By Beth Piraino, MD
A new blood test has been approved by the FDA to test people who may possibly have a type of kidney disease called membranous glomerulonephritis. This is a type of kidney disease that can be treated once diagnosed.
The hallmark of membranous glomerulonephritis is albumin, a type of protein, in the urine. There are many causes of albuminuria, which is never normal, and is associated with an increased risk of developing progressive chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular complications.
This test is a real advance for those with protein in the urine, as it makes the initial testing for the cause easier for the health care professional and patient. Once the test is done, if positive, the patient would still need a kidney biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.
However, the availability of this test may make it more likely that the diagnosis will be made earlier, when treatment might be more effective. Treatment usually consists of control of blood pressure with drugs that reduce the amount of protein in the urine (drugs called ARBs or ace inhibitors) and drugs that suppress the immune system. If you have protein in your urine, discuss with your health care professional whether this test would be useful in your particular case.
Dr. Beth Piraino is President of the National Kidney Foundation.