Half of the people surveyed for new National Kidney Foundation research did not fully understand what their kidneys do, or the signs and symptoms of kidney disease.

The survey, conducted by BAV Consulting Market Research, posed basic kidney questions to more than 1,000 U.S. adults. Researchers found that only 46% of Americans understood that the kidneys produce urine, while 52% said they thought a urine test might catch the first signs of kidney disease.

“Kidneys are vital organs, but unfortunately Americans may not understand the role of their kidneys,” said Joseph Vassalotti, MD, National Kidney Foundation's Chief Medical Officer. “Kidneys produce urine to cleanse the body of wastes. Urine also happens to be one of the best ways to identify the early stages of kidney disease—by looking for albumin or protein in the urine.”

Results of the 11–question survey also showed that 63% of respondents had never talked to a health care professional about their kidneys. Another 61% stated that they were unsure or had never been tested for kidney disease.

“We know that 1 in 3 Americans is at risk of developing kidney disease, so it’s discouraging to see that so many people are not aware of the major risk conditions,” Vassalotti said. “Because kidney disease may be silent, it’s critically important that anyone at risk—those with high blood pressure, diabetes, age over 60 or a family history of kidney failure—partner with their clinician for testing annually.”

Furthermore, 71% of Americans were not sure or were incorrect in identifying the signs and symptoms of kidney disease.

“We know there is low awareness of kidney disease among those who have it,” said Dr. Vassalotti. “This study highlights the need to educate the public not only about kidney disease and its risk factors, but about basic kidney function and the simple tests that can catch kidney disease early.”