Hidden Global Epidemic: Kidney Disease

Raising Awareness: Kidney disease is a “hidden epidemic” affecting more than 850 million people worldwide, renal experts say.

That’s twice the number of diabetics (422 million) and more than 20 times the number of people with cancer (42 million) or HIV/AIDS (36.7 million).

But most people don’t realize that kidney disease is a major health issue.

“It is high time to put the global spread of kidney diseases into focus,” says David Harris and Adeera Levin of the International Society of Nephrology.

Harris is the group’s president and Levin is past president. They note kidney diseases often cause no early symptoms.

And many people aren’t aware of their increased risk for heart problems, infections, hospitalization and kidney failure.

Chronic kidney diseases (ones lasting more than three months) affect 10 percent of men and nearly 12 percent of women around the world.

Up to 10.5 million people need dialysis or a kidney transplant, but many don’t receive these lifesaving treatments due to cost or lack of resources.

In addition, more than 13 million people suffer acute kidney injury. Some will go on to develop chronic kidney disease or kidney failure.

Levin says, “Using all these sources of data, and existing estimates of acute and chronic kidney diseases, we estimate approximately 850 million kidney patients — a number which surely signifies an ‘epidemic’ worldwide.”

Kidneys remove waste products and help balance the volume of fluids and minerals in the body. They also produce a hormone that tells the body to make red blood cells, the researchers explained.

“Even if many patients with damaged kidney function don’t feel ill, they’re at high risk for other health problems,” says Carmine Zoccali, president of the European Renal Association — European Dialysis and Transplant Association.

Heart disease deaths due to chronic kidney disease are high — 1.2 million cardiovascular deaths were attributed to kidney disease in 2013.

“The number of people with kidney diseases is alarmingly high, but the public is not aware of this reality. These patients have outcomes and kidney diseases impose a heavy financial burden on health care budgets,” says Mark Okusa, president of the American Society of Nephrology.

The annual per-patient cost of dialysis is $88,195 in the United States.

Even though you can have no symptoms, here are 10 to look out for, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

While the only way to know for sure if you have kidney disease is to get tested, Dr. Vassalotti shares 10 possible signs you may have kidney disease.

If you’re at risk for kidney disease due to high blood pressure, diabetes, a family history of kidney failure or if you’re older than age 60, it’s important to get tested annually for kidney disease.

Be sure to mention any symptoms you’re experiencing to your healthcare practitioner.

  1. You’re more tired, have less energy or are having trouble concentrating. A severe decrease in kidney function can lead to a buildup of toxins and impurities in the blood. This can cause people to feel tired, weak and can make it hard to concentrate. Another complication of kidney disease is anemia, which can cause weakness and fatigue.sleeping
  2. You’re having trouble sleeping. When the kidneys aren’t filtering properly, toxins stay in the blood rather than leaving the body through the urine. This can make it difficult to sleep. There is also a link between obesity and chronic kidney disease, and sleep apnea is more common in those with chronic kidney disease, compared with the general population.sluggish2
  3. You have dry and itchy skin. Healthy kidneys do many important jobs. They remove wastes and extra fluid from your body, help make red blood cells, help keep bones strong and work to maintain the right amount of minerals in your blood. Dry and itchy skin can be a sign of the mineral and bone disease that often accompanies advanced kidney disease, when the kidneys are no longer able to keep the right balance of minerals and nutrients in your blood.
    itching
  4. You feel the need to urinate more often. If you feel the need to urinate more often, especially at night, this can be a sign of kidney disease. When the kidneys filters are damaged, it can cause an increase in the urge to urinate. Sometimes this can also be a sign of a urinary infection or enlarged prostate in men.lawyersleaving
  5. You see blood in your urine. Healthy kidneys typically keep the blood cells in the body when filtering wastes from the blood to create urine, but when the kidney’s filters have been damaged, these blood cells can start to “leak” out into the urine. In addition to signaling kidney disease, blood in the urine can be indicative of tumors, kidney stones or an infection.openyoureyes
    6. Your urine is foamy. Excessive bubbles in the urine – especially those that require you to flush several times before they go away—indicate protein in the urine. This foam may look like the foam you see when scrambling eggs, as the common protein found in urine, albumin, is the same protein that is found in eggs.

 

healthy
7. You’re experiencing persistent puffiness around your eyes. Protein in the urine is an early sign that the kidneys’ filters have been damaged, allowing protein to leak into the urine. This puffiness around your eyes can be due to the fact that your kidneys are leaking a large amount of protein in the urine, rather than keeping it in the body.

hearteye
8. Your ankles and feet are swollen. Decreased kidney function can lead to sodium retention, causing swelling in your feet and ankles. Swelling in the lower extremities can also be a sign of heart disease, liver disease and chronic leg vein problems.

walkinggeneric
9. You have a poor appetite. This is a very general symptom, but a buildup of toxins resulting from reduced kidney function can be one of the causes.

eating
10. Your muscles are cramping. Electrolyte imbalances can result from impaired kidney function. For example, low calcium levels and poorly controlled phosphorus may contribute to muscle cramping.

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HOW IS KIDNEY DISEASE DETECTED?

Early detection and treatment of chronic kidney disease are the keys to keeping kidney disease from progressing to kidney failure. Some simple tests can be done to detect early kidney disease. They are:

  1. A test for protein in the urine. Albumin to Creatinine Ratio (ACR), estimates the amount of a albumin that is in your urine. An excess amount of protein in your urine may mean your kidney’s filtering units have been damaged by disease. One positive result could be due to fever or heavy exercise, so your doctor will want to confirm your test over several weeks.
  2. A test for blood creatinine. Your doctor should use your results, along with your age, race, gender and other factors, to calculate your glomerular filtration rate (GFR). Your GFR tells how much kidney function you have.

It is especially important that people who have an increased risk for chronic kidney disease have these tests. You may have an increased risk for kidney disease if you:

  • are older
  • have diabetes
  • have high blood pressure
  • have a family member who has chronic kidney disease
  • are an African American, Hispanic American, Asians and Pacific Islander or American Indian.

If you are in one of these groups or think you may have an increased risk for kidney disease, ask your doctor about getting tested.

 maria.dorfner@yahoo.com

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