GUEST COMMENTARY: Early detection is important for chronic kidney disease

2013-12-31T12:20:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Early detection is important for chronic kidney diseaseBy Jim Myers nwitimes.com
December 31, 2013 12:20 pm  • 

According to the National Kidney Foundation, 26 million American adults are estimated to have chronic kidney disease, yet many do not know it. Early signs are hard to detect and are easily missed.

Nearly 2.5 million Medicare patients are estimated to have CKD that has not yet become kidney failure. Nearly 600,000 Americans have irreversible kidney disease or end-stage renal disease, which requires dialysis or a transplant to survive.

Nearly 99,000 Americans are on the kidney transplant waiting list. Forty-four percent of ESRD patients had a primary diagnosis of diabetes, the leading cause of ESRD. Twenty-four percent of ESRD patients had a primary diagnosis of hypertension (high blood pressure), the second leading cause of ESRD.

Nearly 3,000 people are added to the kidney waiting list every month. Thirteen people die each day while waiting for a life-saving transplant. 

Kidney disease is expensive. The annual cost of the Medicare ESRD program is $28.4 billion. The annual Medicare costs to treat people with CKD is $41 billion, or 22.5 percent of Medicare spending.

Undetected chronic kidney disease can lead to costly and debilitating irreversible kidney failure. However, cost-effective interventions are available if patients are identified in the early stages.

The National Kidney Foundation's Early Evaluation Program reached more than 185,000 individuals at increased risk for developing kidney disease between August 2000 and June 2013. KEEP screenings were offered across the United States to individuals 18 years and older with high blood pressure, diabetes or a family history of kidney failure.

The National Kidney Foundation is calling on health care professionals to screen patients in specific high-risk groups for kidney disease — those age 60 or older and those with high blood pressure or diabetes — by adding a simple urine albumin test for kidney damage to annual physical examinations.

Early detection of kidney disease is critical to stopping the progression of the disease. If you are diagnosed early enough, your kidney disease can be controlled, slowed or delayed with the help of your doctor.

The risks of kidney disease and its complication can be reduced by controlling your blood pressure, maintaining proper weight, quitting smoking, exercising and avoiding excessive pain medication.

I am living proof of this. I lost a cousin, two aunts and an uncle to kidney disease. I lost my dad to polycystic kidney disease. I was diagnosed a mere two months after my father’s death at the age of 25.

At the time it came as a blow to me, but early diagnosis was a blessing. I hired a nephrologist, took blood pressure meds, ate a renal diet, and I was tested by my doctor every six months. I managed to avoid dialysis for more than 30 years.

Recently my son was tested for PKD. The test came back negative. He’s 26. So I do practice what I’m preaching here.

Knowledge is power. Get tested.

Jim Myers is the statewide advocate for the National Kidney Foundation, an ambassador for the Dialysis Patient Citizens, and the PKD Foundation. The opinions are the writer's.

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