Health & Fitness

Kidney disease cases increasing at alarming rate


Kidney disease is one of the most dreaded illnesses and is increasing at an alarming rate all over the world.

Currently, about one in every 10 persons has some form of chronic kidney disease and about four million Kenyans are affected with a significant proportion of this population progressing to kidney failure. It is estimated that 4.8 million Kenyans will be suffering from kidney disease by 2030.

A number of illnesses can cause permanent damage to the kidneys, but the two main ones are diabetes and high blood pressure, which account for about two thirds of the damage. Other contributors include obesity, smoking and high cholesterol level.

Simple tests like urinalysis, monitoring of one’s blood pressure and sugar level testing can identify likely problems and are recommended for screening at risk population.

Sometimes to diagnose the cause of kidney failure, a biopsy is done. A small piece of kidney tissue is removed and examined under a microscope, which helps to identify abnormalities that may be the cause of the disease. These diseases called glomerulonephritis are treatable if diagnosed early. Most patients are not diagnosed early or are misdiagnosed and hence end up on dialysis (a procedure by which waste and excess water are removed from the body using machines).

Symptoms of kidney problems include blood in the urine, foamy urine, swelling of feet and face and difficulty in breathing. With advanced chronic kidney disease (CKD), a patient may develop loss of appetite, increased sleepiness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, and difficulty in thinking. CKD also called kidney failure is a condition in which the kidneys lose the ability to remove waste and excess water from the bloodstream. As waste and fluids accumulate, the other body systems get affected, potentially leading to complications.

The first step in the treatment and prevention of CKD from worsening is to determine the underlying cause. Some causes are reversible, including use of medications to treat complaints that impair kidney function like blockage in the urinary tract, or decreased blood flow to the kidneys.

The presence of albumin, or protein in the urine (called albuminuria or proteinuria) is a marker of kidney disease. Even small amounts of albumin in the urine may be an early sign of CKD in some people, particularly those with diabetes and high blood pressure.

There is no remedy for CKD and the only solution is dialysis or a kidney transplant to maintain life.

However, transplant is the most effective and best treatment option for patients with CKD. This is a surgical procedure in which a healthy kidney (from a living or deceased donor) is placed into the body of a person suffering from end-stage kidney disease.