Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) Can Strike Adults Young and Old
National Kidney Foundation Urges Americans to Love Their Kidneys, Learn the Facts
The National Kidney Foundation urges people to show love for their kidneys by educating themselves about CKD and doing all they can to prevent it. To honor National Kidney Month (March, 2010) and World Kidney Day (March 11), the National Kidney Foundation offers answers to 10 commonly asked questions about CKD.
1: How common is CKD? Some 26 million Americans (13 percent of the U.S. adult population) suffer from CKD—a figure experts predict will rise due to high obesity rates (1/3 of all adults), the link between obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure (all risk factors) and the aging of the Baby Boom generation (since age is another risk factor for CKD). Young and middle-aged adults can also develop CKD.
2: What health problems can CKD cause? Complications include anemia, bone disorders, malnutrition, loss of kidney function, cardiovascular disease and death—more likely from a cardiovascular event than kidney failure.
3: Am I at risk? Primary risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, a family history of kidney disease and age over 60. Secondary risk factors include obesity, autoimmune diseases, urinary tract infections, systemic infections, and kidney loss, damage, injury or infection.
4: Can CKD be prevented? Taking care of overall health helps protect kidney health. Wise practices include exercising regularly, low salt diet, controlling weight, monitoring blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, not smoking, drinking moderately, avoiding non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and getting an annual physical.
5: What are the warning signs of CKD? Most people have no symptoms until CKD is advanced. “If you wait until you have symptoms to be tested, you’ve waited too long,” says Leslie Spry, MD, spokesperson for the National Kidney Foundation. Signs of advancing CKD include swollen ankles, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, decreased appetite, blood in the urine and foamy urine.
6: Should I get tested? If you have any risk factors, yes; otherwise, no. “Right now, most people who are at risk aren’t being screened,” says Dr. Spry, “so we need to focus on them.”
7: If I do need to be tested, which tests should I get? The two most essential are a urine test to measure the ratio of albumin (a protein) to creatinine (a normal waste product) in the urine (presence of albumin indicates CKD); and a blood test to measure glomerular filtration rate (GFR)—how well your kidneys filter creatinine out of the blood. The study of data from the National Kidney Foundation’s KEEP Program found that the urine test is more sensitive to early signs of CKD.
8: What if a test indicates I may have CKD? First, schedule another test. “You need the results of two tests taken more than three months apart to define the condition,” says Dr. Spry. Depending on the results, your doctor may want to monitor your results for a while or schedule other tests. The two of you should also discuss and adjust any medications you’re taking to reduce stress on your kidneys.
9: If CKD is diagnosed, will I need to see a specialist? Not if it’s caught early and you’re otherwise in good health. If it’s advanced or advancing rapidly, however, or you have other health problems as well, your doctor could recommend that you immediately see a specialist.
10: Can CKD be cured? Usually not, says Dr. Spry, which is why early detection is crucial. “If it’s caught early, it allows more time for interventions that can slow its progress.”
The National Kidney Foundation is dedicated to preventing kidney and urinary tract diseases, improving the health and well being of individuals and families affected by these diseases, influencing public policy in support of the kidney community and increasing the availability of all organs for transplantation.