Defusing the dread of kidney disease
KIDNEY related diseases are posing a severe threat to people all over
the world. A high proportion of people in Sri Lanka is also falling
victim to various kidney-related illnesses each day. Kidney failure is
often a complication of critical illness.
Kidney damage can go unnoticed and detected only through medical
tests. Blood tests will show whether the kidneys are removing wastes
efficiently. Certain kidney issues are recoverable and certain others
Many Sri Lankans suffering from kidney ailments come from remote
areas and poor families who cannot afford to bear high costs involved in
medication and detecting tests.
We spoke to Consultant Nephrologist at Apollo Hospital, Colombo, Dr
Surjith Somaih to ascertain his views on kidney patients of Sri Lanka,
the causes behind kidney issues and prevention methods.
Dr. Somaih said that the increase in the number of patients could be
attributed to many different reasons. But one of the major reasons for
this increase is the high number of people with diabetes, high blood
pressure and hypertension.
"The entire world is affected by such illnesses and the situation is
becoming worse each year," he explained.
Each person having diabetes or high blood pressure has a tendency to
develop a cardiac problem or a kidney illness. And cardiac issues are
easily attended to, as they can be diagnosed easily in many patients.
But, kidney issues have not received that much of attention yet.
Therefore, it is important for all such patients to be aware of their
kidneys - by going through a medical check-up and seeking early
treatment to avoid kidney illnesses.
Some of the other reasons which cause kidney troubles could be
environmental toxins, water with high mineral content, strong medicine
given for various illnesses, fluoride, pesticides, salt and other
Snake bites can also cause kidney failure. Cooking in aluminium pots
and pans can also be dangerous since aluminium can cause anaemia and
Kidney failure detection
However, kidney related issues among children are quite low. Many
develop kidney issues after the 40s. After 40s, the function of kidneys
would start deteriorating as a result of ageing.
However, it happens at a rather low pace. Therefore, it is difficult
to diagnose the disease until it reaches a critical stage unless, you go
for regular medical check-ups. Hence, at 40 people should start
concentrating more on their health, specially the kidney issues.
It can be detected through many ways: hypertension, decrease in
amount of urine or difficulty in urinating, Edema (fluid retention),
especially in the lower legs, swelling of feet and face, a need to
urinate more often, especially at night. Ninety per cent of the kidney
patients get these symptoms.
As with hypertension, a person may not realise that he has kidney
disease. Certain medical tests can indicate whether the person's kidneys
are eliminating waste products properly. Proteinuria, an excess of
protein in the urine, is also a sign of kidney disease.
In countries such as Japan, there is a compulsory diagnosis test on
an annual basis, through which the doctors there diagnose kidney
Hypertension is a major cause of kidney disease and kidney failure
(end-stage renal disease). Hypertension can cause damage to the blood
vessels and filters in the kidney, making removal of waste from the body
Therefore, people who have diabetes and people with a family history
of hypertension and kidney disease should take care of their health.
High blood pressure can also cause kidney failure, as it makes a
patient's heart work harder and, over time, can damage blood vessels
throughout the body. If the blood vessels in the kidneys are damaged,
they may stop removing wastes and extra fluid from the body.
High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of kidney failure,
also commonly called end-stage renal disease (ESRD).
People with kidney failure must either receive a kidney transplant or
go on dialysis.
People with diabetes also have a substantially increased risk for
developing kidney failure. People who are at risk because of diabetes
should have early management of high blood pressure.
Prevention is the main thing as far as kidney issues are concerned.
To prevent hypertension kidney disease, the patients should keep their
blood pressure below 130/80, get their blood pressure checked on a
regular basis and eat a proper diet.
To control high blood pressure, people should follow health
guidelines such as; maintain your weight at a level close to normal.
Choose fruits, vegetables, grains, and low-fat dairy foods. Limit
your daily sodium (salt) intake to 2,000 milligrams or lower if you
already have high blood pressure.
You need to get plenty of exercise, which means at least 30 minutes
of moderate activity, such as walking, most days of the week, avoid
consuming too much alcohol and limit caffeine intake.
Kidney stones are also a major problem among Sri Lankans. Kidney
stones are collections of mineral salts combined with calcium.
They can lodge anywhere in the urinary tract and cause intense pain.
To prevent kidney stones, people should eat less meat, drink plenty of
fluids (one study has shown that people who drink more than 2 1/2 litres
of water everyday have almost a 40 per cent decrease in the risk of
developing a stone than those who drink less water).
They should limit consumption of fruits and drinks that can increase
the risk of developing stones and should adopt a diet high in potassium
and magnesium - these minerals decrease the likelihood of kidney stones
and also reduce their salt intake.
However, the doctors treating kidney patients should advice each
patient on her/his diet, depending on the patients other health issues.
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) could be caused by diabetes, high blood
pressure and other disorders. Early detection and treatment can often
keep Chronic Kidney Disease from getting worse.
When kidney disease progresses, it may eventually lead to kidney
failure, which requires dialysis or a kidney transplant to maintain
However, both these treatments are costly and many people would not
be able to meet required finances to continue their treatment.
In the case of dialysis, a patient will have to take the treatment
about three times a week. Each session, running for about three hours
would cost nearly Rs. 7,500.
In the case of transplant, the operation alone is costly and it
involves much responsibilities such as finding a suitable kidney from a
donor. Even after the operation, the patient will have to spend
substantial amount of money for post-surgery treatment.