March is National Kidney Month, and World Kidney Day will be honored on March 14, 2013. Throughout this month, national organizations will be working to raise awareness about kidney disease and how you can take better care of your kidneys. As of 2011, this disease has ranked as the ninth leading cause of death in the United States, but there are ways that it can be prevented.
At this time, there are more than 20 million Americans who are living with chronic kidney disease (CKD), but many of them are not even aware that their kidneys are in danger. If renal impairment is not diagnosed, then it can eventually cause your kidneys to completely shut down. If this happens, then the only viable options that are available to you are dialysis and a kidney transplant.
What is CKD?
Kidney disease will develop once the kidneys are no longer able to filter out bodily wastes or maintain the proper balance of chemicals and fluids within the body. This disease can range in severity based on how effectively the kidneys are still able to filter some wastes from the bloodstream.
Chronic kidney disease can also vary in how long it takes to fully develop (sometimes progressing rapidly and sometimes drawn out over years). Unfortunately, most people are not aware that there is any issue, because this disease produces little or no symptoms until it progresses to a much more advanced stage (like complete renal failure).
Who is at Risk for Kidney Disease?
The people who are at high risk for developing kidney disease include those with high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, heart disease, or a family history of kidney disease. Renal impairment research has shown that diabetes is currently the leading cause of kidney disease and hypertension is the second leading cause. According to the CDC, 7 out of 10 new cases of end stage renal disease (ESRD) listed one of these medical conditions as the primary cause.
Other studies have shown that kidney failure tends to affect significantly more members of the African American community compared to Caucasians. Other groups that are at higher risk for kidney disease include Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and senior citizens over the age of 65.
Should You be Screened for Kidney Disease?
If you are at least 18 years old with hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or you have a family history of CKD, then you should be screened for kidney disease. Throughout National Kidney Month, there will be free kidney screenings available for anyone who is at risk for CKD. If none are available in your area, then your doctor can screen you for kidney disease.
How Do You Treat Kidney Disease?
Fortunately, many cases of kidney failure can be delayed or prevented entirely if they are detected early enough, and any underlying medical conditions are treated properly. For one thing, you can help improve the health of your kidneys by adapting a diet that gets you the best amount of protein, sodium, and fluids. In addition to eating better, you should also stay well hydrated and get regular exercise.
For the patients that develop end stage renal disease (ESRD), there are two treatment options available to them:
- Dialysis: With this treatment, excess fluids and wastes are filtered out of the blood since the kidneys can no longer do this on their own. This is almost always necessary once the kidneys have begun to fail (usually after 85-90 percent of functioning is lost). Currently, there are almost 400,000 people (adults and children) in America who rely on either peritoneal dialysis (PD) or hemodialysis for survival.
- Kidney Transplant: The only other option that is available to people with ESRD is to get a kidney transplant.
Throughout the month of March, local communities all throughout the country will be hosting events and fundraisers in honor of National Kidney Month 2013. If you are interested in getting involved this year, you can learn more by visiting the websites of the American Kidney Fund, the National Kidney Foundation, and other national organizations.