A Stellenbosch University kidney expert is encouraging people to get tested for chronic kidney disease (CKD) for World Kidney Day, marked on March 12.
Affects one in every 10 South Africans
This so-called “silent killer” affects approximately one in every 10 South Africans, but because there are few symptoms in the early stages of the disease, not many patients realise they are affected until it is too late.
“By the time a patient develops symptoms, CKD has sometimes been present for months or even years, and then it may be too late to reverse the problem,” says Prof Razeen Davids, the head of Stellenbosch University’s Division of Nephrology at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS).
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CKD is present when the kidneys do not function optimally to filter waste products, or leak abnormal amounts of protein or blood into the urine. This is mostly a result of damage caused by common diseases such as diabetes, uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension) and infections like HIV.
“In Africa we have a lot of infectious diseases which contribute to our burden of kidney disease. HIV in particular is one of the major causes of kidney disease in our patients,” says Davids.
Most people with CKD have hypertension
CKD symptoms include tiredness, shortness of breath, and swelling of the feet and ankles. As most people with CKD also have hypertension, a simple and cheap screening procedure involves a blood pressure test and performing urine dipstick test. Annual screening is recommended for people at higher risk of developing CKD.
These groups include individuals with diabetes, hypertension, HIV, heart disease, a previous stroke, obesity, and those over the age of 50.
Last year Davids and a colleague, Dr Julian Jacobs from the N1 City Hospital, released the first South African Renal Registry report in 20 years. The report revealed stark differences in treatment between kidney patients in the private and public health sectors, as well as between provinces.
Read: Diabetes and your kidneys
According to the registry there were 191 renal treatment centres in the country in 2012, of which 163 were in the private sector compared to only 28 in the public sector.
The release of this data by the Renal Registry was an important factor which prompted the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, to take firm action in the fight against CKD. The Minister has convened a national summit to discuss the management of CKD in South Africa.
“By making accurate data available, governments and other role players can plan their services appropriately,” says Davids.
Representatives from various countries
The success of the South African Renal Registry has caught the attention of other countries on the continent, and on World Kidney Day Davids will be hosting representatives from various African countries at the FMHS for a workshop on the implementation of national renal registries.
Read: Hypertension and your kidneys
“Most African governments are unaware that their citizens are dying of the complications of chronic kidney disease, and by developing registries we can provide the information needed to make people aware of this dire need for treatment, and make it easier for physicians in the various African countries to motivate for government support for renal replacement programmes,” Davids concludes.
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Image: World Kidney Day from Shutterstock