Spouses of Dialysis Patients Often Have Reduced Kidney Function

New York, NY (April, 30, 2010) — Married couples share a bed, a life, children, but chronic illness? A new study, reported in the May issue of American Journal of Kidney Diseases, suggests that a shared home environment and health habits can contribute to the development of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in the spouses of dialysis patients.

“We were surprised to find that the risk of developing chronic kidney disease for spouses of hemodialysis patients is just about as high as it is for blood relatives of these patients,” said study author Dr. Hung-Chun Chen of the Division of Nephrology at Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital in Taiwan.

To see how environmental factors might contribute to the development of CKD, researchers examined prevalence of chronic kidney disease in 95 spouses and 196 first- and second-degree relatives of 178 hemodialysis patients, who had been undergoing dialysis for between three months and 21 years.

The prevalence of CKD was found to be significantly higher in spouses and relatives of hemodialysis patients, than in a matched control group who were not related or married to patients. Both types of relatives were found to have a noticeably lower estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), a measure of kidney function, and a high rate of albuminuria, or protein in the urine, an early sign of kidney disease.

The spouses had higher rates of habitual smoking, use of herbal medicines and analgesics and high blood pressure than their control group. Additionally, diabetes, which can be caused by obesity and poor health habits, was found to be a significant risk factor for CKD in spouses of dialysis patients.

“In light of these findings, it is critically important that spouses of dialysis patients receive careful screening for chronic kidney disease, in addition to first degree relatives,” said Dr. Kerry Willis, Senior Vice President for Scientific Activities, National Kidney Foundation. “Education about the role of environmental factors and health habits in increasing the risk of developing CKD is essential, as well.”

The National Kidney Foundation offers free screenings to those at risk of chronic kidney disease—anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes or a family history of kidney failure, through its Kidney Early Evaluation Program (KEEP).

The National Kidney Foundation is dedicated to preventing and treating kidney and urinary tract diseases, improving the health and well being of individuals and families affected by these diseases and increasing availability of all organs for transplantation. For more information on kidney disease, dialysis or a schedule of kidney screenings visit www.kidney.org.