Chronic kidney disease on the rise

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) has been estimated to affect as much as 15% of the South African population. According to the National Kidney Foundation of South Africa, it also represents a growing healthcare problem with some 20 000 new patients requiring diagnosis and treatment every year in South Africa.

Speaking on the eve of World Kidney Day Noeleen Phillipson, Chief Executive Officer of National Renal Care (NRC) South Africa’s largest private renal replacement therapy provider, points out that CKD is a dangerous medical condition, but says that it can be successfully managed if detected timeously.

“Kidneys are among our most vital organs as they filter toxins and produce essential chemicals in our bodies,” she observes. “When the kidneys stop functioning properly our body becomes toxic and we cannot survive. The difficulty lies in the fact that CKD is an insidious disease - it often goes undetected as many people whose kidneys are dysfunctional do not develop symptoms until their kidneys are close to failing.”  

Jacques du Plessis, Managing Director of Netcare’s Hospital Division says this is why it is vital to have your risks of developing the illness assessed regularly by a healthcare practitioner. “This is particularly important for those people who have diabetes or high blood pressure, which are the most common causes of CKD.”

Free kidney screening at Netcare hospital

According to Du Plessis, World Kidney Day is an important opportunity not only to raise awareness about this serious medical condition, but also to provide the public with the means of finding out whether they are at risk.

As part of their community outreach initiatives Netcare Universitas Hospital will be hosting a kidney-screening day on World Kidney Day, 8 March 2012. The free tests offered will include blood pressure screening, weight measurement as well as a finger prick creatinine test, used to measure kidney functioning.

Phillipson points out that when the kidneys become chronically diseased kidney failure is imminent. Once kidney failure occurs there is no cure for the condition. There is however treatment in the form of dialysis – an artificial replacement of the kidney’s filtering process via a machine. At present more than 6 000 patients in South Africa are receiving life-saving dialysis.

Symptoms of kidney disease

While many people do not develop any symptoms indicating CKD there may be certain indicators, according to Phillipson. Kidney disease sufferers may present with any of the following symptoms on a regular basis:

  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Poor concentration
  • Nausea
  • Itchiness
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Appetite loss and particularly a loss of appetite for eating meat.

Phillipson advises South Africans to visit an NRC Healthy Start healthcare practitioner or their doctor at least once a year to have the recommended kidney health screening tests done. This particularly holds true for individuals with a family history of hypertension, cardiac problems or diabetes.

The Healthy Start Programme, which is available at all NRC centres nationwide, is unique to NRC. It is a lifestyle management programme for patients at risk of developing end-stage kidney disease, including patients with a family history of kidney disease. The primary aim of the programme is to help the patient retain the best possible quality of life while remaining as healthy as possible.

Preventing kidney disease

Phillipson says preventing the development of kidney disease is better than having to seek treatment for it. The correct lifestyle choices can help reduce the risk of kidney disease. Regular exercise, a diet rich in vegetables and fruit and low in salt, potassium and protein can help you keep your kidneys healthy. Giving up smoking and reducing alcohol consumption to one drink a day is also recommended. Medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension should be strictly managed in consultation with your doctor.

High blood pressure can damage the nephrons, the smallestfunctional filtering units of the kidneys, thereby impairing kidney functioning. Kidney disease is a known complication of diabetes. The basic function of the kidneys is to filter waste products from the blood. Diabetes can damage this system. If blood glucose levels are too high, the kidneys must work harder to maintain the necessary filtering processes. High levels of blood sugar make the kidneys filter too much blood. All this extra work is hard on the filters. After many years, they start to leak and useful protein is lost in the urine.  

TJ Ramanamane, General Manager of the Netcare Universitas Hospital, encourages members of the community to visit Universitas Academic Hospital on Thursday, 8 March 2012 between 08h00 and 13h00. Free kidney-screening will take place in the foyer of the hospital. He says this is an opportunity for members of the public to have themselves tested and learn more about chronic kidney disease, which is affecting many South Africans. “By preventing or detecting kidney problems early on we can save a significant number of lives,” he concluded.

Please call Christie de Jager at Netcare Universitas Hospital on (051) 506-3500 for further information.

(Press release, March 2012)

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24