Creatinine is a waste product that the body produces when muscles are used. A similar substance, creatine is used by the muscles to produce energy. The muscles metabolize creatine into creatinine and then release creatinine into the bloodstream. A person’s kidneys filter creatinine from the blood and remove it from the body during urination. People with poorly functioning kidneys generally develop increased creatinine levels in the blood.
Diabetics often develop kidney damage and may develop increased creatinine levels. Doctors may periodically test the creatinine levels of diabetics to monitor kidney function. A patient typically undergoes a creatinine urine test to measure the amount that is expelled from the body in urine. The creatinine blood test, or serum creatinine test, measures the levels in the blood.
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A physician typically monitors a patient’s creatinine test results and informs the patient if he or she has unhealthy levels in the body. Different medical laboratories may have different ways of evaluating test results and determining whether or not the results are normal. Men usually have higher average creatinine levels than do women.
People with a high muscle mass, such as athletes, generally have higher-than-average creatinine levels in their blood. Often, a diet that is high in red meat increases creatinine levels in the blood, especially after a person eats a large amount of meat. Some drugs may cause a side effect of increased levels in the blood including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and some blood pressure medications. Doctors usually monitor levels in patients who use medications that are capable of causing this side effect. Individuals who suffer dehydration may develop temporarily high blood levels as well.
Several medical conditions in addition to diabetes are capable of causing increased creatinine levels in the bloodstream, including muscular dystrophy and glomerulonephritis. Pregnant women with preeclampsia or eclampsia may notice higher levels of this substance in their blood. People with obstructions of the urinary tract may develop an increased level. Congestive heart failure or shock can reduce blood flow to the kidneys, thereby raising the levels as well.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, can damage a person’s kidneys and cause unhealthy levels of increased creatinine to build up in the body. Hypertension patients usually need to take blood pressure medications as prescribed by a doctor to maintain normal blood pressure levels. Patients typically should not stop taking their hypertension medications unless they are advised to do so by a doctor.
Often, patients with kidney failure are not able to excrete toxins from their blood. Kidney failure typically requires kidney dialysis treatment to get creatinine levels down to a normal level. People with abnormally high levels may experience fatigue, dehydration, confusion, or shortness of breath.