As a first step toward diagnosis of kidney disease, your doctor discusses your personal and family history with you. Among other things, your doctor might ask questions about whether you've been diagnosed with high blood pressure, if you've taken a medication that might affect kidney function, if you've noticed changes in your urinary habits, and whether you have any family members who have kidney disease.

Next, your doctor performs a physical exam, also checking for signs of problems with your heart or blood vessels, and conducts a neurological exam.

For kidney disease diagnosis, you may also need certain tests and procedures, such as:

  • Blood tests. Kidney function tests look for the level of waste products, such as creatinine and urea, in your blood.
  • Urine tests. Analyzing a sample of your urine may reveal abnormalities that point to chronic kidney failure and help identify the cause of chronic kidney disease.
  • Imaging tests. Your doctor may use ultrasound to assess your kidneys' structure and size. Other imaging tests may be used in some cases.
  • Removing a sample of kidney tissue for testing. Your doctor may recommend a kidney biopsy to remove a sample of kidney tissue. Kidney biopsy is often done with local anesthesia using a long, thin needle that's inserted through your skin and into your kidney. The biopsy sample is sent to a lab for testing to help determine what's causing your kidney problem.