© Times-Herald photo by Lisa Goudy
Harvey Roy lays hooked up to a dialysis machine for treatment on March 21, 2014 at the Moose Jaw Union Hospital.
Kidney foundation aims to raise awarness on kidney disease
Because of kidney disease, a person could lose up to 80 per cent of kidney functions without showing any symptoms.
Once an individual has lost 85 per cent of kidney functions, dialysis is required to survive. That’s why the disease is known as the silent killer.
“It’s a really small window from when you get symptoms to when you’re in dire straits,” said Diane Panton Kashuba, communications manager with the Saskatchewan branch of the Kidney Foundation of Canada. “(We need to) get people talking about it and finding out whether or not they’re at risk.”
March is Kidney Health Month. Panton Kashuba said the foundation uses the month as a chance to increase awareness of kidney disease.
Currently it affects one in 10 Canadians and affects both kidneys. It is one of the top 10 causes of death in the country.
“Now is the time to be talking about kidney disease because at the rate that we’re going, the number of Canadians being treated for kidney failure is expected to double,” said Panton Kashuba. “It has in the past 20 years doubled and we’re continuing on that trajectory right now … Kidney disease, even though it’s quite prevalent, is really one of those diseases that isn’t spoken of much and we want to change that.”
She said at-risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, family history of kidney disease, anyone aged 55 and over, smoking, obesity and certain ethnicities.
Fifty per cent of new cases of kidney disease this year will be caused by diabetes and 30 per cent will be caused by high blood pressure.
“Persons with either of those two risk factors should really be getting their kidney function checked,” said Panton Kashuba. “If you find out in the early stages that you have decreased kidney function, then you can make lifestyle choices to preserve or maintain your kidney function.”
She said there are three steps everyone can take to make sure their kidneys stay healthy. Those are controlling blood sugar level and monitor blood pressure; eat healthy, keep an eye on weight and stay active; and get kidney function checked with a simple test.
While it is possible to live with only one kidney, kidney disease affects both kidneys.
“If you were to lose one of your kidneys, the other kidney picks up the slack and is able to do the work of the two kidneys. That’s why we’re able to have living kidney donors,” she said. “When somebody’s in kidney failure, you need the dialysis in order to survive. It means that both of their kidneys have stopped working well enough to keep them alive.”
Dialysis as treatment keeps a person living, but it doesn’t return the kidneys to a 100 per cent healthy state. As a result, often people feel run down and with migraines. Also, anyone on dialysis needs to spend three or four days a week and between three and five hours on a dialysis machine.
“To me, when folks get to kidney failure, it’s one of those diseases that impacts every aspect of your life — physically, emotionally, financially,” said Panton Kashuba. “So if we can get the word out so that there’s early diagnosis and things people can do to preserve their kidney function, that would be life changing.”
Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.