Kidney Disease Rates in China Comparable to U.S., New Study Finds

Nearly 1.5 million residents of Beijing, China, have kidney disease, and only a handful of them know it-a surprising finding, published in the current issue of the American Journal of Kidney Diseases on the eve of World Kidney Day, marked this year on March 13, 2008.

These findings demonstrate that kidney disease is common not only in western societies, but also in developing nations, where the rates of diabetes and high blood pressure - two major risk factors for kidney disease -- have risen dramatically in recent years. In a survey of nearly 14,000 adults living in Beijing, 13% showed signs of kidney damage consistent with a diagnosis of chronic kidney disease (CKD), which can progress to kidney failure, requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant. Recent estimates from the U.S. place the rate of CKD at 13.1% of the population as well. That amounts to 30 million American adults, most of whom are completely unaware of their condition.

"These findings show that kidney disease has become a public health burden of epic proportions in China," says senior author Dr. HaiYan Wang, Institute of Nephrology and Division of Nephrology, Peking University First Hospital. "As the population in China continues to age and the rate of risk factors for CKD - such as high blood pressure and diabetes - continues to increase, the already-high rate of kidney disease will likely only get higher in coming decades."

In people with CKD, the kidneys are less able to perform vital functions that help maintain overall health, including filtering wastes and excess fluids from your blood. People most at risk include those with a family history of kidney failure, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Recent data show that CKD increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, the number 1 killer worldwide.

During the study, Dr. Wang's team of authors surveyed adults living in China. They found that the rate of CKD increased with age, reaching over 30% among people ages 70 and older. People living in rural areas, those with a history of cardiovascular disease, and people who had taken medications that damage the kidneys (such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and traditional Chinese herbs containing aristolochic acid, sold over-the-counter) were also at higher risk of having CKD.

"The purpose of World Kidney Day is to raise awareness of the public health burden of CKD across the world - not just in developed countries," says Allan J. Collins, MD, FACP, President, National Kidney Foundation. "These findings confirm that CKD is no longer a disease of only the developed world."

For more information or to get involved in World Kidney Day activities click here. For more on chronic kidney disease, click here.