFR). 
  • Body Size: To account for body size variation when measuring eGFR estimates. 

Interpret Your Results – Not Just Numbers

Although GFR ranges provide an overview, interpretation of your results requires professional assistance from your physician. They may consider: 

  • Your overall health: Existing medical conditions or symptoms could affect interpretation
  • Changes in GFR over Time: While single readings might not require investigation, sustained drops should prompt further analysis. 
  • Other Factors: Recent illness, dehydration, or certain medications can temporarily impact eGFR readings.

Combatting Kidney Disease: Treatment Options

While kidney disease can be alarming news, effective therapies exist that can manage it and enhance the quality of life.

1. Lifestyle Modifications

Making healthy lifestyle modifications is at the center of a healthier future for patients living with kidney disease, helping slow its progress, improve overall health, and postpone more intensive treatments such as dialysis. Changes such as managing blood pressure and sugar, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking staying hydrated as well and following an appropriate kidney diet all play a part.

Read more: Is skippy peanut butter good for diabetes?

2. Medication Management

Medication plays a central role in anemia management, including blood pressure medications, diuretics, phosphate binders, and ESAs for treating anemia.

3. Dialysis

Dialysis can artificially remove waste products when your kidneys don’t. There are two major forms: hemodialysis (machine filtering) and peritoneal dialysis (exchanging fluid within your abdomen).

4. Kidney Transplant

Receiving a kidney transplant from either a deceased or living donor offers the highest chance of recovering near-normal function; however, lifelong medication must be taken to prevent rejection of this transplantation method. 

5. Supportive Care

Supportive care services can assist with managing both physical and psychological aspects of kidney disease. Dr. Bismah Irfan can offer invaluable expertise when diagnosing and treating this disease, creating an individual treatment plan tailored specifically to you and your unique requirements.

Final Thoughts

Whether you have questions about What is glomerular filtration rate or suspected kidney disease or are searching for an experienced specialist to work on them – Dr. Bismah Irfan offers expert knowledge and a personalized approach so you can take control of your kidney health to lead a happier lifestyle.

Contact Kidney Consultant Dr. Bismah today, and take control of your kidney health! Early detection and intervention are keys to successfully managing kidney disease and living a happy, fulfilling life!