Linda Wiig, parish nurse
March is National Kidney Awareness Month, so here is a little information about your kidneys.
The leading causes of kidney failure are diabetes and high blood pressure. These often run in families.
Smoking increases a person’s risk for kidney cancer, but it also hurts your heart and blood vessels. This damage can cause high blood pressure—the second leading cause of kidney failure. If a person already has kidney disease, smoking can make it worse more quickly.
A new study linked drinking two or more cola drinks (either diet or regular) each day with an increased risk for chronic kidney disease. Other kinds of sodas did not increase the risk for chronic kidney disease.
The only common cause of kidney failure that is directly passed down from your parents is PKD (Polycystic Kidney Disease). PKD is the most common life-threatening genetic disease, affecting 600,000 Americans and 12.5 million people worldwide. It is more common than Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, and sickle cell anemia combined. PKD is a disease in which cysts (pouches of fluid) form in the kidneys. More cysts grow and they get bigger as time goes on, eventually leading to kidney failure for most people affected by this disease. There is no cure.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is the permanent loss of kidney function. CKD may be the result of physical injury or a disease that damages the kidneys, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. When the kidneys are damaged, they do not remove wastes and extra water from the blood as well as they should. Over 26 million Americans have CKD and many more are at risk. You may be at risk if you have a blood relative with kidney failure.
CKD is a silent condition. In the early stages, you will not notice any symptoms. CKD often develops so slowly that many people don’t realize they’re sick until the disease is advanced and they are rushed to the hospital for life-saving dialysis.
CKD is a growing problem in the United States. Between 1990 and 2000, the number of people with kidney failure requiring dialysis or transplantation virtually doubled to 380,000. The annual cost of treating kidney failure in the United States is over $20 billion.
Kidney failure is only a part of the picture. Experts estimate that 20 million Americans have significantly reduced kidney function, and even a small loss of kidney function can double a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Many of these people will experience heart attacks or strokes before they become aware of their kidney disease. So identifying and treating CKD early can help prevent heart problems as well as postpone kidney failure.
Learning about reduced kidney function allows you to take steps to keep your kidneys healthy as long as possible. You can control many of the things that can make CKD worse and may lead to kidney failure.
Are you in one of the high-risk groups? The Kidney Foundation plans to have another screening event here at church in the early fall. Anyone with a family history of kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, as well as Hispanics, American Indians, and Blacks should be screened.