Kidney disease is responsible for the deaths of thousands of South Africans every year. “Chronic kidney disease, or CKD, has been estimated to be responsible for the deaths of as many as 10 000 South Africans a year and there is little doubt that the disease has become more prevalent in recent years,” says Dr Anchen Laubscher, the medical director at Netcare.
The kidneys are among our most vital organs as they act as filters eliminating harmful toxins from the body. Kidneys also maintain the body’s balance of various salts such as sodium, calcium, potassium, and phosphate as well as its acidity levels. Without this filtering and balancing process, the body becomes clogged with toxins and slowly becomes poisoned.
Who is at risk?
CKD is all too often a ‘silent killer’. The patient usually has no or few symptoms and is not aware of a problem until their kidneys are close to completely failing. This underscores the importance of having your risks for developing the illness regularly assessed by a healthcare practitioner. This is especially important for people who suffer from diabetes or high blood pressure [hypertension], which are the most common causes of CKD in South Africa.
A number of factors can result in damage to the kidneys and the development of CKD:
- Diabetes and uncontrolled high blood pressure, which are the leading causes of kidney disease.
- Certain drugs may increase the risk, e.g. non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used for patients with arthritis and bone problems, lithium used for some patients with mood disorders and the long-term use of certain pain medications.
- Trauma, either caused by an accident or toxins.
- Certain infections.
- Recurrent kidney stones and bladder infections.
- Some cancers and cysts.
How to maintain kidney health
There is fortunately much that can be done to prevent kidney disease from developing. You can minimise your risk if you maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise and a healthy diet.
- Visit your doctor regularly and discuss your risk for developing CKD as well as diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Follow your doctor’s orders to control your blood pressure if you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure and blood glucose if you are a diabetic.
- Follow your healthcare practitioner’s medical and dietary advice.
- Learn about the symptoms of kidney disease.
- Take medication as prescribed by your doctor only.
- Do not take over-the-counter medications and supplements without the approval of your doctor.
Kidney disease is not curable. However, if it is detected early, its progress can be slowed considerably and the need for dialysis greatly delayed.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.