March is designated as National Kidney Month to bring awareness to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of chronic kidney disease (CKD).
Chronic kidney disease is a condition in which the kidneys are damaged and cannot optimally filter blood. The damage from kidney disease can cause by-products and electrolytes to accumulate, eventually leading to damage to other organs, including the heart and blood vessels, liver and bones. As many as 2 million patients in the U.S. die from complications of kidney failure. Kidney disease may also lead to other serious medical conditions.
Chronic kidney disease covers a broad range of severity, with five distinct stages, ranging from mild disease to renal failure. In the early stages, people with kidney disease may have no symptoms. The only way to diagnose and stage kidney disease with blood and urine tests. It is imperative that everyone discuss their individual risk with their primary care provider, because as many as one in three Americans are at risk and are unaware. Risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and family history.
The American Society of Nephrology, in collaboration with National Kidney Foundation, is working hard to promote improved kidney health to all Americans. The Kidney Foundation is the largest, most comprehensive and longstanding organization dedicated to the awareness, prevention and treatment of kidney disease. The Society of Nephrology is a medical organization representing more than 21,000 kidney health professionals working to help people with kidney disease and their families. Both organizations serve important roles, considering the number of Americans affected by chronic kidney disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 30 million Americans, that is one in seven, are affected by chronic kidney disease. Kidney disease is more easily treated in when found in the early stages. That is why screening is imperative to early intervention. Late stage chronic kidney disease may require dialysis or renal transplant for the patient to survive. More than 726,000 Americans have irreversible kidney failure requiring dialysis or renal transplant. More than 100,000 additional Americans progress to late stage renal failure requiring dialysis each year. Twenty percent of those beginning dialysis will die within one year, and more than half in five years.
Prevention and early detection are essential to kidney health. First, see your primary care provider. If you do not have one, find one. Simple blood and urine tests can reveal previously unseen or undiagnosed kidney disease, in the early stages. Next, one of the easiest ways to prevent kidney disease is exercise. Increased activity supports improved cardiovascular health and improve risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Finally, a healthy diet is crucial to prevent kidney disease. Avoid processed foods that are high in sodium. This can aid in reducing high blood pressure. Also, diets rich in fruits, vegetables and a healthy amount of grains help maintain renal function as well as prevent other diseases that may lead to kidney disease. A healthy diet can improve blood pressure and blood sugar, preventing or improving cardiovascular health and diabetes. As part of a healthy diet, reach for water instead of soda.
Renal transplant is another treatment option for end stage kidney disease, although there are limitations. The National Kidney Foundation notes that nearly 100,000 Americans are currently on a waiting list to receive a kidney. Depending on where a patient lives, the wait time for a kidney transplant can be three to seven years. We are fortunate in Charleston, WV, to have a kidney transplant center at Charleston Area Medical Center.
While CAMC delivers high-quality care through their Kidney Transplant Center, there is always a need for more donors. For anyone interested in live kidney donation, Donate Life West Virginia and the Center for Organ Recovery and Education are ready to assist in the process.
We must also continue to fight for better education and treatment for kidney failure, so that we may move closer to ending this terrible disease. For additional information about prevention and treatment of chronic kidney disease please go to the National Kidney Foundation website (kidney.org).