Kidney disease-associated mortality is increasing due to the rising prevalence of the disease around the world, including South Africa. People of African descent have a higher risk of developing kidney disease due to genetic predisposition and other factors. Africans living in sub-Saharan Africa also have an increased disease burden associated with infections such as HIV, TB, and malaria, which also increase the risk of developing kidney disease.
This is according to Dr Feziwe Busiswa Bisiwe, Head of the Clinical Unit: Nephrology in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of the Free State (UFS), and also why World Kidney Day – a global campaign aimed at raising awareness of the importance of our kidneys on 10 March – is so important.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is rising
According to Dr Bisiwe, the number of people dying from chronic kidney disease (CKD) is rising because the prevalence of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and obesity is increasing, and these are the big drivers in the rising prevalence of chronic kidney disease.
“It is estimated that one in 13 South African adults has CKD, and that about 250 people around the world die from complications related to kidney disease every day. World Kidney Day is important to raise awareness about the importance of screening for kidney disease, as it is often asymptomatic until very late,” says Dr Bisiwe.
She says all adults at risk of getting CKD needs to be screened at least once a year. The screening can be done at primary health-care centres by simply measuring the blood pressure, doing a urine test, and a single blood test where needed. All adults are advised to have annual medical check-ups for early diagnosis of diseases leading to CKD, such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and HIV infection.
“Hypertension, diabetes mellitus, obesity, kidney stones, recurrent bladder infections, HIV infection, being over the age of 50, smoking, excess consumption of alcohol and medications that harm the kidneys are the commonest known risk factors for developing kidney disease. Some forms of kidney disease are inherited and tend to run in families,” explains Dr Bisiwe.
After being diagnosed
According to her, there is limited awareness about kidney disease around the world, and that is why the initiative of this campaign is to ‘bridge the knowledge gap’. Early forms of CKD may be treated with lifestyle and dietary adjustments that slow down the progression of kidney disease.
“Kidney transplant is the most cost-effective way to treat kidney failure; however, there is limited access to this treatment due to a shortage of donated organs. Dialysis treatment is another blood-purifying method that performs some of the functions of the kidney to keep the patient alive. Dialysis is expensive and is not widely available in the South African state-funded health-care system, hence more emphasis is placed on prevention, early detection, and delaying the progression of kidney disease.”