Chronic Kidney Disease

More than 2 million Australians, about one in 10 adults, have some form of kidney damage. Every day more than 40 Australians die of kidney failure (11.3% of all deaths), and this is a 100% increase since 1980.

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a significant and growing public health problem, responsible for the substantial burden of illness and premature mortality in Australia.

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Chronic Kidney Disease Stats

  • Every day, six Australians commence expensive dialysis or transplantation to stay alive, which costs approximately $60,000 per annum
  • Most people with CKD will die from cardiovascular causes before requiring dialysis or transplantation
  • The dialysis-dependent population has risen by an average of 8% per year over the past decade, and is being fuelled by the aging population, and Type 2 diabetes epidemic

Most people are born with two kidneys, but we can live quite well with just one. If both kidneys fail, as happens in end stage kidney failure – bone, muscle or brain cannot carry on. Without any kidney function, our body dies. Healthy kidneys act like a filter to make sure the right amount of wastes and fluids are removed, they keep the proper balance of salts and acids in the body and produce hormones.

Kidney functions

Every day our kidneys perform an essential job of filtering 200 litres of blood, to remove about two litres of waste products and unneeded water. The major role of the kidneys is to remove waste from the blood and eliminate it in the urine.

Our kidneys also make three important hormones; erythropoietin, renin and Active vitamin D. Erythropoietin stimulates the production of red blood cells, renin is involved in the control of blood pressure and Active vitamin D controls calcium uptake and helps build strong bones.

Kidney disease symptoms

People can live a near normal life with as little as 20% of their total kidney function. There are often no kidney disease symptoms in the early stages of many kidney conditions. When they do occur the initial signs may be general, such as feeling tired or generalised itching. As it progresses kidney disease symptoms can include changes in the urine (reduced volume, discolouration, blood), nausea and vomiting and appetite loss. Other symptoms include swollen or numb hands and feet (because of water retention), weakness and lethargy, darkened skin and muscle cramps.

As it progresses kidney disease symptoms can include changes in the urine (reduced volume, discolouration, blood), nausea and vomiting and appetite loss. Other symptoms include swollen or numb hands and feet (because of water retention), weakness and lethargy, darkened skin and muscle cramps.

In most cases, chronic kidney disease does not cause any symptoms and is detected via a urine test for blood or protein, an X-ray or scan of the kidneys, or a blood test to measure kidney function.

Kidney disease prevention

Key recommendations to staying healthy are to:

  • Keep your blood pressure below 130/90 and maintain healthy levels of cholesterol.
  • Lead a healthy lifestyle and maintain a healthy weight, be active for over 30 minutes most days, eat a balanced healthy diet, become a non-smoker.
  • If you have diabetes ensure you actively treat your blood glucose.
  • The food you eat plays a huge role in the health and well being of your body. As well as providing the body with a variety of nutrients, food choices can also help in weight reduction and weight control.

Individuals who are overweight are at an increased risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure, major risk factors for kidney disease. In fact, losing as little as five kilograms reduces blood pressure in most people who are 10% over their healthy weight. Drinking water instead to satisfy thirst is recommended rather than sugar-containing soft drinks and is one way to lose weight.

Drinking water instead to satisfy thirst is recommended rather than sugar-containing soft drinks and is one way to lose weight.

Causes of CKD

The most common, but not only, causes of CKD are hypertension and diabetes. High blood pressure is a key factor that contributes to the deterioration of kidney function. People with CKD are more likely to die from cardiovascular causes than those without CKD, thus, hypertension is a major risk factor. Those with diabetes and hypertension had a far greater prevalence of CKD (37% and 26%, respectively) compared to those without these conditions (11% and 8%, respectively).

Many people live with kidney problems, and if treated early people can recover from kidney disease. However, the medical expenses attributed to treatment and rehabilitation of kidney disease can be hefty. Having dialysis machine or a kidney transplant is expensive, up to $60,000 per year. That is why it is important to protect yourself with adequate trauma cover.

Source:
1. Kidney Health Australia: How our kidneys work – all about our kidneys – we can’t live without them!
2. Kidney Health Australia – Fast Facts on CKD
3. Kidney Health Australia – World Kidney Day Background Briefing

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Published: July 28, 2013

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