Creatinine is a chemical by-product generated during the normal muscle metabolism process as tissues breakdown. Once produced, it gets filtered by the kidneys before being excreted out of the body through urine. Creatinine level in the blood is an indicator of kidney health and functioning. The ability of kidneys to clear Creatinine out from the blood and make it Creatinine-free is known as Creatinine Clearance Rate. The latter, in turn depends on the rate of blood flowing through the kidneys i.e. the Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR).
Why Creatinine Clearance is Important?
Since direct measurement of GFR is difficult, doctors take Creatinine clearance as an indicator of GFR and thus kidney function. Normal Creatinine clearance level is 125ml/min in a healthy adult. Low Creatinine clearance means impaired ability of kidneys to filter blood and hence impaired renal function.
Measuring Creatinine in Blood
Creatinine level in blood serves as an indicator of GFR or renal function. Blood Creatinine level is inversely proportional to GFR i.e. higher the level of Creatinine in blood, lower the GFR and more impaired the kidney function. Higher blood Creatinine level also means lower Creatinine clearance. The test to measure Creatinine level in blood is known as Serum Creatinine Test.
Elevated Blood Creatinine Level – Symptoms
Renal dysfunction can present in a variety of ways and in some cases, there may be no symptoms at all. However, common symptoms indicating a higher serum Creatinine level are extreme unexplained fatigue and/or lethargy, dehydration, reduced urine output and/or darkened colour of urine, swelling over feet, face, under the eyes, etc.
Probable Causes and/or Manifestations of Elevated Blood Creatinine Level
Kidney Pain: It manifests as pain in the upper back region, under the ribs and common symptoms of kidney pain include painful urination, mild to moderate fever, nausea, vomiting, etc.
Kidney Failure: The diagnosis of kidney failure depends heavily on Creatinine test results. In the early stages, kidney failure presents itself as extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, heart arrhythmia, high blood pressure, etc.
Kidney Infection (Pyelonephritis): It is usually caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract through the anus or vagina. Infection impairs the ability of the kidneys to filter blood and hence the high blood Creatinine levels. Chances of kidney infection are high during pregnancy, unprotected sexual intercourse, diabetes, kidney stones, urinary tract surgery or use of catheter or in people having past history of chronic urinary tract infections. Symptoms of infection are often same as those experienced in kidney pain. Though kidney infection is fully curable with antibiotics, early detection and treatment is important to prevent its spread to the blood stream and other parts of urinary tract.
Hypertension related kidney disease: Hypertension impairs blood vessels thereby hampering the ability of kidneys to filter blood and remove waste from the body. When hypertension is the underlying cause, symptoms of kidney disease often include elevated blood pressure, swelling caused by fluid retention in lower extremities, frequent night time urge for urination with decreased urine output. In such cases, controlling high blood pressure with medication and diet is the most recommended line of treatment.
Diabetes: Diabetes is a major risk factor for kidney disease as it injures small blood vessels thereby impairing kidney function and putting kidneys at risk of infection from excessive waste build-up.
Prostate Problems: Prostate is a male gland located below the urinary bladder. Studies have revealed that men who face prostate issues such as prostate enlargement, cancer, etc., are three times more likely to develop kidney disease than those who don’t.
Bile Duct Cancer or Cholangiocarcinoma: Bile duct filters bile, a by-product of liver metabolism. In cases of bile duct cancer, the build-up of excessive bile impairs renal function by hampering their ability to filter blood.
Leprosy: Leprosy patients often experience nephritis i.e. inflammation of nephrons or kidney cells thereby leading to impaired renal function.
Poly-cystic kidney disease: It presents usually in adults as numerous cysts growing in the kidneys. Symptoms include persistent or intermittent pain in lower back, on the sides and in between ribs and headaches.
Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS): This condition is marked by destruction of red blood cells, low platelet count and renal failure. Symptoms often include bloody vomiting, diarrhoea, purpurae formation or bruising, lethargy, etc.
Kidney Dysplasia: This is characterized by abnormal kidney development (one or both) in babies while they are in the womb. Such babies often require treatment such as dialysis and kidney transplant early in life.