Citizens Hospital celebrates world kidney day, highlights importance of kidney health with free screening camp

What is world kidney day?
World Kidney Day aims to raise awareness of the importance of kidneys to overall health and to reduce the frequency and impact of kidney disease and its associated health problems around the world. It is celebrated worldwide on the second Thursday of March each year.

What are kidneys?
People have two kidneys, one on each side of the spine, just above the waist. They are about the size of your fist. Kidneys have several primary roles: (1) removing excess waste, minerals and fluid from your blood, (2) regulating blood pressure and (3) stimulating production of red blood cells.

What is kidney disease?
Kidney disease refers to the condition when your kidneys can no longer function correctly for one or multiple reasons. Left untreated, kidney disease can worsen to kidney failure, which means the kidneys are functioning at less than 15% of their potential capacity.

What are the primary causes of kidney disease?
The leading causes are diabetes and high blood pressure. Family history can also increase risk. Some kidney disease results from damage to the kidney's filtering units, the cause of which is genetics in some patients but is unknown for most.

What is diabetic nephropathy?
It is kidney damage caused by diabetes. Around 50% of individuals with type 1 diabetes develop nephropathy within 10 years of having the disease. About 20% with type 2 diabetes develop it within 20 years. Around 40% of all end-stage renal disease is due to diabetic nephropathy.

What are the symptoms of diabetic nephropathy?
Usually there are no symptoms or change in urine production. Often people who have diabetic nephropathy also have high blood pressure, although having one condition does not necessarily mean you have the other.

What are the risk factors for diabetic nephropathy?
Several factors increase your risk of developing diabetic nephropathy, including:

  • Chronically elevated blood sugar levels
  • Uncontrolled hypertension
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes-related vision problems (diabetic retinopathy) or nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy)
  • Family history of kidney disease

How do doctors screen for diabetic nephropathy?
Because diabetic nephropathy generally causes no symptoms, to detect it doctors measure protein levels in the urine and use blood tests to evaluate kidney function. Normally, kidneys prevent protein from leaking into the urine, so finding protein in the urine is a sign of kidney trouble. Trace amounts of protein in the urine, a condition called microalbuminuria, is the first sign of deteriorating kidney function. As the amount of protein in the urine increases, microalbuminuria becomes proteinuria. Based on the results of blood or urine tests, your doctor might prescribe additional investigations to determine the best way to care for you.

When should you undergo kidney function screening?
Urine tests are recommended once per year in people with type 1 diabetes beginning around five years after diagnosis. People with type 2 diabetes should have annual test starting at the time of diagnosis.

Why should you undergo kidney screening?
Left unchecked, diabetic nephropathy leads to more advanced kidney disease, called chronic kidney disease. Because there are often no symptoms, screening is essential for people with risk factors to prevent more serious complications.
Treatment has the greatest impact if instituted very early in the course of the disease. Therefore, it is recommended that all patients with diabetes receive routine screening tests for diabetic nephropathy so that appropriate treatments can be instituted as early as possible.

What are the treatment options?
Initial treatment typical includes medications to control blood pressure, as well as dietary modifications. The type of medications your doctor will prescribe to you depend on your specific kidney condition and overall health. For patients who experience end-stage kidney disease, there are three primary treatment options: (1) hemodialysis, (2) peritoneal dialysis and (3) kidney transplant. With basic preventive measures, patients can work with their doctors to avoid such measures.

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