What do Low Creatinine Levels mean?
In order to understand what low creatinine levels mean in relation to the health of our bodies, first we must talk a little bit about creatinine. This is a waste product that is normally produced through the metabolism of the muscles. Creatinine is then taken to the kidneys through the bloodstream, until it reaches the kidneys. Provided the kidneys function normally, the creatinine is going to be excreted into the urine. This is the normal process of functioning in any healthy human individual.
The values of creatinine are often tested through routine laboratory investigations, as they allow for a good evaluation of kidney function. It is important to understand that the creatinine levels can fluctuate, being either higher or lower than the normal value. When it comes to low creatinine levels, there are many reasons that might exist behind this modification of values. Some are related to the types of food we eat (for example, a diet that is low in protein will lead to a lowering in the normal creatinine value). Others are serious causes, such as liver conditions (advanced stages).
It can happen that the creatinine levels are low, without any other modifications. In such situations, the existence of low creatinine levels does not indicate a serious condition. Treatment is recommended for patients who have other modifications, besides the creatinine. As for associated conditions, low creatinine levels are often found in diseases that lead to the reduction of muscle mass. When low creatinine levels are found alone, it might be a sign that a person does not have enough muscle tissue.
Normal Creatinine Levels
The normal creatinine levels vary according to gender and age. In a healthy adult male, the normal creatinine levels are between 0.6 and 1.2 mg/dL. Healthy adult women, on the other hand, have normal creatinine levels that vary between 0.5 and 1.1 mg/dL. As the creatinine level in the blood is connected to the amount of muscle tissue, it is normal for muscular and young healthy adults to have more creatinine circulating in the blood.
As a person ages and enters the elderly population category, he/she will present less creatinine in the blood, without this being a sign of a medical condition. This happens because the muscle mass tends to decrease with aging, leading to less creatinine produced in the muscles. As for small children, they have a normal creatinine level somewhere around 0.2 mg/dL. This value might be slightly higher, if the muscle mass is well developed.
Sometimes, the normal creatinine level is influenced by the existence of medical conditions. This is particularly valid in persons who are suffering from malnutrition and severe weight loss, but also in those who have suffered from a chronic illness for a long time. In such situations, the creatinine levels might be considerably lower than the average value for that person’s age and gender. Also, it is important to mention that people with just one kidney have other normal values of creatinine, ranging between 1.8 and 1.9 mg/dL.
Causes of Low Creatinine Levels
These are the most common causes that lead to low creatinine levels:
- Reduced muscle mass – this can lead to decreased production of creatinine and it is encountered in elderly patients or those suffering from malnutrition, excessive weight loss or chronic illnesses.
- Diet – it is a well known fact that a low-protein diet will have an impact on the creatinine levels. Vegetarians often have low creatinine levels, as their diet does not provide sufficient proteins. While they may include proteins from plant sources, it is important to understand that creatinine is produced from animal proteins (meat and fish).
- Pregnancy – when a woman is pregnant, the function of the kidneys becomes accelerated and increased quantities of creatinine are excreted.
- Liver disease – when a person is suffering from advanced liver disease, the creatinine levels can reach dangerously low levels. This is because the proteins are normally broken down in the liver; if the liver does not function properly, then the whole process is disrupted and creatinine is not produced.
- Water intake – when excess water intake occurs, the person might experience a modification in the value of creatinine. The lowering of creatinine levels occurs as the excess water dilutes the blood. This is however a rarely encountered cause.
- Medication – there are certain medications that can contribute to a modification in creatinine levels, lowering them.
When the creatinine levels are low but there are no other modifications in the body, no treatment is necessary. However, if there is an underlying condition leading to this modification, the treatment will address that problem in the first place. Physical exercise is recommended for the increase in muscle mass and a change in diet is indicated to those who usually follow a low-protein diet. It is important to understand that there are healthy proteins that can be included in the diet, without being fattening.
For patients suffering from malnutrition or excessive weight loss, the treatment should include a gradual diet that contains fresh fruits and vegetables. As for elderly patients, both physical exercise and adapted diet are recommended to improve the creatinine levels. It is difficult to improve creatinine levels in patients who are suffering from chronic illnesses but there are measures that can be taken, including supportive care and an adapted diet.
The modified values in pregnancy should not be of concern; they represent a consequence of the pregnancy but they do not require any treatment. As for liver disease, the treatment should concern the preservation of the remaining liver function and supporting the regeneration, if possible. In case there is a certain medication contributing to the lowering of the creatinine levels, one should request a change in the treatment. The doctor might be able to recommend another medication, one that delivers the same effect without having a direct influence on the creatinine levels.
In conclusion, there is no specific treatment for low creatinine levels. In case of associated medical conditions, the treatment should concern that particular problem. When the right treatment is administered, the creatinine levels are going to be normal once more.