Role of the Renal Function panel
Your doctor will order the complete renal function panel or some of the tests depending on your health. Each of the component tested has an important function in regulating the balance of the body which we will review here:
Glucose – Your blood sugar (glucose) is regulated by the hormones insulin and glucagon which cause it to fall and rise respectively, depending upon the levels. Blood sugar levels vary according to the time of day, when you ate your last meal, the amount of stress you have in the form of infection, illness or surgery and whether you are taking any medications.
A blood glucose test is essential as a routine part of the renal function panel, in case you have signs or symptoms of diabetes, to monitor if you already have diabetes and other conditions and checking gestational diabetes if you are pregnant.
Albumin – Albumin is a protein synthesized in the liver and is essential for fluid balance and transporting enzymes, hormones or drugs. The ratio of albumin and another protein, globulin is highly specific to particular conditions.
Your doctor will order testing for albumin when your internal balance is disturbed in case of liver disease, chronic infections, autoimmune diseases, kidney disease, cancer, heart attack, stress, burns, surgery, trauma or an over-active thyroid gland.
Phosphorus – Phosphorus is a mineral which plays a role in energy processes of all the cells of the body and also for bone formation.
The renal function panel measures your blood phosphorus levels and detects whether it’s low or high than the normal range. Low phosphorus is found when you consume excess antacids, in high calcium or insulin levels, if you have overactive parathyroid glands, abusing alcohol and have deficiency of vitamin D. High phosphorus levels are seen if you have kidney failure, low levels of calcium, underactive parathyroid glands, high intake of foods containing phosphorus, liver and bone disease.
Calcium – Calcium is a mineral that is very important in bone health and normal muscle function. Abnormal blood levels of calcium interfere with the normal balance of your body.
The renal function panel assists to monitor calcium levels if you have over-active or underactive parathyroid glands, kidney failure, kidney transplant, vitamin D toxicity or deficiency, some cancers, during and after large numbers of blood transfusion and certain medications.
Creatinine – Creatinine is a waste product produced during normal muscle activity which is excreted entirely by the kidneys and hence blood levels indicate kidney function.
Your creatinine levels are required to be checked in case there is a possibility for out of range values. For instance, creatinine values are high in case you have kidney conditions such as infection or kidney failure, high blood pressure, medication overdose, dehydration and muscle problems. Likewise, creatinine values are lower if you have malnutrition and decreased muscle mass.
BUN – The metabolism of proteins produces urea, which is then removed by the kidneys as a component of urine. BUN or Blood Urea Nitrogen measures the amount of urea nitrogen in the blood. The balance of BUN levels will be altered if you have any disease affecting the kidneys which will cause an increase in BUN levels in the blood. Liver disease, bleeding within the stomach or intestines, a very high protein diet and certain medications can also cause BUN levels to increase.
Electrolytes – The electrolytes measured by the renal function panel are Sodium, Chloride and Carbon dioxide.
Sodium is one of the electrolytes and is highly important in maintaining normal fluid levels in the body. The amount of sodium or salt in food, the amount that is recycled by the kidneys and hormones affect the sodium levels in the body. Testing for sodium levels will be indicated by your doctor in case you have altered sodium levels. Levels of sodium have been found low when there is inadequate intake of salt in your diet or excessive consumption of water, in case you are having vomiting, diarrhoea, kidney and liver disease and using diuretics. High blood levels are seen when there is excess sodium in your diet, you drink less water, have excess sweating or extensive burns.
Chloride is also one of the electrolytes measured along with sodium in the renal function panel. Chloride levels are used to monitor the fluid and acid/base balance of your body. Hence, they are helpful in diagnosing conditions such as dehydration, vomiting and diarrhoea, kidney dysfunction, heart failure and certain hormonal conditions.
Carbon dioxide, a waste product from the use of Oxygen, is measured along with other electrolytes. Levels of carbon dioxide indicate bicarbonate levels in the blood and are used to determine blood acid/ base balance of the body. Change in blood levels of carbon dioxide are seen in people with severe diarrhoea and vomiting, shock, salicylate (aspirin) poisoning and kidney failure.
In this way, a renal function panel is a valuable tool for knowing about your kidney health and balance of the body. Your doctor will assess your health condition and determine the requirement of renal function testing.