What is Creatinine?
The wear and tear of the muscles leads to generation of a waste product, which we know as Creatinine.(1) The responsibility of creatinine removal lies with the kidneys.(8) If there is any problem with the kidney function, then it leads to increase in the blood creatinine levels.
Monitoring of Creatinine Levels
Doctors check or monitor the creatinine levels to gauge the kidney function. Creatinine levels are normally checked using Blood Urea Nitrogen or BUN, which is a kidney function marker test.(8) Together these tests help in assessing the overall kidney function. However, glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is the best method to find out if the kidneys are functioning properly or not.(9)
What is Glomerular Filtration Rate?
GFR is a calculation that takes into account creatinine levels, along with age, gender, race, and weight. The GFR can be an indicator of renal disease. A GFR below 60 for three months or above 60 with signs of kidney damage (for example, protein in the urine is a sign of kidney damage) may be a sign of kidney disease.
What Are Normal Blood Creatinine Levels?
To know a bad creatinine level, first one has to understand a normal creatinine level in the blood. Normal creatinine level in the blood differs and depends on various factors, such as age, gender, and size of the body.(7)
The Normal Serum Creatinine Levels In The Blood Are:
- In men and adolescents who are 16 and above, the normal creatinine levels in the blood are 0.8 to 1.3 mg/dL.
- In women and adolescents who are 16 and above, the normal creatinine levels in the blood are 0.6 to 1.1 mg/dL.
- Depending on development of muscles in infants, the normal creatinine levels are 0.2 or more.
- There Is Variation In Creatinine Levels According To Race Too.
- The mean creatinine blood levels in non-Hispanic whites are 0.97 mg/dL in women and 1.16 mg/dL in men.
- The mean creatinine blood levels in non-Hispanic blacks is 1.01 mg/dL in women and 1.25 mg/dL in men.
- The mean creatinine blood levels in Mexican-Americans are 0.86 mg/dL in women and 1.07 mg/dL in men.
Why Do Women Have Lesser Creatinine Levels? (2)
The reason women have lower serum creatinine levels are because they have less muscle mass; hence, there is lower amount of formation of creatinine and its excretion.(2)
What is Considered a Bad Creatinine Level?
Anything which falls outside the normal range, such as high and low levels of creatinine is considered a bad creatinine level.
High creatinine levels are not considered good, as they indicate kidney damage or dehydration. For this reason a high creatinine level is considered bad and these levels are usually above 1.3; also depending on race, age, body size and gender. There are some medical conditions that can lead to higher creatinine levels. Dehydrated individuals can also have increased creatinine levels, which are considered bad.
If the creatinine levels are about 5.0 or above in adults; and 2.0 or above in infants; then it indicates acute damage to kidneys.
People with low muscle mass often have low creatinine levels and this is usually not considered bad or and is not an indication of a serious problem.(3) Individuals having only one kidney can also have normal levels of creatinine.
What are the Causes of Bad (High/Low) Creatinine Levels?
Anything, which will hinder the normal functioning of the kidneys, causes increase in the levels of creatinine in blood. Bladder problems and kidney infections also increase the creatinine levels.
Other common causes of kidney disease or kidney damage are: hypertension, kidney infections, diabetes, urinary tract infections, rhabdomyolysis, certain medications, eating excessive meat; and urinary tract; blockage due to prostate enlargement, bladder problems and kidney stones.
Causes of low creatinine level consist of: liver disease, malnutrition and low muscle mass.
Who Is at Risk for Bad Creatinine Levels?
Middle-aged or young adults who are athletic or muscular can have increased levels of creatinine because of increased muscle mass and hence these people are at risk for bad creatinine level.
Dehydrated and elderly individuals or people suffering from infections can also have increased levels of creatinine, which can also be considered as bad levels of creatinine.(4)
Some people can have lower than normal creatinine levels due to decreased muscle mass, such as can be seen in: malnourished people, elderly people, bedbound patients, chronically ill people and patients in wheelchairs.
What Are the Symptoms of Bad (High/Low) Creatinine Levels?
High levels of creatinine usually do not have any symptoms. Symptoms of high levels of creatinine are often related with kidney dysfunction and it can occur with no symptoms of kidney disease.
If there are symptoms of kidney disease/failure, then these also will be the symptoms of increased creatinine levels or bad creatinine levels and include: muscle cramps, itching, vomiting, nausea, appetite loss, swelling in the ankles and feet, decreased or excessive urination, insomnia, breathlessness, skin dryness, fatigue and confusion.(5,6)
What Is the Treatment for Bad Creatinine Levels?
If the creatinine levels are bad, such as if they are high due to kidney disease, then treatment will include: following low-salt and low-fat diet, regular exercise; maintaining normal blood pressure; maintaining a healthy weight; quitting smoking; if diabetic, controlling blood sugar and reducing alcohol consumption.
If there are bad creatinine levels in the sense that they are increased due to dehydration, then treatment consists of rehydrating the patient through oral fluids or intravenously.
Medications that increase the levels of creatinine need to be stopped or changed by consulting your doctor.
For low creatinine levels, treatment can include increasing the muscle mass.
What Is the Prognosis for a Bad Creatinine Level?
The prognosis for a bad creatinine level depends on whether it is high or low and also on the cause of the bad creatinine level. If kidney disease is the cause of high creatinine levels, then the prognosis depends on the stage of kidney disease, as this condition is slow in progression; and it is easy to manage the early stages of kidney disease through lifestyle changes and medications. In advanced stages of kidney disease, the patient may need kidney transplantation or dialysis at least.
The prognosis is good, if the increased creatinine levels are due to dehydration, as intravenous or oral hydration helps in treating the problem. Low creatinine levels do not pose a serious threat and increasing muscle mass usually suffices as treatment.
Prevention of Bad Creatinine Levels
Treating the underlying cause of bad creatinine level will help in preventing it. Lifestyle changes play a huge role in preventing a bad creatinine levels by preventing kidney disease and include:
- Consuming a healthy and low-salt diet.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Regular exercise.
- Keeping blood pressure in check.
- Controlling blood sugar levels if diabetic.
- Quitting smoking.
- Cutting down on alcohol intake.
Weight-bearing exercises helps in increasing or maintaining the muscle mass and this will help in preventing a bad creatinine level.