Kidney disease is one illness that doctors commonly misdiagnose. If left untreated, kidney disease often leads to kidney failure, which requires dialysis or a transplant.
There is a much better chance of success if doctors diagnose kidney disease in the early stages. However, multiple factors contribute to a misdiagnosis, which can result in a late diagnosis or an incorrect one.
Symptoms of kidney disease
Symptoms are one of the main reasons that doctors fail to diagnose kidney failure in its early stages. According to the Mayo Clinic, kidney disease sometimes progresses slowly, which means that there are few symptoms at the beginning. Plus, even though the kidneys are starting to lose function, they are able to self-regulate, which means that the dysfunction is rarely noticeable until the later stages.
Even as kidneys have progressive loss of function, the signs and symptoms are general and may mimic other illnesses. Common symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- High blood pressure
- Itchy, dry skin
- Changes in urination
- Decreased mental sharpness
Eventually, chronic kidney disease affects every part of the body. Complications of catching it too late include heart disease, osteoporosis, lowered immune response, anemia and fluid retention.
Because many symptoms of kidney disease are nondistinctive, blood and urine creatine tests are often a major part of the diagnosis process. However, the Columbia University Irving Medical Center discusses some of the ways this can result in misdiagnosis. Finding creatine in the blood may lead to an initial diagnosis of kidney disease.
However, creatine levels can change from one moment to the next. Factors include body mass and size. Race also plays a factor, as the average Black American naturally has higher levels of serum creatine, regardless of kidney function. Using creatine levels as a sole diagnostic tool may diagnose someone incorrectly as having kidney disease, when they, in fact, do not. This results in inappropriate treatment and delayed diagnosis of what really is the problem.