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Kidney health for all
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Kidney health for all

World Kidney Day (WKD) is observed on March 10, every year.

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The theme for this year was “Kidney Health for All – Advancing equitable access to care and optimal medication practice.”  

This is to focus on raising awareness of the importance of ensuring equitable access to appropriate treatment and care for people living with kidney disease with the aim to improve the quality of life.

On World Kidney Day, all governments are encouraged to act and invest in further kidney screening and expand the frontiers of management for people living with kidney disease.

The Ghana Kidney Association has been marking the day and this year was no exception. An outreach was organised in the Northern part of the country amidst other events aimed at highlighting the need to place kidney care in its proper place.

The objectives of the world kidney day include;

Raise awareness about our “amazing kidneys” Highlight that diabetes and high blood pressure are key risk factors for Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD).

•   Encourage systematic screening of all patients with diabetes and hypertension for CKD.
•   Encourage preventive behaviours.
•   Educate all medical professionals about their key role in detecting and reducing the risk of CKD, particularly in high-risk populations.
•   Stress the important role of local and national health authorities in controlling the CKD epidemic. 
•   Encourage transplantation as a best-outcome option for kidney failure, and the act of organ donation as a life-saving initiative

In achieving this objective, the Ghana Kidney Association has been conducting educational programmes and screening for kidney disease every year during WKD events. The association has been to almost every region in Ghana to educate Ghanaians and to conduct free screening programmes for kidney disease and its risk factors.  

The commemoration of this year’s event was in Tamale in the Northern Region. There was medical screening for kidney diseases, public lecture on kidney diseases and a continuous medical education for health workers on kidney health. 

These advocacy programmes are important because the burden of chronic kidney disease is on the rise. It is expected that in low-to-middle income countries the burden is expected to be at least three to four times that of high-income countries.

Again, the people affected in these countries are young, between the ages of 20 to 50 years representing the economically productive group of our society, most of whom cannot afford the cost of dialysis or kidney transplantation. Prevention therefore is the key in curtailing the rising burden of this disease.

Normally everyone is born with two kidneys except in certain rare situations where people are born with just one kidney. The kidneys primarily remove toxins and waste products from the blood.

Other functions of the kidneys include controlling blood pressure, maintaining healthy bones, controlling water balance, controlling acid-base balance, and production of a hormone called erythropoietin which plays a key role in the formation of red blood cells.

In addition, the kidneys ensure that certain key minerals in the body such as potassium, sodium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and others are all maintained in their right balance for the body to function well.  

Kidney failure thus causes serious problems to affected individuals. Globally, kidney diseases afflict over 700 million people and account for 1.2 million deaths annually.

Kidney diseases are wreaking havoc on low and middle-income countries where both the prevalence and death rates are significantly higher than in high-income countries.

The prevalence of CKD in Ghana is estimated to be about 13.3 per cent, translating to about 4million Ghanaians living with CKD. The Ghanaian media (radio, television, newspapers), and social media are inundated daily with people seeking help as they battle kidney diseases usually in the prime of their life.

 The recent brouhaha over the dialysis issues lends additional credence to putting the spotlight on kidney diseases. This goes to support the fact that CKD is a major public health problem in Ghana.

Hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes (uncontrolled blood sugar) are the two main causes of kidney failure worldwide. Other factors that increase the risk for kidney disease include obesity, cardiovascular diseases, smoking, family history, allergic reactions, abuse of certain prescribed medications and herbal concoctions, severe dehydration, insufficient blood flow to the kidneys, and some infections such as HIV, Hepatitis B and C.

In addition, certain environmental factors such as toxins from heavy metals and pesticides as well as underground water with high fluoride levels have been noted to cause kidney disease.

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Adoption of western lifestyles which comes with changes in diet, less physical activity, rapid urbanisation, and aging population due to relative improvement in the health care system have been blamed for this sharp rise in CKD. 

At the early stages of kidney failure, there are no noticeable symptoms. This is worrying for countries like Ghana where people hardly go for regular medical checkups. As a result, kidney problems are detected when it is in its advanced stage.

People with kidney failure present with symptoms such as decreased urine production, swollen legs and feet due to fluid retention, shortness of breath, excessive fatigue, chest pain, trouble sleeping (insomnia), decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting, itchy skin, muscle cramps, confusion, seizures, and coma.

At this stage they will need renal replacement therapy to survive. I will conclude next week.

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The writer is a member of the Paediatric   Society of Ghana and The Director of Medical Affairs, Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.
[email protected]

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