Many people diagnosed with chronic kidney disease do not know they have the disease, according to a new report published in the March issue of the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, the official journal of the National Kidney Foundation. "Because kidney disease may be silent, it's critically important that anyone at risk—those with high blood pressure, diabetes or a family history of kidney failure—get their kidney function checked regularly," says Joseph Vassalotti, MD, National Kidney Foundation's Chief Medical Officer.
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, surveyed 401 people with kidney disease attending a nephrology clinic. More than 75% of participants had stage 3 chronic kidney disease or above. While 94% of patients surveyed were aware they had a kidney "problem," more than 30% were unaware they had a serious, potentially life-threatening disease. All of the patients surveyed were under the care of a kidney specialist, or nephrologist.
"The lack of awareness of chronic kidney disease among those who are affected appears to be greater than other health conditions," said study co-author Dr. Julie Anne Wright from Vanderbilt's Division of Nephrology & Hypertension. "Even when patients are under the care of specialists, they frequently have a limited understanding of fundamental topics, including symptoms, the course of kidney disease and risk factors such as diabetes and hypertension. This study highlights the need for providers to ensure that communication is not only delivered but understood between all parties involved."
Beyond diagnosis awareness, results of the 34-question survey also showed that 78% of participants did not know that the disease may progress with no symptoms. More than 34% were unaware that they were at increased risk for heart disease and 32% did not know that the kidneys make urine.
"Because kidney disease may be silent, it's critically important that anyone at risk—those with high blood pressure, diabetes or a family history of kidney failure—get their kidney function checked regularly. This report shows that most people are not aware that kidney disease often has no symptoms, both in the early stages and even in the more advanced stages. Yet there are steps people can take to save their health if they are aware that they're at risk or that they have chronic kidney disease," says Joseph Vassalotti, MD, National Kidney Foundation's Chief Medical Officer.
Nearly all therapies aimed at preventing kidney disease progression and decreasing associated complications rely heavily on patient self-care.
"Once diagnosed, people can take action to prevent the disease from getting worse," continued Vassalotti. "Partnering with the clinician for risk factor control of diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as avoidance of medications that are toxic to the kidneys, can help slow the progression of the disease."
March is National Kidney Month, March 10 is World Kidney Day and the National Kidney Foundation will be offering free screenings for those at risk around the country through its Kidney Early Evaluation Program (KEEP) .