What is Your GFR Level: Understanding Your Kidney Function

The kidney is a vital organ that plays a significant role in maintaining overall health. It serves as the body’s filtering system, continuously cleansing the blood and removing waste. Yet, many people overlook or lack a clear understanding of their kidney function. One way to determine the kidney’s condition is by measuring the GFR level. This article aims to explain what GFR level is and why it is essential to understand its significance.

What is GFR Level?

GFR is the abbreviation for Glomerular Filtration Rate. It measures how well your kidneys filter your blood. When your kidney function declines, your GFR decreases. A GFR level lower than 60 indicates kidney damage and can signify chronic kidney disease (CKD). CKD is a condition that damages the kidneys, leading to gradual loss of function over time. Normally, a healthy GFR is above 90 mL/min/1.73m2.

What are the parameters for GFR Level?

The GFR level is measured based on various factors such as age, sex, body size, and weight. However, 60 mL/min/1.73m2 is the threshold level used by doctors to determine kidney damage. A GFR level below 60 for three months or more is the leading indicator of CKD. It is essential to note that a lower GFR level does not necessarily mean that a person has kidney disease. However, it shows that the kidneys are not functioning optimally, and further tests may be necessary to determine the cause of the low GFR level.

How is GFR Level Measured?

The GFR level can be calculated through a blood test. The blood test measures creatinine, a waste product found in the body, which is produced by muscle activity. Higher levels of creatinine in the blood mean that the kidney function is impaired. The creatinine level is used to calculate the estimated GFR (eGFR). The eGFR formula considers age, sex, race, and creatinine levels to estimate the GFR. In some cases, another test known as a 24-hour urine test may be necessary to determine kidney function.

Why is it Essential to Understand GFR Level?

Understanding your GFR level is crucial for various reasons. It enables the early detection of kidney problems and the start of treatment earlier. The kidneys are highly resilient organs, capable of adapting to changes gradually. Often, individuals may be unaware of the kidney problem until it has reached an advanced stage, making it difficult to treat. A low GFR level can also signify other underlying health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart diseases.

What are the Symptoms of Low GFR Level?

In most cases, a low GFR level may not show any symptoms in the early stages. However, as kidney function continues to deteriorate, the symptoms may become more evident. Some of the symptoms of low GFR level include:

  • Decreased urine output
  • Swelling in the arms, legs, feet, or ankles
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • High blood pressure
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Metallic taste in the mouth

What can Affect the GFR Level?

Several factors can affect the GFR level, making it critical to understand its significance. Medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and kidney stones can damage the kidneys, leading to a lower GFR level. Other factors that can affect GFR level include:

  • Dehydration
  • Age
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Medications like antibiotics
  • Pregnancy

How to Improve GFR Level?

There is no cure for CKD, but early detection can slow or stop the progression of kidney damage. The treatment plan depends on the cause of the kidney damage, and the doctor may recommend a combination of medication, lifestyle changes, and, in severe cases, dialysis or kidney transplant. Some of the steps to improve GFR level include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating a balanced and healthy diet
  • Quitting smoking
  • Avoiding alcohol and caffeine
  • Taking prescribed medication on time


Understanding your GFR level is crucial in maintaining good kidney health. Continuous monitoring of your GFR level helps detect kidney damage early and initiate appropriate treatment before it’s too late. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, conducting regular checkups, and seeking prompt medical attention when experiencing any kidney-related symptoms can reduce the risk of kidney damage.

Most common questions and answers related to GFR level:

  • 1. What is the difference between GFR and creatinine?

    While creatinine is a waste product found in the blood, GFR is the measurement of the kidney’s filtering rate. Creatinine levels help predict GFR levels and determine whether the kidneys are filtering waste efficiently.

  • 2. What is the normal GFR level?

    The normal GFR level is above 90 mL/min/1.73m2. A GFR level below 60 for three months or more is an indication of kidney damage and signifies chronic kidney disease.

  • 3. Can a low GFR level be reversed?

    A low GFR level can be slowed or stopped from progressing by managing the underlying cause of kidney damage. However, CKD cannot be reversed, and kidney function cannot be restored to its full capacity. Early detection and proper treatment can improve quality of life and reduce the risk of kidney failure.

  • 4. How often should I get my GFR level tested?

    It is recommended to get your GFR level tested every year to monitor your kidney function’s changes and detect any issues early.

  • 5. What is the difference between eGFR and GFR?

    eGFR refers to the estimated GFR calculated through a formula based on creatinine levels, age, sex, race, and body size. GFR is the actual measurement of the kidney’s filtering rate. However, eGFR is a more accurate reflection of kidney function and is often used in clinical practice.


  1. “Glomerular Filtration Rate,” National Kidney Foundation, accessed August 26, 2021
  2. “Chronic Kidney Disease Basics,” National Kidney Foundation, accessed August 26, 2021
  3. “What does GFR mean?,” American Kidney Fund, accessed August 26, 2021
  4. “Causes of Chronic Kidney Disease,” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, accessed August 26, 2021
  5. “Managing chronic kidney disease,” Harvard Health, accessed August 26, 2021

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