UNION COUNTY — There is no cure for kidney disease which kills more than 90,000 Americans a year and that’s why the staff of the local DCI center is working to promote awareness of the disease and its causes and consequences during National Kidney Awareness Month.
Dialysis Clinic Inc. or DCI is the largest non-profit dialysis provider in the United States with clinics throughout the country.
One of those clinics is located at 315 Thompson Boulevard in Union where the staff provides dialysis to 60 patients who Clinic Manager Missy Oakman said are in the fifth and final stage of kidney failure.
“All our patients that are here are in what we refer to as ESRD or End Stage Renal Disease,” Oakman said Wednesday morning. “The kidneys do two different things, they clean the blood of toxins and waste products and they also remove excess fluid from the body.
“Our patients are here because their kidneys can no longer perform these functions,” she said. “They are here receiving hemodialysis which involves cleaning their blood and other functions their kidneys can no longer do.”
While they may be aware of the function and importance of other organs such as the heart, Oakman said many people are not aware of the important role the kidneys play in keeping people healthy and alive. Oakman pointed out that patients with ESRD are at risk of shortness of breath, edema or swelling, congestive heart failure, and cardiac arrest. She said that these conditions can and often do result in the patient’s death.
It’s this reality that Oakman said the clinic is hoping to make the public aware of this reality and related issues during National Kidney Month.
March is National Kidney Month and Thursday, March 13, is World Kidney Day, both of which are designed to raise public awareness of kidney disease and how people can take better care of their kidneys.
This awareness is important because according to the National Kidney Foundation, one in three American adults are currently at risk of developing kidney disease with the risk increasing to one in two over the course of a lifetime.
Furthermore, the foundation states that one in nine American adults already have kidney disease, but most don’t know it. The foundation states that most people who have kidney disease don’t know they have it because the disease has no symptoms and can go undetected until it is in a very advanced stage.
As a result, kidney disease kills more than 90,000 Americans a year, more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
The foundation states that early detection and treatment can slow or prevent the progression of kidney disease.
“If a person is identified as being at-risk for kidney disease or in one of the earlier stages they can prolong the final stage by diet and medical compliance,” Oakman said. “Diet would include eliminating fats, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and decreasing sodium intake.”
Oakman said that proper diet can also help people avoid or at least mitigate diabetes and hypertension, the two main causes of kidney disease.
As for medical compliance, Oakman said this means, first, getting regular checkups with the patient specifically asking their physician about the condition of their kidneys. She said this would involve having a urine sample tested for sugar, blood, and protein.
“If there’s protein in the urine that’s not a good sign,” Oakman said.
Oakman said that if the tests determine the patient is at risk of kidney disease their physician will refer them to a nephrologist or kidney specialist who will prescribe a course of treatment. She said that, as in the case of diabetes and hypertension, a person diagnosed as being at risk of or already having kidney disease should follow the prescribed course of treatment including diet if they are to prevent their condition from worsening.
In addition to diabetes and hypertension, the National Kidney Foundation states that other major risk factors are a family history of kidney failure and being 60 years of age or older. Kidney stones, smoking, obesity, and cardiovascular disease are also risk factors.
African-Americans are three times more likely to experience kidney failure while Hispanics are 1 1/2 times more likely to experience it.
Even with early detection, however, Oakman said kidney disease cannot be cured, only treated, making it even more important that a person follow the prescribed course of treatment.
One method of treating kidney disease is through a kidney transplant and the National Kidney Foundation points out that there are 185,000 Americans living with a transplanted kidney while 430,000 are on dialysis.
However, the foundation points out that of the 120,000 Americans currently waiting for a lifesaving transplant, 99,000 are waiting for a kidney.
Fewer than 17,000 receive that needed transplant each year and 14 people die every day waiting for one.
For more information about kidney disease and related issues contact DCI at 864-429-2945.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, Ext. 14.