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Are You at Risk for Kidney Disease?

Are You at Risk for Kidney Disease?

Unfortunately, the odds are in your favor. That's because one in three Americans is at risk for kidney disease. And the disturbing statistics don't end there:

  • More than 26-million Americans already have kidney disease, and most won't know it until the disease has progressed significantly.
  • Over 678,000 Americans have irreversible kidney failure and require dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive. Currently, nearly 99,000 Americans are on the kidney transplant waiting list. On average, 13 people die each day while waiting for a life-saving kidney transplant.
  • Each year, kidney disease claims the lives of more people than breast or prostate cancer. In fact, over 89,000 people die annually from kidney failure.

March is National Kidney Month, and ATRIO Health Plans thinks this is a prime time to raise awareness about this potentially fatal disease. Kidney disease hasn't always been the prevalent threat it is today. In recent years, however, three factors have converged—an epidemic of obesity as well as diabetes and an expanding, elderly population—to propel kidney disease stats skyward. In relation to America's growing elderly demographic, as people age, they are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease or have a stroke—both of which affect the kidneys.

Chronic Kidney Disease Defined

The National Kidney Foundation defines chronic kidney disease (CKD) as the gradual and usually permanent loss of kidney function over time. CKD is divided into five stages of increasing severity, from stage 1 representing slight kidney damage, to stage five in which kidney failure necessitates dialysis or a kidney transplant.

The two primary causes of CKD are diabetes and high blood pressure. According to the National Institutes of Health, high blood pressure forces the heart to work harder and can damage blood vessels throughout the body. If the blood vessels in the kidneys are damaged, they may stop removing wastes and extra fluid. A dangerous cycle can result, as excess fluid in the blood vessels can further raise blood pressure. When someone has diabetes, proteins can accumulate in the kidneys, and this causes clogging of the kidneys’ micro-vascular system which, in turn, can lead to kidney failure.

Symptoms of kidney disease generally don't appear until the condition has reached an advanced stage. In some instances, however, there are warning signs, including:

  • fatigue and weakness
  • trouble concentrating
  • loss of appetite, nausea, or vomiting
  • difficulty sleeping
  • muscle cramping at night
  • swollen feet and ankles
  • puffiness around the eyes, especially in the morning
  • dry, itchy skin
  • frequent urination, particularly at night

CKD is initially diagnosed through urinalysis and blood tests.

Prevention and Early Diagnosis

Of course, heading off CKD entirely is the ultimate goal. Toward this end, experts recommend:

  • losing excess weight
  • controlling blood glucose (if diabetic)
  • managing high blood pressure
  • quitting smoking
  • exercising regularly
  • consuming a healthy diet

While prevention tops the kidney-disease priority list, the next-best objective is early diagnosis. Toward that end, if you have diabetes, you should be screened annually. For those with other risk factors, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or a family history of kidney failure, talk to your provider about how often you should be tested.

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/kidney-disease.htm

http://www.kidneyfund.org/assets/pdf/kidney-disease-statistics.pdf

https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/about-chronic-kidney-disease

https://www.kidney.org/news/newsroom/factsheets/CKD-A-Growing-Problem

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/Pages/kidney-disease-statistics-united-states.aspx